Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quotes for the Lolita: Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'm starting to think I have a problem with finding ways to associate fine literature with lolita fashion. Oh well, at least it makes blogging easier! One of my favorite classes right now is an English course called "The American Renaissance," focusing on American writers from the 1803's-1860's- think Thoreau, Melville, and, my current focus, Emerson. This weekend we were assigned his essay "Self-Reliance," which was written around the 1830's or 40's and discusses the importance of non-conformity and being true to one's self. Now, while Emerson was writing to and for male academics of his era, I've been struck during this reading by how pertinent it is to followers of lolita fashion, who mostly have to follow their own internal compass but often get bogged down by the "rules." Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the essay, all of which I think a lolita could really benefit from:

"There comes a time in every [hu]man's education where he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide."*
"Whoso would be a [hu]man, must be a nonconformist"* 
"My life is for itself and not for a spectacle."
"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."
"[...]conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. [...]every word they say chagrins us and we know not where to begin to set them right."
"To be great is to be misunderstood."
"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession."
"Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much."
"For everything that is given something is taken. Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts."

 *Note: The original quote uses the gender-specific word "man;" however, it can still be surmised that Emerson was speaking to all people, not just penis-bearing individuals, hence my edit.

What is the lesson that can be taken away from these quotes, and how does it relate to lolita? Well, if you haven't picked up on it so far (you must be new here...), I am all for sartorial self-reliance. I believe it is the natural state of a person's aesthetics to be constantly evolving, and if one forces oneself to pigeon-hole into one style they are doing a disservice to themselves and their society- or subculture, as the case may be. It is only through standing on one's own feet and supporting one's own ideas that one reaches their true potential. This isn't to say that finding and using inspiration isn't important; however, one must take the essence or the details of an inspiring source (the softness of textures in mori-girl, or gyaru-style stilettos) and absorb them into one's own fashion without emulating the source outright. It's only through experimentation and absorption that a person's fashion style evolves, not through emulation and mimicry.

What do you think? Do you agree, or do you think that emulation is the sincerest form of flattery? Or do you think that I should shut up and stop pretending that Emerson was writing about floofy dresses and petticoats when he wrote this essay?

Oh, I've just remembered! My assignment for my creative writing class this week is about establishing setting, and our homework was to write three paragraphs about a place we've been. Mine's still in the works, but it will be three paragraphs about places I've been in Japan. Would you all like to see it when it's done? I know a lot of people have been asking for more detail about my Japan trip - I know, I know, I still owe you one article on it- it's coming, promise!  - so if you're interested that'll be posted later this week! ♥

(Picture from F Yeah Nerdy Lolitas on Tumblr and originally posted to the sew_loli livejournal community)

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