As our frillier readers know, lolita fashion, despite originating in Japan, draws much of its inspiration from historical European dress such as Victorian children’s wear & Rococo ruffles. Although the current ‘typical’ lolita is a fan of sweet styles featuring pastel colours and scarily cute imagery (I remember a time when spooky gothic lolita ruled the roost, and anyone favouring sweet and/or country was definitely in the minority!), there are a myriad of sub-styles within the fashion.
Punky pirates, crucifix carrying goths, poodle-loving 1950s fans… all of these sub-styles and more exist within lolita fashion. However, hovering at the edges, for as long as I personally can remember, is the much maligned wa-lolita. A curious breed, found mostly (sadly) at gatherings of anime fans and Japanese food festivals, the wa-lolita takes her visual cues from traditional Japanese dress, and is on the endangered lolita sub-species list – if there is one (gone the way of the dodo: the aforementioned country lolita?).
Usually, a wa-lolita (和 in this context meaning Japanese, although the linguistic debate behind the true meaning of wa is a must-read for all fellow word-nerds!) outfit features the archetypal lolita bell-shaped skirt, often paired with a blouse that aims to capture something of the kimono/yukata; long flowing sleeves and a cross-over front. Worn with a faux-obi (fauxbi?! sometimes I make myself laugh…), there’s no mistaking the wa-lolita; no camouflage in a sea of baby pink wigs and teaparty shoes.
Arguably, wa-lolita is one of the hardest lolita fashion sub-styles to pull off – I have seen it done beautifully, but all too often it falls flat – and as it borrows heavily from Japanese kimono, it perilously skirts the edge of ‘costume’ rather than clothes, an interesting dichotomy itself. Yet recently Metamorphose have released (I believe not for the first time) a beautiful collection of lolita dresses in Japanese style fabric:
Rather than wa-lolita, I think these are more ‘lolita a la Japan’ – if we’re going to get really picky, they lack the furisode-style sleeves and obi that is recognisably wa-lolita. Instead, Metamorphose have created jumper-skirts on simpler patterns in richly Japanese-patterned fabrics. If the idea of a misconstrued orientalised lolita-geisha hybrid rubs you up the wrong way, I’d suggest picturing the dresses featured here paired with soft white blouses and tiny kanzashi folded flowers perched in long braided hair. Lovely, elegant and quintessentially Japanese.