Monday, 7 April 2014

Streetstyle Profile: Josephine and Irish Lolitas.

Lolita is a subculture of fashion which comes from Japan and incorporates Victorian aspects of dress. Since its conception in the 70s, it has spread to other parts of the world, including Ireland. However, it remains a very niche trend here. I was introduced to Josephine through a mutual friend after spotting her and some friends around Trinity College. What follows is our conversation, surprising revelations and clarifying misconceptions and some streetstyle shots. 


Moi: So, I was just wondering how it began for you? Just like anime and stuff?

Josephine: Well, em, this is actually a weird story...I don't know. I used to watch some anime when I was about twelve, thirteen and I remember knowing that the fashion existed but I wasn't really like fully...I didn't really look into it properly at the time. And, weirdly enough, ha, it was my mum was watching telly on Film 4 or one of them film channels and she found the film Kamikaze Girls. I don't know if you've heard of it...?


...and the main character in that wears a lot of Lolita. And it was actually that that got me into the fashion so I can say, “Hey, mum, I might be spending a lot of money on dresses but you know who introduced me! Hehehe.

Mum, you were my gateway drug.

Pretty much! But, yeah, it was from that point that I started getting bits and bobs. Getting it right, getting it wrong – probably more wrong than right...But, yeah, the first year was a bit of a learning curve for me. And I didn't actually meet the community until maybe I was in the fashion for about a year. And that's when I started getting into it properly. And then I was making friends who knew about it and they were like, “Try this, try this.” And it was kind of like over the course of a year after seeing that film that I said, “Sure, I'll try this.” And, it just kind of happened like that. And it's really weird because I used to be a real kind of t-shirt and jeans, I-don't-need-no-dresses girl. And I was like, “Hey, this is outrageous and cool,” heh, I guess. So, it just kind of happened.


Awesome. So, yeah, the community. That really interests me because with a lot of subgenres of style you see it walking around but I remember when I was in about third year of college there was one Lolita going around Trinity. I don't know if you know her, I don't know her myself but she used to get photographed all the time by tourists.

I'm trying to think...when would you have been in third year now?

That's two years ago now.

It could have been...I know a girl, Eimear – I think she did a Masters in Trinity. It could have been her. I'm not entirely sure.


But, yeah, the community is...we're small enough. We have a facebook group and there's around forty of us. A lot of people can't even make it to meet-ups. And a meet-up is where we all get together. I found the community through Live Journal which is way, way old and decrepit at this stage, hehehe. But, yeah, we...a couple of us do wear it casually around town. Like, I'd wear it to college a lot of days. But some people go to work and stuff and can't wear it to work. So, it's probably not as visible as lots of other subcultures and sub-fashions and stuff but we are there! We're definitely there, just people think we're not.

Well, part of it has to do with getting the clothes. I mean, it's difficult and expensive.

Well, yeah, there is that. That's actually what's great when everyone gets together because you get a lot of buying and selling with the community. And, of course you get good tips about good second-hand shops online and stuff like that. So, yeah, it's good and bad to be in a community because you're like, “Yeah! Friends who wear the same things,” but “Awww, everyone's encouraging me to spend money!” But it's still good!  

Do you think it's easier to dress this way in Japan and go about daily life?

Well, to a certain extent. You get a lot of people who have Ameblo blogs which is sort of...not quite Tumblr but blogger or something like that. And a lot of people will obscure their faces because they don't want to be recognised on the internet. Like a lot of people...I know there's one person...oh, I watch her blog quite a bit and I can't remember her name...Realistic Sweet! And she goes by that handle, but everyone thinks that she might have a really professional job so, she doesn't want to be seen as being unprofessional, if you like.

So, it's kind of an age thing. Once you're an adult it's a little less acceptable.

Yeah, I think more so in Japan. Like, there's Western Lolitas in the States that'll wear it into their forties and not care, like there's....

Well they're probably the same people that, if they were your average blogger, would probably be peacocking outside fashion shows anyway.

Yeah, exactly. Like, I fully intend to be about sixty wearing classic brands, tottering around like a fancy lady and I'm not going to care. But, yeah, I think there is a lot more freedom, from what I've seen anyway, outside of Japan for people to wear it, like older and not really care. Apparently the average age to wear it in Japan is mid-teens to forty and I think it depends how people feel in it. I mean, some people do mature quicker mentally...not mentally, but they feel they need to be mature. Particularly, there there's a lot of pressure for good jobs. Like, you have to do well. Whereas, here, you can kind of be...not laid back but you can partake in stuff like this and still get a good job. Like, there's girls in the community who do fairly well for themselves – fairplay – and they still wear this in their spare time.

I guess that's a more Irish atmosphere of, “Ah, sure, do whatever you want in your free time.”

Yeah, that's actually a really good thing about – like, there's so few of us here but there's really a, a really good attitude towards it. I mean, you do get the auld bit of slagging but, I mean, you have to put up with that. You have to go into the fashion, knowing you'll have that and be prepared to laugh at the 12.9 year olds laughing at you. Hehehe.

That's what I was going to ask. I was a punk in smalltown Ireland -


- so, em, I can imagine that there's a certain percentage of people. But it's probably better in Dublin, is it?

Oh, it's way better in Dublin! Like, I come from down in Tipperary. Small town.

So, everyone knows you.

Yeah, everyone knows me as the girl who wears the frilly dresses. I mean, the slagging I get in Clonmel is wicked, sometimes. I mean, sometimes I can go into town and a few old ladies will be like “You're gorgeous!” And I go home again. But sometimes I'll be followed around by 11 year olds, throwing things at me. I'm like “Lads! Lads, that's not cool. You're wearing leggings and I don't care!”

The boys are wearing leggings?

Well, they could be too. I don't know what they do be up to.

Yeah, that's just one trend I can't get behind. I'm all for people wearing what makes them happy but men wearing leggings...I mean, there's just certain bunching that no one needs to see on the body...but anyway....hehehe


But, yeah, so generally people respond pretty nicely?

Yeah, especially in Dublin. Like, sometimes myself and a friend will go into town and if it's really packed we'll be like “Oh, God. Let's just hide in a shop.” And everyone will be like, “Oh, you look so great! Keep doing the thing!” And it's like, yeah, this is great. Like we don't go out looking for compliments, we go out looking how we like but it is nice. And it's kind of like...especially if you've had a bad encounter that day. It makes you feel a lot better about it. But generally I tend to get more good than bad. So, that's good.

I do remember once I was waiting for my boyfriend outside of Front Arch in Trinity and I was was these cat ear things in Topshop and I thought I'd wear them because they were great craic and this guy just kept meowing at me. I was just like, “Nooo. Nooo. No, you stop that.”


So, what is it you take away from it? What makes you wanna keep doing it?

I don't really know. It just feels comfortable to me. Which probably seems...probably sounds weird when I'm sitting here with God knows how many layers on me. But it's...I feel not so much it's a part of me but it's just something I really, really like. I don't really know how to describe it. I is so feminine. That's something I really like. And feminist blah blah blah, I'm not going to get into that here but-

No, you can take whatever definition of feminine you want.

- yeah! But I suppose it's taking something feminine and not so much being intimidating just feels really great. It feels kind of empowering. It's like “Yeah, I'm wearing a dress – what about it?! I don't care. I'm wearing 17 thousands bows and I don't care. I have a bear on my bag and I don't care. I have a bear that is a bag.” But, yeah, it's reclaiming this like...dresses being sexualised and everything being sexualised. It's like, “No, I'm just wearing dresses because I like them. You can take your eyes and shove 'em up your nose, I don't care.” And it's comfortable I suppose because of that. Some people do try to sexualise it and it's like, “Nooooo, please stop. Stop that right now.” But it's just, it's just something that feels comfortable for me because I don't like dressing sexual. There's nothing wrong with it. I just personally don't like it. And that's just something that's really big about it, it's just unapologetically girly.

Yeah, which is something I find really interesting. Because there's a terrible thing, I think particularly in Western culture, even though young girls are some of the biggest, most loyal consumers in the world and a really important target demographic. And, so, the world is telling them, “You want these things, you should spend the money” but they're also belittling what they're interested in. And it's terrible.

Yes! That makes me so angry. Particularly when you think of like, Directioners. Kids who like things that are targeted at them and then they're ridiculed because of it. It's weird. It's like, “You should like these things but don't like these things because it makes you stupid.” Nooo, noo, let them have their fun. I was an MCR kid, I cried because I couldn't go and see them. I don't care. Hehehe.

Yeah, but, before that there was the Beatles and T-Rex.


It just seems terrible that they belittle young girls.

Yeah. It is a big thing with this fashion. It is's so obscure and so different. Particularly when you're walking down the street. ...[You get] people's heads turning. A lot of it isn't so much ridicule but people don't understand it. It's like, “Someone is wearing a thing that I've never seen before. This is strange. How do I react? I don't know how to react. Short circuit.”

I'm really interested in Japanese culture so I know what I'm looking at but do people know what they're looking at? Do they kind of ask you questions and stuff?

We do get some people who come along and they know what it is. And they know the word. They're like, “Oh, you're wearing Lolita!” And we're like, “Ohhh! You said the word, you said the thing!”

And that's the particular word you, personally go with?'s easier. It is an umbrella term as well, it brings together all like the substyles of Lolita. It's a really unfortunate name but that's the name Japanese people went with. Because they just thought it was a cute name...


Ohhh...(sighs). So, sometimes we say, “It's called Lolita...but it's influenced by Victorian dress and blah blah and Alice in Wonderland...”

So, I mean, what's the process? You said yourself there's all the layers. Does it take you long to get ready each day...or do you have it down to a fine art?

Hehehe, I'd like to think I have it down to a fine art. I mean most days if I'm wearing lolita to college it takes me maybe, ten, fifteen minutes with makeup. It depends on how much sleep I've had to be honest....hehehe. Not very long. I wouldn't tend to go mad when I'm getting ready to go into college unless I've just handed in an essay and feel great! But, yeah, it's ten, fifteen minutes.

Which is pretty standard.

Yeah, it's fairly standard. People are like, “Oh, it takes so long.” I'm like, “No, it doesn't! I got this. I got this down.” 


So, there you are! Turns out there's a lot more to Lolita than just the adorable exterior that meets the eye - it's about expressing yourself, defining your femininity for yourself and celebrating being a girl. A big thank you to Josephine for her time and here's a link to her own blog and tumblr (which she tells me she uses more).

No comments:

Post a Comment