Thursday, October 28, 2010

Literary Lolita: The Solitary Princess

Wow, does anyone even remember Literary Lolita? I haven't done one of these pieces since probably last fall semester. I just haven't been mentally stimulated by my literature classes as of late- last year it was Shakespeare and Drama As Literature, and I find that it's usually transcendentalism, modernism, and Romanticism that inspire me. These writers put such an emphasis on looking inside yourself and creating from that self-awareness a "you" that is truly the best possible, which seems to me a very poignant idea for a lolita. However, inspiration is such a fickle mistress- she'll catch you anywhere, even in the middle of research. I'm doing an oral report on the French poet Baudelaire for my World Literature course, and while sifting through online biographies, a snippet caught my eye and really struck me:
In his own time Baudelaire was largely ignored. With Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine he formed the so-called Decadents. Baudelaire argued in LE PEINTRE DE LA VIE MODERNE (1863, The Painter of Modern Life) in favor of artificiality, stating that vice is natural in that it is selfish, while virtue is artificial because we must restrain our natural impulses in order to be good. The snobbish aesthete, the dandy, was for Baudelaire the ultimate hero and the best proof of an absolutely purposeless existence: he is a gentleman who never becomes vulgar and always preserves the cool smile of the stoic.
"There can be no progress (real, that is, moral) except in the individual and by the individual himself." (from Mon Coeur Mis À Nu, 1897)
Artificiality. The dandy: a figure of leasure and expense, cold and selfish but destined to be the life of the party (especially if he's paying). Someone who hides his boorishness and human imperfection behind the immaculateness of his appearance. Sound familiar? I've heard gyaru say that they only feel comfortable with themselves when they're completely artificial, when they're completely hidden behind a paper-mâché mask they've created as a substitute for themselves and slabbed on like cement. I don't think lolitas are far from this mentality, either; sometimes I feel like, when I wear lolita, I'm leaving the cracked, broken version of myself behind for a few hours to become a purer, prettier, more whole me. I can ignore all of my problems - sometimes selfishly - just as long as I can pretend to be this princess, this Victorian lady, this woodland maiden. We take comfort in this illusion we create, this facade of perfection and innocence and purity. I lost my purity a long time ago, as did everyone; is this why we seek comfort in our frills and bows?

"He is a gentleman who never becomes vulgar and always preserves the cool smile of the stoic."
At the same time, how many of us have been to a meet-up and seen, you know, that girl. The one who smiles sweetly to everyone, never has a negative word to say, won't swear, blushes at the mention of indiscretions- the "perfect lolita." Everyone present rolls their eyes. It's frowned upon for a girl to act like the doll she looks like. We put on our petticoats and knee socks and scream at the top of our lungs that it's not sexual, and yet, if the sex joke comes up and anyone doesn't laugh, she's immediately ostracized. She's such a prude. She doesn't know how to have fun. She's being enslaved by this outfit she has put on, and everyone else knows it and hates her for it. See if she's invited back next time.

Some would say, it's because she's letting the clothes control her. It's because she's only acting that way because she feels like she has to, not because it's really her. Who wants to hang out with someone who's playing a part the whole time? And yet, this is coming from the other guests of the masquerade- her mask just isn't the right one. Everyone else is in pink, and she's in blue. Everyone else is wearing rhinestones, and she's wearing pearls. But, intrinsically, is she different? No, of course not. Perhaps these "other girls" are just not the same as her; they're drawn to the fashion because it's pretty, or cute, or different, or just because it feels right, but for the most part they're normal girls. They assume that the mindset of a lifestyle lolita must come to one after she has discovered the fashion, that she must be painting not only her face but her mind with the glitter and pastels of lolita purity, simply because they can't imagine anyone would be that way by nature. And maybe they're right, and there are plenty of girls who do that. However, it is also possible that nature came before nurture, and that a girl who has always felt out-of-place in modern society with its mini-skirts and stripper heels and boob jobs may have finally found a clothing style that suits the maiden inside her. Of course, she would feel no need to change who she is when she dons her dresses; her purity of language and discomfort at certain subjects would not disappear. However, because she is such a rare breed, she is ridiculed, told that she is allowing clothing to control her life. She knows the opposite is true, but how can she convince others without sounding vapid and false? There are no words to say that her mind affects the clothes, the clothes don't affect her mind, without sounding like she's making excuses or justifying herself. So what does she do? She either withdraws from this community or changes herself completely, forces herself to laugh at jokes that make her uncomfortable, or sits silently at meet-ups and tries to be as unassuming as possible, maybe blending in with the carpet or the wallpaper. Clearly one can see the better option.

I'm not this girl. I'm just as raucous as the next person when I want to be, and I love philosophical discussions about sexual positions just as much as I love discussing Romanticism and Baudelaire. However, my interest in exploring the human psyche and "getting into" the minds of people lends itself well to the role of Devil's Advocate. I never approve of pressuring people into being something different than they truly are, just as I will never tell anyone that they should assimilate in ways they're uncomfortable with just to belong to a group. Some animals need a herd to belong to, and humans are, oftentimes, pack animals in this way. Lolita fashion itself has, in its followers, a hugely dependent hive mind in which people need to feel that they're accepted in the scene; this is also practical, of course, because riding the subway with a group is a lot safer than riding it alone when you're already attracting unwanted attention. But, beside the obvious reasons, is belonging to a group necessary?

The answer is a resounding no. To the princess: You are different because you are special. Stand firm. Be true to yourself. Listen to your heart. If you feel incomplete without a community, if you need the mental stimulation of discussing our philosophy and exchanging fashion tips, it may be worth it to indulge in the occasional meet-up. But remember that no matter who you're with, you're still yourself. Be proud to be different... or be the same as everyone else.

The Lone Lolita ~ F*** Yeah Lolita

Monday, October 25, 2010

Operation LoliBlog: E-Book Review- Blogging in Style with Violet!

For this series, I've been making a point to connect with other bloggers that inspire me. I'm such a brain-picker; I'm that girl who opens up hypothetical philosophical discussions at lunch with my friends because I love hearing differing opinions, just for funsies. This series has been a lovely excuse so far to get out there and talk blogging with some of the people I'm most inspired by. I'm happy to say that the line-up I'm gathering is, well... maybe not "star studded," but very exciting to me as all of the people I'll be working with are very inspirational to me as bloggers, whether they have 500 followers or just a few. I'm focusing on gathering unique voices with many viewpoints behind them and putting them all together into a concise collection for all of you fellow LoliBloggers!

One of the lovely ladies I've been corresponding with it the ever-charming Violet LeBeaux of "Violet LeBeaux: Tales of an Ingenue." When I approached her about being interviewed as someone who subsists almost entirely on her blogging income (though she runs a graphic design business as well), she informed me that I had perfect timing, because she was going to be releasing her e-book on blogging in just a few days! She sent me an advance "copy" of the e-book Blogging in Style with Violet for review, and review I have!

One of my first impressions of the book was how accessible it is. Despite the fact that she's dealing with information that's taken her over six years to gather, all of the content is very easy to understand and put forward in a similar tone as her blog is: like she's chatting with friends. It's a very endearing style, and it made me enjoy reading the book all the more. It doesn't hurt how cute it is! Every page is a lovely, angelic pink with a lace border and tons of hand-drawn illustrations and different colors; it's very visually-appealing and one can tell immediately how much work Violet has put into it. It deals largely with beginning and starting your own blog, but despite that, even as a seasoned blogger I found new information that was very helpful and options and opinions that I hadn't considered before. Since Violet uses a Wordpress-based blogging platform, some of the information is more WP-geared and can be difficult to translate to blogger; that being said, on the post important parts (such as posting) Violet has made an effort to include information for us Blogger gals too.

Topics include:
♥How to start blogging
♥Discussions of blogging platforms
♥Cute-ifying with HTML as well as advice on headers and graphics
♥Introduction to posting and blog photography
♥Ways to find traffic
♥How to make money on your blog
♥Glossary of common blogging terms and terms discussed
....and lots more!

Bang for your buck
So, is it worth the money? If you're a beginning blogger who is very serious about learning more, yes. If you're a less-experienced blogger, I recommend it as well. In fact, even if you know what you're doing, I really recommend purchasing this book anyway because you can never know anything and you can always learn more. I read this book thinking I'd get a few tips, maybe some website recommendations, but nowhere near the amount of information I actually gained from it. Things like information about monetization, information on getting traffic, and some great information on HTML and blog design were some of my favorite sections. And, like I said above, it's 76 full-color pages of comprehensive information on blogging. It's interesting, funny, and a much better read than, say, Blogging for Dummies would be.

As far as cons go, all I can really comment on are a few typos and some broken URLs. I was unhappy that a few of the links I was interested in wouldn't connect, but at the same time, it was really not damaging to my reading experience; Violet always has a few different websites listed for these topic, probably for this reason exactly, and it's likely that the failure to load could have been an internal problem with bandwidth, etc. Even still, I haven't failed to realize that, were I reading a paper copy of a book on blogging, I wouldn't have any links to click at all, so this is a definite improvement!

As I've said, I really recommend this book for people of all skill levels. Like everything, it has its glitches, but for the most part, it is definitely worth the meager price tag, and I recommend anyone with any interest in blogging (especially those who blog about cute things, like us LoliBloggers!) pick up and peruse one. It was just released this past Thursday for general consumption; to purchase, check out to her store!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Alternative is as Alternative Does

I'm of the opinion that a certain amount of competition is a good thing. Putting children on sports teams allows them to learn how to work with others, the importance of hard work, and the satisfaction of well-deserved victory. Certain schools publicize the rank of their students in order to inspire the lower-ranking students to do better. In the workplace, a bit of competition for raises or promotions is healthy and means that those who get these statuses also gain the respect of those with whom they were competing. While I'm not one for pitting people against each other, I do believe that there are certain times and places in our society where it can be healthy and result in more good than harm.

However, there are some instances when I find competition exceedingly heinous, and one of those is in the world of alternative fashion. I've noticed that groups who have reject social norms and rules seem to instill their own, and instead of encouraging them to be broken, flexed, or experimented with, they're instead defended more staunchly than those of the society they so eschew. Why is this? Maybe it is because, after being raised in a society in which rules and competition are so important, it isn't as easy as we may think to abandon such practices, despite how we may want to.

Of course, when there are rules, there is always going to be those who "do it right" and those who "do it wrong." And of course, within a society, whenever there is someone whom the group is labeling as right or even "perfect" (it's not rare that a lolita be called the "perfect lolita"), there will probably always be as many people patting them on the back as there are people fuming about the attention they are receiving. However, what about the other end of the glittery, pastel rainbow? What about those girls who are not lolita enough, not gyaru enough, not rockabilly enough? What about those alternative society members who are just not alternative enough?

Anyone who follows alternative fashion and lifestyle knows that, just like their mainstream bretheren, trends come and go. As a youth, I remember when seeing someone with a facial piercing was rare, and tattoos or a full head of dyed hair even moreso. Now, since alternative fashion is becoming more common and less alternative, with more pieces of the subculture being accepted into maintsream life - good luck going to a shopping mall and seeing no teenage or college-age girls with their noses pierced or their lower backs tattooed - the alternative must become moreso. The freaky must get freakier. When you can walk into your school's cafeteria and see an employee clipping her pink-streaked bangs out of her hair, that's when you know your aesthetic is becoming more and more vanilla. So what do you do?

I've noticed that most people lash out. Most people will become more extreme: gauges stretching their ears to sizes that will never be shrunk completely; shaving thier heads and dying the buzzed fuzz neon yellow; every bit of exposed skin covered in tattoos, including the face. These people always make me chuckle a little inside. Yes, it is entirely possible that these aesthetics have been hiding under the surface in these individuals, waiting for society to catch up with them so that they could embody their idea of beauty without being burned at the stake for it. Also, of course, some people do just have an innate desire to be different due to an alienated dissatisfaction with modern man. And I will never be one to hate on anyone who tests society's limits and pushes the envelope with every fiber of their being.

But alternative, one must remember, may not imply a relationship with society. An alternative lifestyle could just be personal; a mental one-eighty of an individual's core thoughts and aesthetics. I don't consider my red and blue hair to be extreme, but I do consider it a statement. Having my hair the way it is and wearing lolita is, to me, a delicious idiosyncracy. My roommate, an international student from Beijing, remarked one day on the fact that I liked such old-fashioned, "classic" clothing and yet my hair was so "new;" I told her I find it funny. I love the contrast of ruffles and petticoats with my new-fangled beauty: my tattoo, my piercings, my hair. It makes me happy, it amuses me, and more importantly, it speaks to my soul: my clothing is a celebration of the past, my body is a hopeful prayer for a more accepting future. I hope for a future in which nothing is alternative, nothing is strange or frowned upon. In this way, I am channeling my alternative aesthetics, my alternative lifestyle. I do not look like other people, but at the same time, I am not the same I was two years ago. My creativity was shunned and stamped down upon by my job, my family, and my now-ex-boyfriend, who couldn't bear the idea of loving a woman who wasn't "normal," despite his long black hair and metal music. The difference? He fit his stereotype: therefore, I had to fit mine, too.

Note the wording: his stereotype. I've known metal guys like him, who pierce their ears and listen to men scream for hours on end. I've known "hippies," hair dreadlocked, body unshaven, who share their joints with me and tell me about the universe. I've known lolitas with the tragic pasts of fairytales; acute illness, the death of beloved family members, ghosts in their mirrors, who use the beauty of their clothing to escape to a more innocent childhood they've never actually known. I've known should-be pin-up rockabilly girls with their pin curls and cat eyes and their dreams of muscle cars. Name an alternative stereotype, and I've probably known them. And I've loved them all. I find no problem with stereotypes, but that is what they are: stereotypes. I don't fit their stereotypes. My body is too hairless to be a hippie, yet I will discuss the beauty and love and joy of the universe with the best of them over the best of their stash. And then I am too impure for lolita, hungover and lustful, yet the only time I feel complete is donning my layers of petticoats and sipping tea in a pastel tearoom. There are similarities and there are differences, but the differences are more staggering to followers of these fashions than our similarities. I tend to keep their extent secret; if they knew half the truths about me, they'd tell me I didn't belong.

And why? In my search for the life that is right for me, I have stumbled into an alternative lifestyle. Yet, despite doing only what makes me happy, I'm told time and again, even by those who are closest to me, that I'm "doing it wrong." I'm alternative, but I'm not alternative enough. I'm different, but not different enough. I'm... me, but not me enough? Of course this is idiocy. Alernative is as alternative does, and in my opinion, it is not society's version of normal that this label should be testing but our own. I strive only to find myself, the version of me that is most personally satsifying. The life I chose to lead because of this is what many label "alternative" because it is not the hive-minded life of those who never stray from their course, who never pause to question if that pot they are smoking, that book of poetry they are reading, that latte they're drinking, is personally fulfilling to them. To me, it is not one's appearance or even, to an extent, their lifestyle choices that makes him or her an alternative individual but that idea of never slowing, never stopping, always fighting, always questioning, never accepting life as they know it. The moment you stop questioning is the moment you assimilate.

I was inspired to think about this when a friend scoffed at me for saying I consider dying one's hair "alternative;" a "body modification." I couldn't explain to her that alternative is personal, a personal quest undertaken by those who are fundamentally different from others to express this difference in a way that is personally satisfying to them. Being different shouldn't be a race to do different things first or before everyone else has thought of it or before fashion magazines have told the general populace to do it, like, it, smoke it, wear it. An alternative lifestyle is a journey to leave the bland, gray, unsatisfying daily grind behind and to live the life that you want to live, no matter what any society tells you, be it the New York Times, the Village Voice, or the egl community on livejournal. If you don't like what you're being told, turn the music up in those headphones. If no one is listening, no one will talk. For a better future, shut them out and shut them up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Operation LoliBlog: Little Fish, Big Pond Part 1

The blogosphere is HUGE. This shouldn't surprise anyone - there are hundreds of thousands of blogs registered to Blogger alone, and this is just one hosting site in the entire world wide web- and then, add in all of the self-hosted blogs out there, too. A great way to differentiate yourself from this huge, blind mass is to become a niche blogger, that is to say, someone who blogs toward a certain demographic- photographers, food enthusiasts, or, in our case, lolitas. However, of course even these niches are largely filled (though there's always room for more!), and even within your demographic it can be difficult for small blogs to weave their way through the elephant-sized-footfalls of the titan-bloggers. Here, I'd like to discuss this phenomenon: the little fish trying to find her way through the ocean of lolita blogs.

There's much I can (and will!) say about this topic, but for now, I'll start off with the biggest and most difficult part of building your blog: differentiation. You're a small blog with under a hundred followers: how can you possibly compete with the big dogs for content or followers? With some blogs coming in at over 1,000 followers (we're looking at you, Lolita Charm!), it may seem overwhelming and impossible to take on these giants.

As a new or small blogger, there are a few things you have to remember when it comes to generating content. First of all, the lolita blogosphere is not static. What do I mean by that? Well, first of all, consider this: say you're a celebrity blogger who focuses on the goings-on of sitcom stars. You can talk about what they've already done and/or how it's affecting what they're doing now, but you'll eventually run out of the past and begin sitting around waiting for something to happen between Lieghton Meester and Blake Lively. On the other hand, lolita and fashion in general isn't like that. It's personal. If the brands have been churning out the same unstimulating rinse-and-repeat pieces all season, you can still produce content by talking about your own personal activities: the dress you bought for a steal on Mbok, say, or the most recent event you attended. That leads me to my next point: lolita blogging is a people-watcher's paradise. If you can't talk about yourself, talk about other people! And I don't mean gossip, I mean things like, what have the Finnish lolitas been doing lately? Did your best friend wear a coordinate that is just to-die-for that you can't bear not to talk about? The content that loli-bloggers blog is self-made or community-made. That means you're lucky: you'll never run out of it, because there's constantly something in the works. If it's not being churned out by your own mind, it's your job as a blogger to get into the mind of whoever's thinking it up, and say it before they do- or at least report on it as soon after they say it as possible.

But what if you can't? One of the topics I was asked to write about for this series was from a blgoger who feels like as soon as she finds something to talk about, someone else swoops in and says it first. I know exactly how this feels, and it's frustrating to no end, and something I run into a lot. However, here's my opinion on it: is the person who wrote about it you? Of course they aren't, but I'm not being facetious. Say, when Angelic Pretty came out with Jelly Jewelry, you wanted to do an article announcing it, and just when you sit down to write it, bam: The scans are already plastered all over one of the Big-Wig Blogs. You'll probably feel let-down, like you missed your shot. However, instead of giving up, look into why you wanted to write about it. If you just wanted to be the one to spread the news, well... maybe you're out of luck. But more likely, you wanted to write about it because you felt a personal connection to it- maybe you had a wacky aunt growing up who always brought a neon Jell-O mold to every family gathering. Your opinions, memories, and what has affected you throughout your life are yours only, and that means that even if you write on the same topic as someone else, nine times out of ten it'll be different and personal. If you add a touch of yourself to everything you write, not only will you be guaranteeing creative content, but you'll be working your way towards something else that is very important to any blogger, and that is branding. Not sure what branding is? Wait and see, because that's another topic I'm very excited to talk about!

Fellow Loli-Bloggers: What do you do to make sure you're creating 100% unique, interesting content?


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Autumn; Channeling the season

When I think of lolita, mostly I think of soft chiffons, pale florals, and kneesocks trimmed with lace. In my mind, lolita is the perfect fashion for lounging in fields of flowers, drinking a banana-berry smoothie out of a parfait glass and reading poetry. Quite the fantasy, isn't it? I find inspiration to get dressed in the morning very important (because otherwise I won't), and yet, with the weather cooling fast than a cup of tea on a blustery day, I find that this mental image isn't giving me what I need these days. I think it's time for a mental makeover- something less flowers, more fading leaves; less fields of grass and more forests at nightfall; honeysuckle and citrus giving way to pine and spices.

Fall in Fashion
♥thick tights ♥ cashmere socks ♥ oxfords instead of mary janes ♥ hand-knit scarves ♥ wine, burgundy, and shades of chocolate ♥ a snifter of spicy mulled cider spiked with brandy ♥ opulent furs ♥ leather handbags ♥ dark-chocolate truffles rolled in cocoa powder ♥ mugs of peppermint hot chocolate ♥ petticoat-smothering sweaters that reach your knees ♥ bronze jewelry (check the sidebar!) ♥ thick brown eyeliner ♥ mugs that used to be painted, now blank from use ♥ strong chai lattes with hot foamy soy milk and lots of honey ♥ libraries filled with yellow-paged books ♥ coming back to your parents' house to the smell of freshly-baked bread ♥ a blanket, a thunderstorm, and a warm someone to cuddle ♥

What inspires you this autumn?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lovin' Lumpy?

Follow me on Bloglovin here!
Bloglovin is a great resource for bloggers and blog-followers; it collects all of your blog posts in one place and allows readers to subscribe to them as well. Like Google FriendConnect, Bloglovin allows followers to create a list of their favorite blogs and read them all in one convenient place. All bloggers and blog-readers should definitely check it out!

Monday, October 11, 2010

On the bandwagon: My Dream Outfit

As a personal friend of Dalin's, I was very excited when she announced that she would be hosting a giveaway contest over at her blog, La Vida Frills. The theme of the contest is "My Dream Outfit," so I thought I would be SOL on this one, as I already own what I imagined to be my dream outfit. However, I decided to sit down and give it a go anyway, and I'm... happy AND sad to say that now I probably have a new dream outfit. I'm happy, because that means that I can now enter this contest... but... I'm sad because now I want to buy everything in this set. Sigh!

Miss Lumpy's dream outfit

Miss Lumpy's dream outfit by herlumpiness

Unsurprisingly, the main color in my coordinate is, as always, light blue. One of my favorite pairings is light blue with dark colors like black or navy; with autumn setting in, I've really been feeling brown lately because it reminds me of whipped hot chocolate and thick vegetable stew and all the other delicacies of autumn. The main reason this outfit embodies my personal style is because it's vintage-y classic lolita enhanced by quirky, eclectic accessories that still remain elegant. I've paired my favorite bonnet, a custom piece by Ophanim Gothique, with a beautiful JSK by Mary Magdalen and a flowy sheer blouse by Victorian Maiden for that classic, old-fashioned look. Because it's getting chilly here, I'd probably feel like jumping off a bridge if I had to cram my feet into uncomfortable, breezy heels; these boots are almost exactly like my personal cool-weather staple, a pair faux-fur-lined vintage leather boots from a thrift store on the Lower East Side, paired with a lovely pair of cream lace tights. These shoes are so comfortable I wear them as slippers on fall evenings! Though I'm usually a big proponent of bags you can live out of, these days I've been packing up a small pochette to tak to class with my bookbag, so I'm confident that maybe I'll be able to use a teeny-weeny clutch like this adorable piece by YSL. Speaking of practical, some of my classes absolutely forbid the use of electronics, so I've invested in a cute rhinestone watch - if only it were this beauty! I'm channeling my newfound love of mori-girl (a love for which I was in serious denial for a time but just can't escape anymore!) with a fur collar and a crazy stag-head ring, and of course, keeping it classy by piling on the pearls until they're practically dripping down my fingers.

I had so much more fun with this contest than I expected to! Readers: What's your dream outfit look like?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Introduction: Operation LoliBlog

I've always felt that the best way to learn something you love is to teach it. Okay, so that's a philosophy I stole from one of my favorite authors, Paulo Coehlo, but the point is, whenever I find something that I really love and want to learn more fully, I've found that the best way to open myself up to knowledge about it is to teach it. The best thing about creative enterprises is that they're every-changing, forever evolving, just like the people behind them, and blogging is no different; just when I think I've figured everything out, I find myself faced with a new challenge.

That's why I'm starting my new series on lolita blogging, which I affectionately term "Operation LoliBlog." This ongoing series will cover more than just lolita blogging but also branding, marketing, and other genres of fashion and aesthetic blogging. I have a handful articles planned already, such as a review of different blogging tools and a few interviews in the works, but what I really need to know is:

What do you want to know?

I know what I find compelling and what I want to learn more about, but I'm not creating content JUST for myself! So, is there anyone you want me to interview or any topics you want me to cover? This series is for all of you out there as well as myself, so please, let me know in a comment or e-mail with the button in the sidebar what you would like to learn more about!

I look forward to hearing from everyone~~

note- I'm tentatively returning from my hiatus. I may have to retreat back into my cave come midterms and finals, but I've been so inspired lately that I just can't stay away any longer! Posts will only be once a week until I get up to steam again, but I have some lovely goodies planned, more than just this!


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