Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I Want To Wear Some Lolita Clothing- An essay

                               Hello my *name* is The Avant Garde Tweener and I identify as:

Or INTJ for short

                                                                                    A foodie
A bow enthusiast
A braceface
A hipster
Indie Pop Princess
A feminist
Sweetie Pie
A dreamer
A weirdo
And lover of kitsch


Cis gendered, heterosexual female.

Oh, and blogger. Can't forget that one. 

Of course, there are more nuances to my character, but these are the most obvious points in my personality. One of my favorite vloggers, Savannah Brown, made a video about identity which sums up pretty much the first half of this essay:

Hannah Witton also has a video on this you should check out, as well as this video by sexplanations.

"Your identity isn't fixed," says Witton."It can change over time.Preferably, you decide your identity. However sometimes identities are projected onto us. And these can be good or bad."

And that is part of what we are going to be talking about today. So keep that in the back of your head. We'll come back to this.

And now for your pop culture lesson of the day

Whether you're punk, hipster, nerd, geek, steampunk, cosplayer, etc, you probably identify as part of a group, whether it's a fandom or one of the categories above. And within that group you probably have ways of climbing higher on that hierarchy, ways to earn cred. We call this cultural capital. In case you need the foo foo fancy definition, Wiki says, "The term cultural capital refers to non-financial social assets that promote social mobility beyond economic means."

 The idea channel tells us a little about cultural capital while talking about hipsters:

Alright. So before we get to my dilemma we have one more thing to chit chat about- cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is taking from another culture without being part of that culture or fully immersing yourself in it or even bothering yourself about where it is from. Alternatively, you could know where it is from and wear it to mock and degrade that culture. Rookiemag has an article here on it.

Cultural appropriation has become more and more prevalent in pop culture. Currently it's hot to slap a couple "kawaii"s in to show your love for Japan's cute culture, when really whatever it is is so much more complicated, like Avril Lavigne did in Hello Kitty. This is just an example and there are several others, but just so you have an idea:

But all that is backstory.

Let's revisit my identity. Though I identify as a lover of Japanese culture, I do not identify as any of Japan's pop culture groups. Japanese pop culture groups include Lolita, which is the one that most interests me. There are others such as Mori girl, a fashion and lifestyle trend based on more natural and open ways; mori translates to forest in Japanese.

Back to the point. Lolita fashion looks like this:

Very cutesy, lots of pastels and ribbons. Lolita fashion is partly inspired by Victorian era clothes, so as a result of the era's influence, Lolitas often have a vintage hue to them. Lolita itself has a whole history to it, it's actually pretty interesting. It's more than just some pretty dresses though, it is also a lifestyle and along with that there are hardships such as stereotyping, etc. This episode of I'm Asian American And gives you a basic understanding of the Lolita lifestyle.

What does all this have to do with the curation of my closet you ask? Well, I'm not asian. I'm pretty much your typical white girl as far as looks go. My closet is a hodge podge of thrift shop finds, sweet little dresses, printed tanks, and miniskirts. I don't want to give up my little plaid schoolgirl skirts or any other outfits, and to be honest, I don't really want to go full Lolita. Lolita fashion is really expensive even on cheaper sites like bodyline. But I just want to own a few bows and barettes, maybe a cardigan or skirt.

"So just get it,"" you're thinking. If only it were so simple. I have a few problems dealing with the topics above.

I don't identify as Lolita, and not going full Lolita could be considered cultural appropriation and dishonoring the Lolita fashion community, which is the last thing I want to do. I have immense respect for Japanese culture and the last thing I want to do is make a mockery of it. In the Idea Channel video above, it says hipsters like what they think is cool and in a sense, that makes a mockery of what they like. So if I identify as a hipster who occasionally wears Lolita, an identity of I - just - thought - this - skirt - was - cool - and - didn't - know - the - whole - story  may be assumed and deemed as cultural appropriation. I did my research, though. I'm learning Japanese. I follow a lot of Lolita fashion blogs. I know the basic history of Lolita and the Victorian era. I'm writing this entire essay on how I feel about the subject. I'm not saying that I will necessarily wear it in hopes of gaining any cultural capital, and certainly not to devalue any cultural capital in the Lolita community. Honestly I have no ulterior motives for wearing Lolita. I have, as mentioned before, immense respect for that community, but I just honestly don't want to be a part of it. And because of this I am unsure if I need to be a part of the community and clamor up the hierarchy for cultural capital even to wear a bow in order to avoid being considered racist or dishonoring. I'm not saying that I have any warrant to just up and decide to wear clothes without become a part of their meaning, but I am writing an essay on the ethics of all of this, and that should count for something.

Alternatively, I could just wear what I want (which I already do, to a degree) and accept that on occasion I may run into these problems, or forget about the whole idea & just accept that there are certain lines you cannot cross.

 I don't want to offend anybody, certainly not with what I wear. I hope that it is possible to honor a culture via clothing without being part of that culture or immersing yourself in it absolutely every single day.

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