Monday, April 26, 2010

Classic vs. Sweet: Making the Switch

Surveys always amuse me. Not only do they give an interesting look at its target participants' lives, but they often tell me things that surprise and inspire me. I read the results of one of the surveys at Ramble Rori (which is an awesome project being conducted by my roommate and you should all check it out!) and was amused at one of the results I saw. I've been involved with lolita fashion for a few years now, actively dressing about four years, and I've recently been noting my personal tastes changing rapidly from sugar-sweet to the more subdued, grown-up classic for various reasons. Apparently, I'm not alone: according to the survey results, about 75% of beginner lolitas wear sweet lolita, and this group also makes up the majority of fashion-wearers. Of the 17% of lolitas who are considered “seasoned,” 15% are classic. Amount of years dressing lolita? Four or more. Something tells me I'm a walking stereotype, and I don't care. The actual results:
"Of the 17% of Lolitas who answered that they have been involved in Lolita longer than 4 years, 15% of them answered that they consider themselves Classic Lolitas (9% of the 16% Classic Lolita total).

Of the 76% of Lolitas that have been involved less than 4 years (not including those not involved), they made up 13% of the 14% total Sweet Lolitas, and 12% of the 14% total Gothic Lolitas.
The 5% Aristocrat and Hime Lolitas have been involved with Lolita for at least 2 years."

Once lolitas pass this four-year mark, most of the beginners start leaning away from classic and towards sweet. Now, there are plenty of speculative reasons that newbies are drawn to sweet. My theory? Sweet is easier to get a hold of, if you consider that both Angelic Pretty and BABY, the Stars Shine Bright have been reaching out to the international markets for a good amount of time now. I also think we have more of our lolita "celebrities" who wear sweet lolita than most other styles (Victoria Suzanne and Ashlee, for example) so newer girls have an easier time finding inspiration as well. Before Alice Deco and Gothic Lolita Ensembles, it was also easier to find sweet lolita in print than other styles.

But the research doesn't lie, and the research says that most girls switch to classic after they've been in the fashion for a few years. I'm finding this to be true for me too, personally - while I was always drawn to brands like Innocent World and Mary Magdalene, it was just so much easier to get my hands on Angelic Pretty and BABY that I found myself dressing more in sweet styles. Now, though, I have accepted the truth that I knew deep down the whole time: I am just not a sweet lolita. But now what? I had no idea how to transfer from one style to the next. I had invested so much time and money perfecting my wardrobe, accessories, even hair and make-up techniques that I was kind of at a loss at first. Would all that go to waste?

It's always intimidating to start a new fashion style. I felt kind of like I had, years ago, when I first decided to wear lolita;I had a newly-embraced aesthetic for how to dress, but no way to actually go about dressing it! But this time I had an advantage. My closet may have been full of pastel pink when I really wanted cream and brown, but at least I had all of my foundations and a good amount of pieces that could go between styles.

That's your first step: Figuring out what can stay. I recommend:
  • plain colored pieces such as a plain black skirt or plain knee-high skirts, without a huge amount of embellishment.
  • Understated blouses. Ditch the AP version with rainbow rhinestones for buttons, but keep the black BABY one with pearl buttons and a few rows of lace.
  • tights, especially plain-colored ones. Lace is fine, but say, cherry-print or flowered ones might need some more consideration.
  • simply-designed shoes. I'd count tea parties here, I'd say, but anything above that might be too much.
  • Understated prints. Merry Sweet Castle by BABY, for example, has more subdued tones and can be coordinated with a broader spectrum of colors (including classic staples like cream or brown) than Toy Parade, for example.
Get rid of:
  • Bright, loud or overly-childish prints
  • Overly-decorate shoes
  • Sweet prints
  • Laced-topped knee socks
  • Huge hairbows
You'll notice that all of my suggestions focus on the old mantra of "less is more." The thing about classic that I think puzzles most newbies is that it's a mix of understated and interest pieces, an understated mix that can beguile a beginner. Also, please note that I am a huge believer that almost any pieces can be made to fit either style, so if you see promise in something, trust your judgment and keep it. The few exceptions to this are, I think, probably huge, head-eating bows and loud prints but hey, I'm open to being surprised!

A note on colors: Just because a color you have a lot of and love is not hugely popular for classic doesn't mean it can't be used! If your closet is 80%hot pink, you may have a problem, but I think that with enough know-how any color can work. Pair sweet pastels with cream is a great way to really soften and mature the look, and bright reds go lovely with brown, in my opinion.

There, so now your closet is all set- but really, are clothes the only part of lolita?! Of course not! There's still the entire rest of your look: hair, nails, make-up, the works. This is probably the hardest part, in my opinion - what do you MEAN, my huge teased pigtails won't work anymore?! (and again, remember that I'm always open to being surprised!) These extras you add to your look are probably the most iconic parts of the style, so it's important to learn how you can take the styles and tricks you've already mastered and apply them to classic lolita instead of sweet. For example:
  • For those huge, teased pigtails, instead tie the ponytails at the nape of your neck, curl the ends with a large-barrel curling iron, and fingercomb/fluff a bit. Or if you want to add some country sweetness, try french-braiding them from your crown to the bottom of the ears, tie them off there, and do the curl-fingercomb routine.
  • If you like those Minnie Mouse-style hugely teased buns, affix pigtails at the base of your neck, but instead of pulling the hair all the way through, allow the ends to be caught and fluff out the top a bit near the elastic, to make sort of a messy bun. Top with rose combs or cream bows.
  • Another classy look is to do a deep side-part near your ear, comb with gel it a bit over your crown to keep it nice and frizz-free, then twist it into a low chignon behind your ear.
  • Sausage curls can be worn in classic lolita as well as sweet, but may be overly immature, depending on your coordinate. For a more mature version, wear your hair down with a small sidebow. Tease a bit behind the hairband (not a lot! Just enough to give a bit of volume - we're not looking for a hime bouffant here), then, with your large-barrel curler, either curl your hair into large, loose waves or just curl it under, like a reverse flip.
These are just a few ideas. There are so many more beyond this, but they're simple enough and play off of looks and techniques that you already mastered in your sweet lolita coordinates. Make-up is important, too - as a rule, leave behind candy-colors for more neutral, natural shades, such as coral for bubblegum lipstick, cream for white glitter shadow, and peachy blush instead of cotton candy pink.

Like everything, switching styles is a fun way to shake up what you know about a fashion and expose yourself to new things. Be that as it may, it can also be frustrating and confusing, though hopefully you won't have quite such a looming fear of "doing it wrong" as you did when you started wearing lolita all together. If you're still nervous, find some style icons- my personal favorite is Rizzell of Aristocratic Maiden (pictured above), and searching "classic lolita" on tumblr always yields a treasure trove of inspiration.


  1. This issue of the seemingly inevitable transition from sugar-coma-inducing sweet to a more demure, classic style always reminds me of the "Pepsi vs. Coke" taste test paradox...

    As mentioned in the book Blink, Pepsi beats Coke hands-down in blind taste tests, but, in the real world, American consumers buy much more Coke than Pepsi. What's to explain this conundrum? Well, the answer seems to be that Pepsi is the overall sweeter beverage, thus offering the most extreme experience to the acute taster. That said, once a person then decides to adopt "soda-drinking" as a lifestyle habit (which I wouldn't recommend :P), the intense sweetness of Pepsi becomes overpowering and unpleasant, so the switch to Coke happens naturally.

    I feel like this phenomenon touches upon the axiom "Too much of a good thing" and probably reflects human physiology. Physically, human beings just aren't meant to handle anything super extreme for too long. Any intense sensation or powerful stimulus is desirable in the short-term, but once we decide to live with something and adopt it for the long run, intense things often start to take on a sharper and more caustic tone.

    So, in short, don't feel bad about being a living statistic...most of us are :P Heck, I'm new to lolita and head-over-heals in love with sweet XD

  2. Great advice! I am kind of in the middle of a Lolita style transition. I am getting away from "bittersweet" (hate the term :P) and trying to focus instead more on purely Gothic and Classic. I hoard my clothes much too much though XD so I'll probably just end up with a ton of Classic clothes in my closet now too, on top of all the loud pink and black prints.

  3. why not wearing both styles if you like both. I'm a lolita since nearly 6 years and never had the feeling i have to choose... i wear sweet, gothic and classic when i feel like it.

  4. I agree with that "four-year mark", it seems to be some kind of magical point where lolitas change.
    But in my case it didn't work. xD I have never been into sweet lolita but more classic & country ; O I have been lolita for 5 or 6 years.



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