More かわいい, less こわい

NB:

かわいい – kawaii (cute) こわい – kowai (eerie)

So this post is a long time coming…

Our bad but better late than never. It’s unnerving to start all over again. Thankfully, the craziness is over for now. I figured it’s best to start off in a chronological order – starting with the halloween post that’s been collecting dust in a corner of my brain.

Between the two of us, Plum is the more outgoing and sociable personality. I’m more tethered to my room, home and all things familiar.

So it took her more than a week’s worth of nagging to get me to agree to attending a Halloween party. Even the bit about it being on a boat, while novel, didn’t hook me.

Halloween isn’t anything much beyond an excuse to party, for some girls to wear next to nothing under the guise of it being a costume and generally getting up to mischief. I’ve done my share of partying in my late teens and I can honestly say that another evening of this didn’t quite appeal to me.

However, like all other ideas, this one took root and my brain was soon running away with what I might like to wear should I choose to attend.

As you can tell from the onsite pics, gunning for the sexy school girl (overrated and too close to home) or the hot slutty sailor wasn’t going to work… so I decided to corner the market on Kawaii-ness.

And that meant dressing up like a porcelain doll or…going Loli.

I’m not and expert so I was in for a huge surprise. I didn’t know till doing some sort of research online just how much effort it took to constructing the Loli-look. It isn’t just some concoction of all things frilly and pink cooked up while one’s ‘discretion gland’ is suspended.

Here’s a summary of all the stuff I gleamed throughout the process and I hope it helps anyone who wants to know more or just wants a rough breakdown. (Do click on the links. Some of the sites aren’t active – which is a shame – but just take a look. ^_^; Enjoy!)

A few issues that certainly made me stop to think were:
– type of Lolita
– anatomy of a Lolita’s getup
– the cost of an ensemble
– my own cynicism

Type of Lolita
Just go on wiki or simply googling the term ‘Lolita Fashion’ and one can see the many types of Lolitas. So my first task was choosing the type of Lolita I was going to dress up as.

According to this site, there’s up to 16 types of Loli-styles to choose from – something I find completely mind boggling. Eventually, I narrowed them down to what I understand to be the ‘main’ types of Lolita:

  • Sweet Lolita

Sweet Loli (but somehow, I have a feeling we're seriously lacking frills here...)

The Sweet Lolita is the one we all recognise dressed in varying amounts of pink, flouncy things with lots of frills, natural make up, curly hair and… all things insanely girlish and feminine.

  • Gothic Lolita

Gothic Loli... personally, I love her entire look.

This brand of Lolitas seem to capture the same ‘spirit’ but with an approach involving contrasting colours such as white and black or pink and black… Lots of black, really because it’s an easy way to show contrast. It’s apparently modeled after Victorian servant wear or mourning clothes. One blogger mentioned that it was the oddest combination of Little Girl meets Old Woman… which reminded me a little of the Olsen Twins.

The other Loli sub-types fall in between these two. The Hime or Princess Loli is very baroque and elaborate in style with pearls, more frills and at times, seems possessed by the spirit of Marie Antoinette. The Ero Loli… is pretty much straight forward sexiness playing on the nymphet fetish. On a tangetial note, the Aristocrat is an interesting alternative that I recommend you pay attention to. It seems to be lumped under Loli because there’s no current classification for it.

The Anatomy of a Lolita Getup

After deciding that I would dress up as the normal Sweet Loli and Plum, as Gothic Loli, it was time to scout for items that would make up our look.

Note the frills on this otherwise scientific diagram! *points finger to heaven*

Looks simple enough, right?

We were so dead wrong. While we knew what to look for or what sort of colours we wanted after looking through the myriad of recommended websites like Baby, The Stars Shine Down (Paris site) or Innocent World, we discovered a distinct lack of shops that could provide us with the needed items at a reasonable enough price… which brings me to the next concern I had…

The Cost of an Ensemble

Most of the cost of an outfit is offloaded by making or crafting your own stuff. Most of the Loli-sites I went to were full of people sharing their works that they take great pride in. Most of these items are very elaborate and pretty… and only understandable that it would cost quite a bit when you put them up for sale.

Still, the cost of a full ensemble is staggering, especially if everything is storebought. After some calculation, we found that it could easily reach upwards of SGD$500 with the dress and shoes being the most expensive items.

Also, due to the scarcity of these sort of shops in Singapore, the few that do sell Loli fashion items e.g. Black Alice or Haru tend to:

  • charge super expensively
  • have terrible service (though this is attributed to the salespeople and not the style… I’m just still annoyed at their No-Trying policy and their hiring of totally uninterested teenagers-pretending-to-be-adults-working-at- Abercrombie&Fitch whose level of social skills are far below the standard known as ‘Lacking’)
  • have a limited range of goods and sizes.

Thankfully, we found a good enough shop called Atsuki at Liang Court. The salesperson aka ‘Holy Princess Devil’ Jolyn (I found her email quite amusing and couldn’t help but advertise it XD) was very helpful and even told us about the rental policy they had.

I rented this gorgeous skirt…

Teal skirt with black lace and crinoline

Gothic-esque... at least

… while Plum opted for this…

So, we ended up straying away from the strict definitions of Loli by a mile… I opted to go as a porcelain doll while Plum went as a cabaret girl.

After all that effort, I can understand why and recommend people actually sew their own clothes in this style. Its amazingly hard to find what you want in stores, even online.

My Own Cynicism

While we didn’t end up dressing as Loli as we wanted to, for many reasons ranging from cost to availability… I had to say that we had tons of fun exploring another facet of ‘extreme’ fashion that I otherwise would never have considered even trying out.

While I do still have a love-hate relationship with all things cute and typically girly, I do have newfound respect for the real Lolitas who really put in effort in creating their ensembles and expressing themselves with such fervour. It’s not easy. At all.

I was surprised that I didn’t look as silly as I thought I would but that could be attributed to the fact that I already have the curls and the lack of height that already labels me as pretty diminutive. I might not look like this…

(... well maybe in my fantasies involving a certain Japanese-Taiwanese actor)

All in all, it was good fun and a great experience to go through. I’d really recommend it to anyone who thinks that this is just some really ridiculous or inane subculture to simply try it out and make the decision based on your own experience as opposed to simply hopping on the Loli-bashing bandwagon.

~Blossom

P.S.

We’ll be doing our furisode shoot soon… Here’s to hoping that we don’t overtan ourselves while on holiday! -_-;

How to Buy Vintage Kimono

The Kimono, surely perfect enough - Ichiroya.com

The Kimono, surely perfect enough - Ichiroya.com

Blossom and I are now so into the whole idea of buying vintage. There’s just something nice about the old elegance and the idea of the history you’re wearing on your back. Plus, something about the old designs do tend to appeal to us. Not only are vintage kimonos appealing, we realize that these are the kimonos most readily available to the gaijin buyer because of their relatively cheap prices (compared to brand new kimonos), and also the most accessible to those who cannot peruse websites in Japanese to buy brand new ones.

However, when Blossom and I researched on the internet, there is so little information about how one should go about buying a vintage kimono. What does one look for to make sure you don’t get cheated? OMG Stains! When it comes, what does one do? Here’s some advice from us two budding shoppers who have learned a thing or two over the course of our last purchases and several hundred dollars.

To begin with, buy from reputable sources. One of the most reputable on the net being Ichiroya.com, who offers amazing homely (though sometimes slow) service. They also happen to have a good command of English, which I appreciate being an English Teacher :/ Perhaps seeing competence in the language brings a sense of trust and security, since I feel as if they can understand what I’m trying to communicate. Reputable sellers will usually mark out stains, tears, patinas and what not on the kimono. They will be honest. Yes, I know ebay has cheaper, but I always worry because I don’t know these people nor do I trust their photos. Ichiroya so far has served me the best with the widest selection available.

Defect Report - Ichiroya.com

Stains - Ichiroya.com

Stains - Ichiroya.com

When buying, look carefully at the defect report. Most vintage kimonos should come listed with a report of defects. I don’t mind stains if they’re not huge and noticeable, and trust me, most kimono will come with stains sprinkled on by the Shoya Goblin. Expect defects. They’re vintage and were sold by their original owners for a reason. However, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so I’m not complaining.  If you see a defect that wasn’t in the defect report, chill out. Unless it’s major or hugely noticable, no one will notice it either when you wear it.

Some of the most common defects are wear marks on the collars, soy sauce stains, discolouration, patina, frays and unravelling seams. Seams can be repaired, but there’s nothing much you can do about the rest besides trying to hide them. Try to steer clear of kimono with holes or repaired holes. You are not Oshin.

Typical Patina on Inner Lining - Ichiroya.com

Typical Patina on Inner Lining - Ichiroya.com

Several aspects of a kimono you must acknowledge when buying a kimono. This is where it pays to be cynical.

  • Expect it to be worse than it seems, as cynical as this sounds. While on the photos, stains might look small, consider that your computer monitor and photo editing for contrast might have affected that. If the stain is in a nondescript place, I tend not to mind since it is easily hidden.
  • There will be stains not listed on the defect report. I don’t think this is so much duplicity on the trader’s part, though some might think of it that way. Lets face it, they need to make a living, and all salesmanship is about the presenting varying degrees of truth. If the tiny defects can be hidden, I don’t mind. If it’s major, by all means, join me in kicking up a fuss and returning the kimono.
  • Research how to care for kimono! Tiny stains are not as bad as a ruined patch of silk because you rubbed too hard to get rid of tiny stains! Learn from my heart-wrenching experience ;-;
  • Check that the sizing fits you, especially if you’re not built like the average Japanese waif. Check that the arm lengths, waist and kimono lengths will accomodate your dimensions, these are usually made known by the trader.

Now that you have your kimono chosen, it’s time to go through the transaction. I realize this takes time, over the course of a few days. Doesn’t matter to me as long as it comes quick, so when it comes to shipping, I care. I usually use EMS because I’m impatient – there, I admit it – and because it’s insured and traceable. When you get it, expect it to smell. It’s old and been in storage for a long time. I had to air out my furisode for a week before the smell stopped being noticeable. Air it out, check for defects, admire it, and then post it on your blog and show it off to the world.

All in all, when buying a vintage kimono, it’s all about what you can live with. If you’re not that picky or demanding of perfection, than a vintage kimono is an economical buy for you. Besides, like men and puppies, every kimono is perfect if you love it enough.