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February 10, 2008

My life is a contradiction. I’m obsessed with the dark, subversive, morbid and grotesque. A Clockwork Orange is one of my favorite movies, right along with Amelie. I can spend an afternoon engrossed in the delicacies of Marie Antoniette, or the deranged world of Eraserhead. I’ve read nearly every Stephen King novel, and welcome the graphic perversions and subversions in a Chuck Palahniuk novel, or with the drug addicted, violence inflicting but somehow likable Brits of Irvine Welsh. I also adore the satire of Christopher Moore or Terry Pratchett, the play with language that Tom Robbins has mastered. Okay, literature-wise, my tastes are a bit outside the norm…that isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the well written epics of Michael Chabon or the modern classics like Middlesex or The Secret History, even actual classics like A Hundred Years of Solitude. (And no, this is not just an attempt to name drop every hip book literati are supposed to know, ever.) The point is, it’s not even so much diversity as adversity in what I love.

This of course, translates to my life, my personality, and most importantly (or rather, most interestingly, at the moment), my style. I’ve noticed that this blog has become a bit fashion-centric, but whatever. I need an outlet for these pseudo intellectual fashionista thoughts.

So. Ever since I’ve first set my eye on the first real Gothic Lolita dress, I’ve fallen in love with the whole “lolita” style and everything associated with it. Not the Lolita you may be thinking of–this lolita is a Japanese fashion that gets its inspiration from French Rococo rather than nymphet pedophilia. This whole thing centers on the elegance and innocence of a particular period in time, perhaps most notably channeled through the movie Kamikaze Girls, which details the lives of two Japanese girls from opposing worlds…one a sweet, adorable and beauty-above-all-else idealized lolita princess, and another a rebel, punk rock like hardcore Japanese gangster and their friendship.

kamikaze girls

For a long time (before I even watched the movie), I obsessed over the amazingly dresses on the lolita brands’ websites, all the frilly, ruffled, lacey poofy and elaborate details, pastel or goth colors and every little crown or strawberry motif went straight to my heart. Deep down inside, I adored the overly feminine, girly. For a long time I was convinced that I would save up enough for one of those real brand dresses (costing at least $400 with ridiculous shipping expenses and whatnot) and perhaps individual pieces to wear every day. I realize now that it is a bit ridiculous, but should someone offer me all the lolita dresses I so desire, I would have no objections to draping myself in all those layers of delicate designs and cute and sweetness overload…

Anyway. I didn’t just love the clothing, I fell in love with the community and lifestyle behind the image. This lolita was a complicated fashion, with seemingly endless rules–no skirts above knee length, must wear a blouse under jumpers, must wear fancy lacey socks to go with the dresses, petticoats necessary, makeup and presentation must match the outfit…–and separate sects. The Elegant Gothic Lolita, its most commonly seen form, the sweet lolita, the country lolita, even the theatrical Dandy or Gurololi (horror lolita, essentially) styles that were rarely seen but held a certain fascination for wannabe outsiders like myself.

baby the stars shine bright

Yes, my favorites leaned more towards the classic, simple pretty elegance of Mary Magdelene than the sugar stuffed, cupcake-strawberry pastel ruffles of Angelic Pretty, but I loved everything about lolita nevertheless. I even managed to buy a few lolita offbrand dresses in China, which I think I’ve had the guts to wear a total of two times…once in NYC, where I knew no one would recognize me nor really care, and once on Halloween as a semi-costume. I really loved the sense of underlying rebellion in the fashion, you know, in the modern era, where etiquette is a lost art, these girls embraced the sweet and feminine. They did not flutter an eye in the face of people who judged them based on what may be ridiculous costumes.

I felt like the lolita fashion rebelled more than the spikes and studs of punk rock. This was a sort of post-rebellion, an anti-rebellion that did exactly what rebellion should do…it made a statement, and did not care about the causalities. Apparently, men are not such a big fan of lolita fashion (I can’t imagine why…), and with all the ultra-scene-queen-emo-punker kids sprinkled across strip malls every where, it seemed that to stand out required just the sort of over the top prettiness few others dare to tread in. Even the way in which girls dressed in lolita were supposed to behave, you know, with head raised tall, well groomed, a smile, please and thank-you fluttering from dainty lips, it seemed adverse to the rush and rudeness that rule society today.

lolitaOf course, without the proper attire, it was a bit difficult for me to truly participate in this phenomenon…so all I could do was to keep a bit of the lolita deep inside myself, and wear pieces that may not be all out French royalty, but at least somewhat inspired by the lace and bows of ages past, and trends in modern Japan.

Meanwhile, I kept up my obsessive reading on all things lolita related. Eventually I began to question the whole fashion…I wanted to dress to be original, to express myself, and it seemed that lolita was nothing but a bunch of preset notions and rules followed to a T. After looking at endless photos of cute girls with the same haircut and a slight variation of the same dress from the same brands, I began to sense a sort of conformity within what should have been a truly refreshing and original fashion style. After that, I drifted away from the baby pinks and blues, black and whites of the Japanese style. Now and then, I’ll still soak in all the eyecandy I can from certain websites, but I stopped trying to dress solely like these girls, and learn to incorporate those details that I love into things I can actually wear everyday.

So, puffed sleeves, lacey yolks, ruffled edges, bows, and that general Victorian inspired elegance became a key to my personal style, one that my friends even were well aware of. I had a soft spot for ridiculously adorable, sweet and girly things, but sometimes still didn’t have the heart to truly wear the sickeningly sweet. And besides, shopping at stores like Forever 21 could at most lead itself to semi-Victorian inspired pieces, never the lolita separates I once craved.

But that was only one source of inspiration for my sense of fashion. Hand in hand with lolita sweetness, I love fitted, well cut, menswear inspired pieces. My wardrobe probably would fall apart without my signature black blazers, as well as the vests to update a basic top. Secretary, white collar office conservative classics also found a niche in my wardrobe. Pencil skirts and fitted blouses that are often observed to be “running for president” material have become indispensable things I wear daily.

To say that I’m only lolita and girly victorian inspired would be simply inaccurate. Yes, I adore things that are “cute”, but I’m also quite fond of “sophisticated,” “elegant,” “classy” and “classic.”

But when I caught sight of the Erin Fetherston for Target collection…I fell utterly and completely in love, and began obsessing about every little item in the collection. Those adorable dresses! The puffy skirts! The heart detailed cardigans and coats!

Erin Fetherston for Target

I even adored the styling of the models. The blonde blunt bob wigs, the Mary Jane shoes and cutesey poses. Cuteness overload.

So after a long long time of reading over every little blog post and forum discussion about the collection and waiting for an eternalty (and first, the only thing I felt like I had to have was the scarf with the hearts, as I was in a desiring of scarf frame of mind and it was one of the most adorable things I’ve ever set sight on), essentially the whole collection went on clearance and I went a bit crazy, purchasing nearly every piece in the collection. (Most of which hasn’t even arrived yet, so maybe I won’t like any of them when I wear them, but that’s besides the point…) Point being, this was the lolita/twee girl inside of me begging to have clothing that bordered on overly cute, precious, youthful.

Since I’ve wearing so much of that conservative secretary silhouette lately, I wanted something different, something that made a statement on its own. Erin Fetherston was the affordable and applicable answer…with dresses marked down to ten bucks a frock, who can really resist?

Which still doesn’t quite bring me to my actual point here. (Is there a point? I canef red dress barely keep track..)

The point is, I then read this post critiquing the message the Fetherston line, and this whole baby-doll empire waist little girl trend in general and how it objectifies women in society today. And put out ideals that mindless, cute blank lolitas (in the Nobokov sense) are what today’s young women should try to look like.

On the one hand, it made perfect sense. After all, all that Fetherston stands for is this fairy-tale princess aesthetic, pretty ruffles and frills, all eyecandy and sweetness, no substance. She’s well aware of this, and is in fact trying to market this. Hence the wigs, the patent leather mary janes and little girl poses.

But what that particular blogger truly suggested was that Fetherston’s line, and her promo artsy video put out the idea that wearing her clothing will make the wearer a doll. One of those blank minded, pretty toys easy to manipulate. And that most of Fetherston’s fans embraced that image.

So let’s talk about me, again. Me and my obsession with this line. Me and my fear of even liking fashion, of admitting that I cared about shopping and clothes and labels more than I should. Me and my embrace of the avant garde, unusual, extraordinarily intellectual. Me and my dedication to reading the most hailed cult books and watching obscure cult movies in order to understand certain ideologies. Me and my love of making a philosophical argument out of an ordinary event.

I’m probably the last girl in the world who would pick superficial prettiness over some artistic, intellectual inner expression. I hate following trends and looking like the masses (although I’m finding that more and more likely to occur the more interested I become in this whole fashion thing…maybe it’s a sign that I’m just not cut out for it?), and I hate idealized notions of what a female should be and gender roles and whatnot.

That particular blog argues that the lolita look hides the womanly curves that makes a woman a woman. The same arguement could be made for objectifying women and flaunting them as sex machines by highlighting said curves. What about the low rise hip hugger jeans and stomach revealing mini-tees of just a few years past? I hated that look far, far more than the whole empire-waist-babydoll trend (although I admit that the belted, fifties poofy dresses remain my favorite. A nod to both the lolita styled flared dresses and fitted corporate office attire I enjoy so much).

Sure, it’s a bit upsetting to think of grown, mature woman as little girls in tiny, strangely fitted dresses. But this sort of social stigma usual exists with any aspect of fashion, or anything, really.

I am a girl of contradictions, and so I love the Fetherston, lolita, sweet and girly feminine cuteness just as much as the sleek, simple elegance of a classic black dress, blazer and pumps. The statement I’m trying to make with my fashion sense is no longer “scene kid,” “punker,” “hipster,” “indie girl”, or “twee lover.” It has become a bizarre blend of the sexy and cute, basic and ridiculous, and every ideal I had once tried to become. I think, just looking at my appearance, few would be able to guess the personality beneath. And as my style is always shifting, obsessing over some new item or style (right now: preppy chic via Gossip Girl), I’m never truly able to convey the sort of innocent, naive little girl-ism of Fetherston, nor the strict, all business secretary sense of certain “classic” conservative pieces I own.

And I really wish I understood my personal relationship with fashion better. At this point, I’m often confused by why I like certain things, certain set images I’m trying to convey, and their in fact often opposing nature.

…I see that I have rambled on into nothingness, as usual. I had a set purpose in mind in starting this essay/blog, but at this point, I seemed to have lost track.

So maybe I’ll sit upon it more. It seems that like before, when it comes to writing about fashion from an intellectual standpoint, I lose my bearing and original thoughts.

The only remedy:

gossip girl!

Yes, a completely irrelevant photo of the beautiful and well dressed cast of Gossip Girl. (In case you’re wondering, Blair and Chuck are my favorites. Style wise, and personality wise. Yeah, they’re horrible people. But I’ve always had a thing for villians…)


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