Even though I’ve been involved in a lot of nerdy things (I was in two orchestras at a math and science high school; essentially we were the nerdiest of the nerds), I’ve never been an anime kid. Despite being half Japanese and, despite having tried reading some manga and watching some anime and trying to listen to J-rock, it just never really clicked with me. However, it most definitely clicked with my sister. When she hit middle school, she got super obsessed with these really androgynous J-rock bands, started dressing up like anime characters and we started going to anime conventions together. Even though I didn’t really like anime, I enjoyed being in an environment where people were united by being super into something, and felt like they could be themselves. It wasn’t necessarily what I would do, but I always like people who aren’t afraid of letting their weird sides show. It was around then that I discovered Gothic Lolita.
Gothic Lolita is largely characterized by big curly hair, super frilly dresses, superfluous amounts of bows, and being extremely dainty. First, my sister was really into it, and she showed me some pictures of these strange Japanese girls dressed like wannabe Marie Antoinettes. I was confused. Wasn’t it difficult going around dressed like that all the time? How did they go to the bathroom? Plus, they all looked like little girls. It seemed weird and kind of regressive that these women were infantilizing themselves by dressing this way. Then I watched this movie called Kamikaze Girls.
Kamikaze Girls is awesome, and you should go watch it immediately. It’s about this really antisocial Gothic Lolita girl who decides to open up a little and make friends with this crazy girl in a biker gang. When I watched that movie, I realized that Gothic Lolita wasn’t really about infantilisation, and it definitely wasn’t about trying to be attractive to men or something. It’s about creating your own world through what you wear. The girl in the movie just wanted to escape to Rococo-era France, and hey, who wouldn’t want to do that? For me, the most fun part of fashion is how you can kind of create your own story through your clothes. When I choose an outfit, I subconsciously think about a backstory, about a character I’m trying to create. It’s a fun way of trying to bring storytelling into everyday life.
After that, I bought a Gothic Lolita magazine at the next anime convention I attended, and I really haven’t looked back since. I am an unabashed fan of Gothic Lolita. Even though it might not necessarily be practical for me to wear, I can take some of the Gothic Lolita sensibility into my own life. I like the punk-rock sensibility it takes to wear whatever you want and not give a fuck. I like the little specific details that are so important in creating your own world, your own story. These are the things that bring a little something special to everyday life.
All drawings by Hannah Watanabe-Rocco.