Hey everyone! Welcome to our newest content series, unofficially titled "Validating Content for Newcomers." For the next several weeks, we're going to focus on new Lolitas and J-fashionistas, and how the Lolita fashion community can welcome them in with open arms.
Every so often, I happen to notice a post - on Rufflechat, or elsewhere on Facebook, or wherever - that asks if our fashion is dying. I really hate using Facebook, to be honest, so I only happen to notice because Facebook has notified me about something else. In a moment of weakness, I start to scroll, and then realizing where I am, I close the app in disgust. But sometimes, I see that post - "Is Lolita Fashion Dying????????"
From the perspective of the brands we cherish, this is a reasonable question to ask. Our beloved fashion houses might endure much more financial hardship than a major label, or a brand who caters to mainstream fashion desires, or even a bigger, less niche alternative fashion brand. Given their costs, are they able to charge enough for their pieces? Are enough people buying? Do they have the social media reach they need, or are they being beaten down by the (racist, status-quo-preserving) algorithm?
What if the brand owner is disabled or chronically ill, and they need to step away? What will happen when they come back to their brand? What if the brand owner lives in the US and has insurmountable medical costs? Will their fans chip in to help them? What if they are mentally ill, and they need to change their engagement model, their sales volume, or something else to help them feel human?
These are all questions worth worrying about, in my humble opinion. But the Post in question, with its panicked tone, isn't generally wondering about the health and safety of J-fashion brand owners. The Post wonders something a little more insidious.
It wonders things like:
Has the fashion become saturated with people who engage in it too casually?
Has the fashion become too mainstream?
Does the fashion no longer prioritize people who are thin, cisgender, and racially-privileged?
Has the culture around our fashion changed so much that it no longer resembles the thing I was so eager to join 10, 15, or 20 years ago?
Is the fashion no longer exclusive to me and my friends? Do we really have to share?
All of these things - the ability to engage casually, the greater visibility, the increased diversity, etc. - are good for our fashion. The more people we attract to Lolita fashion, the better, because that means more people buying pieces, more pieces in the secondhand market, more people buying tickets to events, more people available to plan events, bigger comms with more meetups, more friends, and more fun. What could be better?
Of course, as we grow, we do run the risk of attracting a bad element. But frankly, I am not worried about sexual predators in our community. The Lolita fashion community generally does an exceptionally good job of identifying genuine creeps and making them feel unwelcome.
I am worried about attracting bigots. People who get caught up in the drama and use it as an excuse to be hateful. People who deliberately conflate trans women engaging in good faith with "sissies." People who lash out at Black, Indigenous, and Latine/x Lolitas as "cultural appropriators." People who call fat and plus-sized Lolitas "entitled" for wishing that major brands made dresses in their sizes.
I posit that our fashion is actually stronger than ever. While brands will come and go, and we may miss them dearly (RIP Putumayo, we'll always have the cat-ear coat I bought at Rufflecon), more designers, inventors, and mavericks are waiting in the wings to take their place. While major events may fold, there are those of us who will recreate them bigger and better than ever. And for everyone who leaves the fashion, 2 more are asking - so, where do I buy these clothes?
With all this in mind, what can we do to keep our community growing? Once life is back to normal, and we're having in-person meetups again, we will notice a whole cohort of folks who have never been to a meetup in person. The people who were fascinated by Lolita fashion for years and decided, finally, to engage in earnest during the pandemic. And when you walk around your town with your newer, cooler crew, even more people will take notice, and ask themselves: "What's stopping me from joining them? What's keeping me from dressing like that?" So what can you do to welcome them in?
Yes, we know - nobody uses Facebook's search feature correctly. Sometimes people rehash conversations that have happened just about every month since the genesis of Lolita fashion, on whichever platform is in vogue at the time. Here's a thought - you don't have to engage with that post. You can leave it to the moderators of a group to handle within their rules, and you can ignore it. Going out of your way to mock an uninformed comment for your personal amusement no doubt feels awful for the person (an actual human being!!!) being dunked on. And each time you do that - especially when you don't give constructive advice, like "here is where this question has been asked before," or "here is how we prefer to handle questions like this in this group" - you shoo one more eager newbie away.
Yeah, I know, you read it "for the articles." But 4chan's politics, broadly speaking, don't align at all with the community's values, including those as fundamental as "protect abuse survivors" and "oust predators." It's also a hotbed for the worst kinds of thinking in our community - particularly racism, trans hatred, and fat hatred. Every time you tell someone 4chan is a "good resource" for the fashion, you're also telling them "actually, all these bigoted comments? Those DO align with what our community believes, so get used to it!"
And yes, as a former gull myself, I know you're "just scrolling," and I know how upset it makes you when you see someone trashing your hard work - your meticulously-constructed coord, or your meetup that took literal months of planning. It sucks when people acting in bad faith try to divide your comm! So stop giving the trolls the time of day. Don't open the site. Don't scroll. Remove it from your life, and see how much happier it makes you. Avina-kei's post for Kawaii Riot is absolutely required reading if you're not yet convinced.
This one goes without saying - if someone says something overtly hateful, at a meetup or online, tell them to stop. If you think they're receptive to changing their behavior, call them in in a private channel. If not? Call them out publicly and send the message that this isn't acceptable in our community.
Another one that feels pretty obvious. Are you holding meetups at ADA-accessible venues (which are often at a very low bar of physical access)? Can you warn people up front about access issues at a given venue? If food is involved, will people with dietary restrictions be able to eat a full meal or otherwise participate to the same degree as someone without a dietary restriction?
Why do you feel compelled to leave "concrit" (yes, absolutely in scare quotes) when fashionistas share their coords? Why do you feel the need to nitpick which genre of alternative fashion the coord sits in? Why does it matter? Does their coord hurt you by existing?
Don’t send the message that newbies should expect to shell out for their first dress. We know that there are affordable secondhand options out there - so be one of them! Don’t buy dresses for the sake of reselling them, and be generous; your change in tastes is someone else’s inroad into the fashion.
If reading this post made you feel a little defensive - maybe you've been a jerk to a newbie before, or overstepped a boundary, or let bigotry slide in your circle - that's okay! It is good to grow and change. I encourage you to sit with this feeling, and rather than lashing out, let it percolate and think about what you're going to do moving forward.
As always, you can check prettyprincess.club to learn more about our flagship event, Royal Vegas Retreat 2021. Stay tuned for updates on our event starting in May. As in 2020, we are prepared to postpone if it isn’t yet safe to hold our event in person.