I am not entirely sure why lolita fashion is called lolita. This article from the F Yeah Lolita blog kind of explains the origins. In short, in the 1970s, there was a trend towards clothes nostalgic of Victorian era and earlier (think 1860s on the prairie) referred to as ‘natural kei’. In the early 90s, this branched off into various styles, such as what we call ‘otome’ and the style we currently call ‘lolita’. ‘Otome’ just means ‘maiden’ so that name is pretty obvious (even though the style that the west considers to be ‘otome’ is different from what the east considers to be ‘otome’). In the 90s, mainstream culture seemed to romanticize the book and movies Lolita, and found parallels within Alice in Wonderland, specifically Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (whom the story was based on). Japanese lolitas ended up accepting the label by spelling it ‘ロリィタ’ (ro-ri-i-ta) instead of ‘ロリータ’ (ro-ri-ta with a long i), but online shops ended up using the second spelling anyway. So it was people outside of the fashion who named it, and it stuck.
Personally, I hate the connection between Nabakov’s book and the fashion. I don’t want to be associated with it. I don’t want to have to explain to curious people that no, we aren’t a bunch of perverts and it’s unrelated to the book but cannot quite put into words why it is called such, and then have them figure I am lying and we are all gross. The blog post I cited says “If they cared that much about what sort of misconceptions strangers might have about them, they probably would have never ventured into the fashion in the first place. ” To some extent, yes, I don’t care what strangers think of me when I am dressed up, but having to actually interact with them when they are asking questions and (silently?) judging me to my face is another story. I just want to wear cute dresses and be left alone while shopping or hanging out with my friends.
Occasionally people will suggest alternative names, but it does not seem like any of them stick. Some of the names are better than others.
Some people try to distinguish the fashion by calling it ‘Rorita’, which is just literally translating it from katakana. Not a fan of this because it brings to mind people mocking the L/R pronunciation in Japanese language. Calling it ‘Gosu Rori’ and ‘Ama Rori” (literally Goth Loli and Sweet Loli) has the same issue.
‘EGL’ stands for “Elegant Gothic Lolita”, and was coined by Mana. When telling curious people the acronym, they probably won’t ask more questions. However, since it specifically refers to gothic (and some may even say it only would refer to Mana’s brand, Moi-Meme-Moite), I probably shouldn’t use it to describe sweet or classic styles.
A ‘Quaintrelle’ is a refined person who leads a life of passion, expressed through hobbies, personal style and charming past times. Quaintrelle fashion seems to encompass various historical fashions, from Victorian inspired to 1920s flapper to pin-up style. I suppose lolita fashion could fall under that umbrella, but all the vintage styles that also fall under the umbrella should not
‘Alice Kei’, or Alice Style, could work, except a lot of dresses are not specifically Alice in Wonderland inspired. When I think of this term, I immediately think of old school style in pastel colors.
‘Alice Deco’ has the same issue of not necessarily being AiW themed, but this name makes me think of the extra cute sweet, pastel styles.
‘Otona Alice’ translates to “Grown-Up Alice”, and the (hopefully not dead) fashion magazine Eternita defines it as “women that always have an Alice living in their heart, or women that never want to forget their pure maiden heart.” I can envision this to be used for describing classic and mature-sweet styles. This is not to be confused with ‘Otona’ fashion, which is the grown up mature variant of gyaru. I’ve read that they are using this term in Japan also, so maybe this will catch on…or not. But I like this one the most out of the different ones listed.
‘Otome Kei’ (in the west) is a toned down, less matchy and more casual variety of lolita fashion, but still not considered to be ‘casual Lolita’ (which is still matchy). It is more quirky and unlike lolita, it does not have set rules, and is more 50s and 60s inspired (but not as sexy as rockabilly or pinup). However, in the East, they also have a fashion they call ‘Soft Lolita’ (thanks Misako, you are not helping with getting away from the word ‘lolita’) which is a vague approach to lolita, so it can incorporate otome kei and even larme. Misako claims that soft lolita is what you wear when you can’t wear full on lolita but still want to wear something to feel cute. So, even though there are claims that otome is dead (it’s not), there are still too many distinctions between it and standard lolita to be able to steal the name.
In summary, if I was in charge of renaming things:
- Alice Kei – Old school Sweet Lolita
- Alice Deco – Pastel Vomit Sweet Lolita
- Otona Alice – Classic Lolita and Mature-Classic Lolita
- EGL – what we currently call Gothic Lolita
I have no unique suggestions for old school Gothic Lolita or old school Classic Lolita (maybe that is just Natural Kei? But that might be a style of it’s own now…). And none of these names solve the problem of people assuming you are dressing up as Alice in Wonderland. ヽ（´ー｀）┌ I guess I will go update tags now.