Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wearing Lolita Brand is Cheating

There, I said it.

I've been thinking it for years, waxing poetic to friends, dropping hints on my blog, but now I have to just come out and own up to the fact that I think offbrand lolita outfits are way better than brand-based lolita fashion coordinates. They require more creativity, are more often personal, and can be a much more accessible investment for individuals who can't or don't want to throw down an entire paycheck for one dress.

My favorite offbrand/indie brand lolita outfit, featuring a skirt by Innocent World, harness by Redfield Designs, and a Forever 21 blouse.
My favorite offbrand/indie brand lolita outfit - click here for full post!
Now, don't get me wrong - I love me some brand. I went through a period, like most lolitas do, of feeling like the only worthwhile coordinates were 90% made up of designer pieces, and in all honesty I found most lolitas' reasoning for not buying brand to be a cop out. Oh, you can't afford it? Save up and stop buying the cheap crap that comes up on the sales comm. You're too big for it? Whatever, people sell fully shirred stuff all the time - it's not like I'm typical brand-size and I manage. Needless to say, I'm really happy to have changed my mind - and also grown the heck up - about other lolitas' wardrobes as well as my own.

Here's why:

Lessie Snape looks lovely in her handmade OP dress for this classic lolita coordinate!
Fashion blogger Lessie in a handmade
classic lolita dress
Brand-name lolita is designed specifically to suit the lolita fashion aesthetic. It's easy to look like a doll when you're buying from a company which probably invests hundreds of thousands of dollars per year into clothes which do exactly that. As a community, we sort of agreed years ago that it takes very little finesse to be a lolita if all you do is buy the entire pre-coordinated series when it's released, and then throw it on with a pre-styled wig and tea party shoes. I'm happy to see that we've moved past that; heck, I remember a brief period when it was a taboo to mix more than one brand in a single coordinate. Talk about hindering creativity! This isn't to say that I hate brand or the people who wear it; for formal gatherings that are about dressing to the nines, I still favor brand because it sends a message to other lolitas that one is pulling out all the stops. However, for smaller gatherings and even just for my aesthetics in general, I think that outfits which center around non-brand items are just generally more appealing and creative from a third-party standpoint.

Isn't this pink OTT sweet lolita coordinate by Pinkly Ever After too cute for words?!
Coordinate by Pinkly Ever After, featuring their
Darling Sugar Cake OP Dress

Any article of clothing in a coordinate which didn't come from a big brand is one of three things. First, it might be something they've bought from a non-lolita store, which requires ingenuity either in altering it to be perfect or in every single time it's coordinated. Or, the second option is that they bought it from an indie brand, which means they're supporting smaller, independent artisans. Third and finally, they could wear something they've handmade themselves, which requires immense skill and time devotion; even something which is poorly made requires far more dedication that buying brand because the creator had to design it, buy the materials, and put their own time into creating it.

This lovely gothic lolita coordinate uses a handmade over skirt printed with elegant gothic drapes and a chiffon blouse.
A gothic coordinate by Ms. Thea Elizabeth featuring a handmade skirt
Lolita fashion is also a huge investment. If you're a lolita who dresses up often but also has a day job, it's ridiculous to expect that you'll shell out a thousand bucks on a completely brand-name coordinate when you also need to furnish yourself with, for example, an office-friendly wardrobe. That's to say nothing of feeding yourself/your family, paying the bills, and all the other things which demand our time and money that aren't lolita fashion. And even which are! Meetups and conventions can suck the money right out of that Angelic Pretty wallet. Unless you live a block from all of your lolita friends and your local community's favorite meetup idea is to sit in your house talking (not eating or drinking or watching anything), participating in your local lolita community costs money. If you're budgeting yourself very carefully for one reason or another, you can't always afford the big brand AND the events you'd be wearing it to.

This sweet classic lolita fashion coordinate is perfect for spring, with an H&M blouse, a skirt by Aria of Dix Macabre, and a cute basket purse. Who needs brand?!
Offbrand-based classic lolita, featuring a skirt by Dix Macabre
But Lumpy, I hear you say, there are plenty of options out there for acquiring brand - they don't have to buy directly from the store! Sure, they can check Mbok or Yahoo!Japan Auctions or any of our many sales comms, but you forget - even if that saves money, that can still cost a huge investment of time and effort, which many people just don't have. Personally, when I get home from my ten-hour days, the act of devising and making myself dinner is sometimes all the effort I can really bring myself to put forth (hello, blogging twice a month max!) Weekends I spend doing things for myself, and sometimes that's shopping online, but more often it's going out with my boyfriend, crafting with friends, writing, or playing video games. That's to say nothing of people who work more than me, or have more obligations or less cash than I do. Everyone has their reasons. Like I've said before: privilege, 'n stuff.

This offbrand classic lolita coordinate was inspired by steampunk and uses all indie or offbrand lolita fashion pieces.
Dancing in celebration of offbrand lolita!
I can see why a lot of lolitas are attached to brand, though. In the end, lolita is really all about luxury, and if you only wear it for big events, it's not too unreasonable to expect that you'll be able to save up and create some really lovely coordinates out of only designer items. And not only will they look great, they'll probably make you feel amazing - there isn't much as exhilarating as slipping into a dress you've earned, that you saved up for and that you know you deserve.

But these outfits... will they be innovative? Will they inspire? Will they be an honest test of your coordinating abilities, your sartorial prowess, your ability to weave lowly, lackluster pieces into truly jaw-dropping elegance? Maybe this is just my opinion - but I'll bet they won't.

More resources for going brand-free:

Indie Lolita Brand Shop List

What do you think? Do you prefer offbrand lolita outfits, or brand?

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