What is Lolita? [Updated Definition, Meaning]

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Lolita fashion is one of many street fashions that have started in Japan and spread to the rest of the world, and it may be one of the most well-known. Partially it's fame and reputation come from websites like Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter helping to share the style and let people learn more about it. But Lolita had also gained a lot of its reputation from its appearances in anime! While Lolita girls are not common exactly, they are definitely out there and in anime of all different genres. And when someone sees one of these girls and wonders about her unique style and starts to do some research - voila! The real life world of Lolita opens up to them.

But let's back up a little bit and start with the basics of what Lolita even is! From there we will show you two of its most common sub-genres, gothic and sweet, as well as a few anime girls that have fashion inspired by that style. Of course, please understand that most Lolita fashion in anime is simply inspired by this style and doesn't follow it exactly, so don't expect to find a perfect Lolita coordinate just from watching anime. But these characters' designs undeniably are inspired by this unique fashion style straight out of Tokyo!

What is Lolita?

Lolita is not cosplay. Again, one more time with a louder voice, Lolita is not cosplay!

Too often Japanese street brands are confused for cosplay because they are so eccentric and different compared to average fashion. However, of course, they are very different! Lolita coordinates are not based on a character design that someone is replicating, but instead are following trends, rules, and guidelines set out by this fashion style. Lolita fashion began in Japan as a style of clothing based on Victorian and Rococo fashions in Europe. Most of the time, it features a dress or skirt, but sometimes has long jackets, pants, or shorts for a more masculine look.

Lolita is a very elaborate and modest fashion, where most of the skin is covered by high socks and high collars. It has many different sub-styles that are all classified as Lolita and have the same basic things in common (the shape of the silhouette, the modesty, the use of many accessories, an overall doll-like aesthetic, et cetera) but are all very different in how they use the basic guidelines. The two most popular shakes are gothic and sweet, but there's also classic, country, aristocrat, pirate, and more! While most often worn by girls, Lolita is not limited to women. Some men also enjoy wearing Lolita fashion, whether wearing a boy-style outfit with pants or wearing a dress as well. As long as men are following the same guidelines that women follow, they are still wearing Lolita fashion!

Of course, the intricacies and world of Lolita are much more complicated than this, and as with any fashion, the trends are always moving and changing. Different brands will always take different approaches, and the style has spread from Harajuku and into the rest of the world which also means change! But the basics remain the same - petticoats, headpieces, shaped bags, elaborate prints and details, and beautiful end results.

Gothic Lolita

Gothic Lolita is probably the most traditional style of Lolita. As you can probably guess, it heavily features black as the main colour, though white and other dark colours like red or purple can also be accents. Typical motifs in gothic Lolita style are crosses, castles, bats, coffins, or other macabre designs. Gothic Lolitas often carry black designed parasols as well and use a mature, minimalist makeup style. It's similar to any gothic style of fashion of course with a lot of the same elements while following the specific details that make it Lolita.

Gothic Lolita is also one of the most popular styles of Lolita to be seen in anime. Some popular characters that wear fashion based on gothic Lolita are Misa Amane from Death Note, Celestia Ludenberck Danganranpa: Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei The Animation, and Cyan Hirijikawa from Show by Rock, just to name a few. And of course, our highlighted example - Suigintou from Rozen Maiden!

Suigintou, Rozen Maiden

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Oct. 2004 – Dec. 2004

Rozen Maiden begins with Jun Sakurada, a boy that stays home all the time ordering things online and only using them until the free trial ends. When he accidentally accepts a parcel with a wind-up doll inside, his life is forever changed. She begins to act like a real person, and reveals she is part of the Rozen Maiden doll collection! She had to fight the other dolls in the Alice Game to become a real girl and be able to meet the person that created her. And the real kicker is that she needs a human to help her - and she has Jun! But this first doll won't be the last one to show up at Jun's house...

Suigintou is one of the dolls competing in the Alice Game, and as the first one in the series of dolls, she is the most determined to win the game due to her obsession with meeting Rozen, their creator. Her design is based on a very classic gothic Lolita style. She has a long, A-line black and white dress with crosses on it, long sleeves, and a high collar. She even wears one of the most traditional Lolita headpieces, a laced band ties across her head (somewhat similar to what a maid traditionally wears in her hair). Her gothic Lolita aesthetic adds to her characterisation by making her doll-like and cute, but dark and dangerous. Her personality is spiteful and brutal, and she will do anything to win the Alice Game, and her dark attire adds to highlighting that part of her personality. The character designer's choice to base Suigintou's style on gothic Lolita was a very intentional one.

For an added bonus, see how many other Lolita-inspired girls you can find in Rozen Maiden because Suigintou isn’t the only one!

Rozen Maiden Trailer

Sweet Lolita

As the name suggests, sweet Lolita is a cuter, sweeter style than gothic Lolita. It usually consists of brighter colours, with everything from pastel pinks to mint greens to baby blues and more. Typical motifs for sweet Lolita are candy and other sweet foods, animals, fruit, and toys. Makeup is usually done in a fun way, perhaps with an extra pink blush on the cheeks or gems and stickers around the eyes. Some people feel that sweet Lolita is the most childish style of all Lolita styles because the wearer often looks like a children's doll and many of the prints and accessories feature things that kids like.

Sweet Lolita is less common in anime than gothic but it's definitely still out there if you want to see it featured! Like most Lolita in anime, it's rarely completely accurate and creative licensing of course comes into play when designing the characters. One example though is Victorique de Blois from Gosick, and another our next featured Lolita-esque girl - Marry Kozakura from Mekakucity Actors!

Marry Kozakura, Mekakucity Actors

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Apr. 2014 – Jun. 2014

Mekakucity Actors also begins with a young shut-in boy named Shun Kisaragi. He hasn't left his house in two years, but when he accidentally spills soda on his keyboard, he has to leave to buy a new one! As much as he hates going outside, not having a computer is even worse. Shun runs into some really awful luck though when the department store he visits is suddenly attacked and he finds himself a hostage! Luckily, a group of mysterious young people who have strange powers are able to save him, and he finds himself drafted into their group called the Blindfold Gang.

Our sweet Lolita example is a member of the Blindfold Gang named Marry Kozakura. Her design includes an Alice in Wonderland inspired light blue dress with white apron, with a Lolita silhouette, long sleeves, and high collar. Marry's hair is long and she leaves it down, accessorised with a simple ribbon tied across the top, also Lolita inspired. Her character is a quiet one who doesn't speak much and typically follows her friends who protect her, and she spends her free time making flowers in her room. Her sweet Lolita inspired outfit adds to her innocent and child-like quality and helps perpetuate those parts of her character. Because she isn't entirely human, Marry has not aged in a traditional way, and her fashion also helps her to look younger than she is. Marry's sweet Lolita design adds a lot to her character by helping make the first impression of her before she even talks as being soft, feminine, and shy.

Final Thoughts

Lolita continues to become more and more popular outside of Japan, and Lolita inspired characters in anime have definitely helped contribute to that! Plus with big Lolita brands from Japan like Angelic Pretty being guests at anime conventions abroad and hosting fashion shows there, and stores like Baby the Stars Shine Bright opening permanent storefront locations abroad, the popularity has the potential to keep growing!

While we can continue to enjoy and learn about Lolita through anime, please remember - Lolita is a fashion style, not a cosplay. If you see someone wearing Lolita, especially at an anime convention, be sure to ask them about their fashion and not what character they're cosplaying! After all, what they wearing is an original coordinate they took a lot of time and money to put together. And if someone is cosplaying a Lolita inspired character, remember that that outfit is cosplay and not Lolita fashion. Let's do our best to always remember this important distinction between the two!

Who is your favourite Lolita character? Do you wear Lolita fashion yourself? What's your favourite brand? Do you have any more questions about this unique fashion style? Let us know in the comments below!

Rozen-Maiden-wallpaper-596x500 What is Lolita? [Updated Definition, Meaning]


Author: Jet Nebula

Living the dream in Tokyo, where you can find me working at a theme café catered towards women. When I’m not writing for Honey’s, I’m working on original dystopian science fiction or blogging about Tokyo’s trendy coffee scene. I spend my free time in Harajuku and Shibuya wearing alternative Japanese street fashion. I love video games, J-rock, tattoos, and Star Wars.

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Original Article Below

Rozen-Maiden-wallpaper-596x500 What is Lolita? [Updated Definition, Meaning]

If you have seen enough anime, you have probably seen a lolita. It doesn't matter if you're watching ecchi, harem, slice of life, supernatural, horror or mecha; lolitas are common character types in anime. What exactly is a lolita, though?

The opposite of shotas, lolitas are essentially young girls or girls who look like prepubescent girls. This is a general use of the term, of course. There is some sort of infatuation involved when it comes to these lolitas that may have to do with their attractiveness, innocence, or some other sort of charm that might cause an individual to have a loli-con (lolita complex).

1. Lolita

Rozen-Maiden-wallpaper-596x500 What is Lolita? [Updated Definition, Meaning]

Some people may have the misconception that lolitas are a Japanese concept. That is false. The term comes from the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, which was published in 1955. It was the nickname given to Dolores, a young prepubescent girl that the main character had become infatuated and sexually involved with.

So you see, the concept of a lolita was not started in Japan. The Japanese have merely expanded and adapted the idea of lolita as their own!

The idea of being attracted to lolitas seems like such a foreign, if not morally wrong, concept to many of us, but a lolita is not limited to just girls who are young. Lolita can refer to a girl who looks young. You may have seen this phenomenon the most when talking about Asian girls, though I prefer not to be so general when it comes to races, but Asian women tend to look a lot younger than their age. A young face combined with a small stature does not help to distinguish age. I saw this often in my Vietnamese friends who looked extremely young with a height no taller than 5 feet.

People would often times mistaken them as children or middle schoolers. This can be coupled with a young sounding voice giving the illusion that a girl is a child without actually being a child. I was often told I looked like a baby and sounded like a child when I answered phones at work. It does not help you gain respect from customers, let me tell you that! It makes dating an awkward situation for some as well.

Women are typically more obsessed with a more youthful appearance whether it's an eastern or a western society. Women generally prefer to look young. I won't go as far as saying that women want to look like children because no one out there is looking to reel in a pedophile, but women do want to look younger than their reported age in most cases, especially as we age.

With a youth obsessed society, it can be expected that some men want young looking partners so the idea of being sexually attracted to a younger partner isn't too farfetched.

2. In Anime

Rozen-Maiden-wallpaper-596x500 What is Lolita? [Updated Definition, Meaning]

Now, lolitas in anime are generally adorable young girls or teenage girls who appear really young. I want to step away from that idea that there is a sexuality about these characters because that is not always the case. A lot more often than not, when it comes to anime, there is a moe aspect to them.

The middle school or grade school girls are for that moe effect in most harem anime. What male wouldn't feel absolutely moe at having an adorable little girl look up to him with respect and call him "onii-chan"? These are such sweet and innocent girls that you can't help but want to hug them with all of your might!

Of course, it's a unisexually love as demonstrated by Kirino from Ore wa Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai (OreImo) who just adores the little sister type. For her, it is the epitome of moe. In this instance, there is a feeling of excitement and infatuation involved rather than a sexual desire. This is fairly standard of most loli-cons so I don't want people thinking that just people someone is a loli-con that they are some sort of pedophile.

Now, the other type of lolita would be the young looking type. This would include characters like Kanisawa Kinu from Tsuyokiss who wish to be respected like other individuals their age, but their appearance doesn't exactly warrant it. This is not as common, but it is still standard in harem anime especially, but they can still help fulfill the moe of a loli-con such as the case with Koshigaya Komari from Non Non Biyori.

I personally do not see any issue with having a lolita complex at all. They aren't all the pedophiles or sexual deviants that we hear about on the news. I have known a few shota-cons who just want to cuddle a little boy but sex was never on their minds. Loli-cons are very much the same way. I can see it being very moe to see a little girl with tears in her eyes. You can't help but want to give them a big hug!

3. Lolita Fashion

Rozen-Maiden-wallpaper-596x500 What is Lolita? [Updated Definition, Meaning]

A way in which Japan has made the lolita completely their own would be in fashion. Much like other fashions in Japan, lolita fashion is different from what we westerners think of fashion. In fact, lolita fashion is a common cosplay for westerners. Sorry, but lolita clothes are not for cosplaying.

Yes, people do not always walk around in lolita clothes, but that is because they are students and there are uniforms at many Japanese schools. That does not mean that when students choose to dress in lolita fashion that they are cosplaying and just doing it for fun. Lolita fashion is very strict and involves a lot more work.

Lolita fashion is notable for its intricate use of lace, ribbon, bows, and accessories, but there are also other aspects. Lolita clothing is meant to emphasize the youthfulness of a girl. It is a very conservative fashion so exposed skin is kept to a minimum. Shoulders are never exposed and hemlines are kept below the knees, which is a common mistake when people just cosplay as lolitas. Lolita fashion is quite strict and if you're not doing it right, you'll be called an ita, and that is not exactly a pleasant nickname.

There are a few different styles for lolitas. The most common one that we see in anime would have to be the goth-loli (gothic loli) which uses mainly the colors black and white. Anju from Karin (Chibi Vampire Karin and Celestia Ludengburg from Danganronpa dress in goth-loli. Wa-loli uses traditional Japanese fashion and adds in some lolita aspects such as the petticoats, shorter hems, and accessories.

This is probably my favorite as it is a blend of old and new aspects of Japanese culture. Guro-loli is a more morbid take on lolita fashion that involves fake blood and bandages. Then there is hime-loli and sweet loli that make use of brighter colors like pink and are generally more girly in fashion. There's an alternate take on lolita fashion called Oji-loli (prince loli) which uses Victorian-styled clothes for boys like Ciel from Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler).

Rozen-Maiden-wallpaper-596x500 What is Lolita? [Updated Definition, Meaning]

Lolitas are such interesting characters. They are so full of personality and aren't limited to that little child personality just because of their appearances. I think they add some flavor to a harem, plus they can be just so moe! The fashion is just loveable! It is so intricate and beautiful!

Are you a fan of lolitas in anime? What do you think of them? Is there a loli-con in you?

Rozen-Maiden-wallpaper-596x500 What is Lolita? [Updated Definition, Meaning]


Author: Jenangelx3

California based workaholic. Current mottos are “I don’t care” and “I’ll try almost anything once”. Interests include traveling, eating, video games, and weightlifting. Currently living life to the fullest, pursuing my happiness, and conquering my fears. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

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