Thursday, 27 September 2018

Looking At The Roots Of Lolita - Pre-Oldschool

When I first discovered that lolita fashion had its roots in the 1970s and 80s, I was quite surprised to hear it, seeing as the oldest lolita photos we tend to see are from the late 1990s. I was about a year into wearing the fashion, and was reading fyeahlolita's blog post talking about lolita in the 70s, 80s & 90s. I recommend you check it out. However, her post doesn't include many photos to demonstrate the earlier years, most of the ones included are from the 90s. I have been very interested to learn more about lolita's roots, and expand upon the revelations made by fyeahlolita. 
I had come across a small handful of earlier pre-lolita looks, but last night I decided to dig deeper and find more information, and I ended up doing a deep dive until nearly 3am. Now, I will be including some information that is in fyeahlolita's blog, just so that I'm not missing any information, but I'm not trying to step on any toes or anything.
Just a warning that this post is going to be very image heavy, but I'm sure that's what you're here for anyway~

So, I would say there are several different places from which the roots of lolita can be seen, but I'm going to start in the 1970s. In the 70s, prairie style and gunne sax pieces were very fashionable, in the west and in Japan. Florals, lace, frilly blouses, and long skirts were in. There isn't much more to say about the 70s, as I could only find a few photos specifically from Japan to show. As for brands, MILK was founded in 1970, which was a big part of feminine pre-lolita style. Angelic Pretty was founded in 1979, back then it was just called Pretty (until 2001), and could be found in Laforet department store stocking pieces by smaller designers.


The 70s was also the beginning of kawaii as a way of rebellion against traditional Japanese culture. A similar sort of rebellion had happened once before with Modern Girls in the 1920s, though that ended during the great depression. (source) The kawaii movement was started by teenage girls, who wrote in a childlike style with doodles, and read manga rather than going to lectures in protest of prescribed societal knowledge. (source) This cuteness as individuality most definitely had a part to play in lolita evolving the way it did.
'Modern girls' from the 1920s

Now onto the 1980s, where a lot more information can be found. In 1982 the magazine Olive started publication, marketed as a 'magazine for romantic girls', and was read by teens and college students. This it would seem, would play a huge part in the birth of lolita fashion. It featured cute feminine fashion, often with large collars, ribbons, ruffles, 'a sense of volume', and colours like pink, red and white. (source) Girls that wore this style were known as 'Olive Girls', with one popular brand being PINK HOUSE, which is still going today. PINK HOUSE's aesthetic is similar to what we would call natural kei today, with long baggy dresses and floral prints.





There was a similar, overlapping style around the same time called 'Doll style', kick started when two designers from MILK left to start their own independent brands. Jane Marple, which was founded in 1985, and Emily Temple Cute, both of which are still around today and worn in lolita fashion. (source) Other lolita brands that began in the 80s would be Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, and Heart E, both of which started in 1988. In 1987, popular fashion magazine Ryuko Tsushin first linked the name 'lolita' to the style. (source)

I also feel like Vivienne Westwood had a part to play in the beginnings of lolita fashion. We know that VW was a very important part of lolita fashion in the later 90s and early 2000s, particularly as the inventor of Rocking Horse Shoes. But I feel like pieces from collections during the New Romantic period and The Pagan Years, have all helped steer lolita's future in a certain direction. As we can see, the 'mini-crini' from 1985-87 is similar to the silhouette of lolita, and the bustier is also something we've seen from other lolita brands. (source) The crown headpieces and royal capes may have also had a part in influencing the more theatrical side of lolita. And of course we have seen items such as the heart blazer below (also from 1987, source), cardigans, and bags in street snaps from the late 90s.

Westwood's punk attitude can also be seen in the defiant counter culture aspect of old school lolita.  Even people's reactions to her 1988 Time Machine collection seen in this interview is similar to how many react to lolita, particularly back when the style was newer. The royal look in the video could easily be an ero lolita coord today, no?

And that's everything I managed to find on the roots of lolita fashion. It was quite hard to find information, but hopefully you learned something today. I definitely learned some new things about where lolita came from~

1987 Elle Japan




  1. This was so interesting to read through, thank you for sharing with us your research binge. You can definitely see how lolita fashion grew from these early influences. And at the same time, it's so interesting to see how these trends and styles, which were also common in the West (prairie styles, Vivien Westwood), developed into such different things in the West compared to Japan, when mixed with local culture.
    Also, how awful is that video by today's standards! Props to Janet Street-Porter for sticking up for Vivien Westwood - the presenter did nothing to make sure her guest was welcome (and she was too weak to make her questions like 'are they supposed to laugh' etc. be investigative journalism) and that guy is too much typical White Man Knows Best for me. I hope that now, when Vivien Westwood is even more successful and so iconic, they both think back to this moment and cringe, because I certainly cringed watching it.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it!
      Tbh I hadn't even thought about it that way, how the style in the west vs Japan went in such different directions. That's actually a really interesting angle.
      I know, that interview is so hard to watch, I can't believe they would be so rude. The designs are wonderful. I'm so glad Janet stood up for Vivienne, in front of everyone laughing and being so rude.

  2. Thanks for this! It seems like when you love oldschool lolita it would be an obvious thing to research but I never did. Maybe because even the last two decades proto-internet content is so frustrating already with links dying all the time and all these image hosting sites cleaning up after themselves too (and let's not talk about the sad trends of infinite scrolling and privatization which have ruined many a digging prospect). Of course magazines are the best sources for older content but getting my hands on them was never my forte. So naturally I'm very impressed with what you came by haha! Some things I already knew but didn't necessarily had some visuals along. What truly amazes me is the sheer similarity between some 80s and 00s designs, you never knew such a long time had passed between them. Also, this bit of tv is so rubbish oh dear. It reminds me a bit of the sillyness of fashion in the show Ab Fab except, well, that was fiction.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment! I feel like I was lucky to stumble upon some of these photos and it's always great to have them all in one place.
      Funny you should bring up AbFab, I love that show! I feel like it was partially inspired by attitudes like in the interview with Vivienne though.

  3. I love this post so much! Back when I wrote my post about it (lol a decade ago!!) there were basically no photos even available online from this far back! I don't think even the Olive scans popped up on tumblr until a year or 2 after I wrote the post! I love seeing them all in one place and organized like this <3 I'm (haha obviously) such a fan of archive work like this! It's so important to know where the fashion came from and to see how much it's changed over the years and to know that it will change in the future!

    1. Ahh thank you! Honestly thank you for writing the original post, because if I'd never read that I might never have known lolita had its roots so early and discovered all this information! It's so much fun to archive and I'm so glad more stuff is popping up now~