Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Lolita's guide to dealing with strangers!

When someone expresses interest in your dress in public, it seems almost natural to assume that they've got some form of malicious thought in mind.

"Why are they dressed like this?"

"Is this a form of ageplay?"

"Aren't they embarassed to be dressing like this?"

These are questions that people may ask themselves, and questions that I've personally been asked while out in public (I do get even stranger questions about being a male lolita, but let's leave that for a separate post).

The fact is, if a member of the public is showing interest in Lolita, they are taking the time to query you on your interest. I believe that representing ourselves in such a way that would draw more interest would not only benefit the image of the community, but may help expand interest in the fashion outside of the usual crowd.

Is this a good thing? Why not? In Sydney, we could certainly use enough interested lolitas to one day perhaps have a couple of Lolita and Harujuku fashion-inspired stores. Of course, keeping in mind we want people to have the right image of Lolita fashion.

Here's the format: We'll present you with common questions you'll encounter from the public, and provide answers on how you might answer them. We'll keep this post up to date by hearing out your suggestions in the comments either on the blog or Facebook. Feel free to tell us about your experiences or what you think about our suggestions as well.

Remember, these question may seem obvious to you, but to some Lolitas, they do struggle with them. Some of us are shy, some of us are new to the fashion and this could also lead to discussion about how we want to deal with others outside of the community.

The first question:

"I love your dress! What is it?"

You don't want to go straight into mentioning the word "Lolita", Trust me. You'll save plenty of time trying to explain that what you're talking about has nothing to do with the book. Ordinary people probably have enough trouble trying to wrap their head around the fact that you're wearing a dress with pink teddy bears and strawberries strewn about.

Maybe start by mentioning "Tokyo" or "Harujuku". Many people can click onto this, and you can immediately direct attention away from a "cosplay" like discussion. Make it clear that this is "fashion". It also opens up discussion for talk about Tokyo and Japan.

Also, remember not to go overboard. One or two lines is enough, unless they ask you more questions. You don't need to gain their interest, they're already interested in your dress!

2nd Question:

"Where are you headed?/What's the occasion?"/"Who are you dressing up for?"

Töck's favourite line is "we just like dressing like this!" That's a great way of explaining to people that you really don't need a reason to dress how you want, be unique and have fun! Remember, you're not dressing for someone else. Töck's line makes this all clear without having to say all that. Say that you're going to meet other people who like dressing like that, and if you get the opportunity, go into explaining what you're wearing.

Should you say if you have a meet or it is a special occasion? Probably not. It's annoying having people following you around to the meet.

3rd Question

"What is your cosplay/is that cosplay?"

There's more to lolita than Rozen Maiden.

This is a very frustrating question to deal with, because it's obvious that they like what you're doing and they're interested, but it's annoying to have your beautiful $500 Angelic Pretty co-ord be referred to as cosplay! The beauty is however, that they know roughly where the fashion style originates from - Japan. It's a lot easier than talking to complete newbies about it.

Tell them it's lolita fashion and point them towards Rozen Maiden perhaps. Let them know it's not inspired by anime, and tell them to search it up. If they're into anime, they likely know how to use a search engine. The point again is - don't feel too bad about this, but explain it properly. If they're interested in it, they'll learn more about it.

4th Question

"Why are you dressed like this?"/"Is this embarrassing for you?

Simple answer again: Because we feel like it. There's no need to feel ashamed about what you're wearing either, so let them know that you just love the look, and explain to them the inspirations behind it if they ask further.

The type of person that asks this question usually has time to spare, and won't be satisfied until you give them a decent answer. Of course, you're not obliged to talk to this person, but you could kill time.

Explain to them what your colours and motifs are, and maybe talk a bit about the fact that there is a whole community out there of people who dress similarly.

5th Question

"Will you go out with me?/[insert generic pickup line]

Nope. There's no more to be said here. Don't say "thanks, no thanks" or anything. You're better off just walking off. You shouldn't even be concerned about whether the person is offended if you walk off. Move to a different carriage or seat if you're on a train or bus. This happens surprisingly often, and has happened again, to me [If only they knew I was a guy].

It's certainly not uncommon for this to happen to lolitas, and it's also not uncommon for people to begin to display stalkerish behaviour. If the person doesn't leave you alone after you've expressed no interest in them, please contact someone.

Usually, the best way to ward this off is by always trying to be with another lolita. It makes it harder to approach you, and also makes it clear that you're not dressed to look for a date or something.

6th Question

"I think you're hot."/"You're sexy."

Either the person is macking onto you, or they think they're giving you a genuine compliment but don't realise that it's quite uncalled for. Again, this is an issue dealing with the male gaze, and how difficult it is to explain to a man that the purpose of fashion is not to impress the opposite gender. However, some men are prehistoric enough that they believe telling someone that they are "hot" is an innocent compliment. I certainly don't think it is, but how can you explain this to a plebeian mind that is surrounded by a completely separate culture?

The difficulty is not in judging which one it is, that's not the point. It's in panning the person without creating too much trouble for yourself. You won't be able to correct the person on their wicked ways in a matter of minutes, and you're probably off to a meet.

Just tell them "thanks", and walk off if you want to completely avoid the situation. I would personally just ignore them and walk [and yes, this has happened to me before], but that does upset people . You could also say "thanks" and "but you're not dressing to be cute or sexy."

7th Question

"Are you into ageplay?"

This famous misrepresentation of Lolita is an example of extreme perceptions
of Lolita.

Creep alert.

This is a situation you want to avoid, and you have to start by not responding to the person. Don't make it clear that you're offended, nor do you want to express any interest in speaking with them. The same idea with hanging out with a group applies here - you really want to be with others to avoid the creepers from approaching you, especially if you're at a meet that goes late into the night (who makes these meets?).

This question however, does point to a much bigger question about again, the public's perception of Lolita.

The broader topic is more widely discussed a Deerstalker video featuring Megu as part of her "Kawaii Fashion School." Check it out below!

8th Question:

"Where can I buy that dress?"/"Are there stores around here?"

You should probably refer them to look up sites such as hello-lace and other wikis about different lolita styles before referring them to a shop, but name dropping the "big" brands is a good idea to give them a chance to see what the best of Lolita have to offer. Then you can mention 2nd hand sites, but again, don't rabble on for too long.

9th Question

"Do you have a Facebook group?"/"Can I add you?"

While i don't think you should add strangers on the street to your Facebook, refer them to your Facebook community page if, after a good chat, you've seen that they're generally interested and they seem to know enough about lolita to join. Otherwise, perhaps tell them to look up pages like "Tokyo Fashion" or search up the fashion a bit more before letting them know about Facebook pages. You don't really want to invite people to the group unless they're serious.

10th Question

"Will you take pictures with us?"

Kudos to those who take the time to ask permission for photos! I've had people hide behind pillars and walls to take my photo without my noticing. Tourists and curious onlookers will generally ask for photos and it would be a great idea to ask them to send you a copy by giving them your email.

General tips

It's okay if you're shy! Just do your best, and say as much as you can. You're in lolita, so feel confident about that and remember to keep eye contact when talking. And anyways, shyness can be very cute.

Don't mention anime/otaku culture. It's confusing and gives the wrong idea. Just refer to "Japanese Fashion" and be done with it.

Stay in groups. It makes dealing with strangers and creepers much easier and people will know that lolita is a group thing.

If you do have to mention "Lolita" as a name, do explain that it has nothing to do with the book, and is purely coincidental.

Ending Remarks

Remember, there are no guidelines for conducting yourselves in public. These are just hints and tips, because we know what it's like to be totally lost for words, and we've heard all the stories before. By all means, do as you wish, but please do your best to conduct yourselves in a courteous manner and try to be open.

We'll do a part 2 if we find enough questions to talk about but until then, adieu!

- Phantasmafloria

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