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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Dos and Don'ts of Guidance

Every lolita, at one point in her frilly lifetime, was new. Maybe she was the type of new lolita who was patient, took her time, researched the fashion, and proceeded with caution. She took criticism with grace and spent countless amounts of time and effort in perfecting her look. On the opposite end, maybe she was over-excited, rushed in without spending much time lurking EGL or doing proper research, and made a few poor first coordinates. But over time made herself better, investing that same amount of energy.

No matter what type of new lolita you were, the fact is, at some point you WERE. A good majority of you probably went through what's known as an "ita phase". "Ita" comes from the Japanese word "ittai", which means "painful". The term "ita", therefore, refers to an (often) inexperienced lolita who is painful to the eyes, most likely due to poorly put-together outfits, and poor quality in those outfits. Some of the most common ita mistakes are also lack of proper petticoat and undone hair and makeup. Keep in mind, there are some who never leave the ita phase. The following is a photo of myself when I was in my own ita phase, just to give you a visual reference (fair warning, it's not pretty - that's why it's ita):

Now, why am I giving you so much information on the ita (and this is probably basic information most lolita viewers already know)? Well, for starters, to educate those reading this blog who might not exactly know lolita terminology. The main reason for this intro, though, is to segway into what I'd really like to talk about with this entry: the dos and don'ts of guiding new lolitas out of their ita phases.

Unfornutaley many girls who are interested in getting into lolita are turned off by people who may not exactly be the kindest to those in their ita phase. I myself had a bad experience when I was getting started, but instead of rambling about myself I decided to ask experiences lolis around me to share their horror stories (as well as their advice!) - I asked them, when they were starting, if there was anyone who discouraged them or put them down for being ita. A couple of the responses I got were heartbreaking, but I was relieved to hear there was at least a happy ending:

"I went alone [to a lolita picnic]. I wore a long sleeved black Bodyline OP with black boots. I know my mistakes: no petticoat or bloomers, etc etc. It was my very first attempt at Lolita and I had no loli friends to help me with concrit. So here I am, alone and a girl comes up to me and out right flames me! Asks me how much brand I own. None. She tells me my outfit is terrible and I will never be up to Lolita standards only wearing bodyline. I was crushed. Really thought about leaving the fashion but I met other girls who told me I looked cute, what sites to look at etc and it changed my view of Lolita and the comm in general."

"When I was first in to the fashion, I started by shopping around at ACen. I found a booth with cute petticoats. I was looking at them, and the "Large" looked to be around 32". I asked if she had anything bigger, and she literally looked me up and down, snorted, and said "Tch, we don't make clothes for fat people." I was heart broken. It was like telling me that Lolita was not for plus sized girls. I eventually met a few other girls selling things of a Lolita nature who really helped me feel better, and now I make Lolita clothing specializing in Plus sizes. I don't want any girl to think they're "too fat" for Lolita."

The fact that horror stories like these even exist is rather disappointing. No, I don't think all lolitas are required to be tea-sipping bags of sugary sweetness, but when we go out in public as lolitas, we are projecting an image and we are giving ourselves a reputation. Unfortunately, the lolita community has gotten itself a reputation of being mean and judgemental. I don't think this viewpoint is entirely fair, because I've met many very nice women in this fashion (some have even become my close friends!), but sometimes a loud minority gets the most attention. I didn't think the rumored reputation of the community as a whole was the sole reason for why new girls could have such bad experiences. So, I asked the lolitas I interviewed why they think new girls get so discouraged right away - one had this to say:

"Sometimes the criticism can get very personal, and go into namecallling, attacking the person's appearance rather than criticizing their clothing choices, etc. Some people are just very sensitive, and just can't take hearing it at all...But you can't really wear clothes that make you stand out as much as lolita unless you have a thick skin and don't take criticism personally."

I really liked the insight this young woman provided, and I liked the subject it revolved around: criticism. Criticism is at the heart of where bad experiences in lolita tend to begin  Some people can take it, and some can't. I myself was very sensitive when I began dressing in lolita, but I learned from my early mistakes and learned to toughen myself and take criticism with a grain of salt if it wasn't necessarily constructive or kind (and thank goodness I did because I would've had some serious moments of rage during student teaching otherwise).

I have this advice to offer for you new lolitas in regards to guidance:
1. Accept criticism with grace and kindness.
2. Keep in mind: most criticism is given to help you improve.
3. Do not ask for constructive criticism if you do not wish to receive it.
4. Even if you do not ask for it and still receive it, #1 applies.
5. Take the advice others give and apply it - who knows, maybe you'll like the change!
6. If the criticism is negative or discouraging, do not allow it to discourage you!
7. Learn from your mistakes because we all make them. Even women who have been lolitas for years make mistakes.

Now, to you frilly veternas: no one is perfect. We all at some point have probably said something that could have been worded more kindly, we could have been more patient, and we could have held our tongues entirely and chose not to. I had an instance once where I was helping a friend who was looking at purchasing her first lolita piece. She showed me a dress on Bodyline that wasn't exactly the best looking piece she could have picked. I wasn't kind nor a good role-model when I responded with, "Do you know what ita is? Because that's it right there" instead of ,"I don't think that's the best choice for you. Maybe I can help you find something that will work with you and make you look even better!" Even after apologizing for my rudeness, I still feel bad - a teacher shouldn't talk that way to a student (let alone a friend to a friend!)

In regards to providing guidance, here is my advice:
1. Constructive criticism should be constructive.
2. Don't make criticism personal.
3. Use the sandwhich technique: something you like, something that needs improvement, something you like.
4. Think before you speak - there might be a kinder way to word things.
5. Be patient, even when it's hard, and allow new girls to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn!
6. If you are ever too harsh or discouraging, apologize.
7. New girls see you as a role model - be one for them. You don't have to hold their hand through everything, but you can answer questions here and there when you have time.

I hope that these simple dos and don'ts of guiding new lolitas was helpful to all of you! New lolitas look to the experiences to be teachers and guides - be the best lolita teacher you can be!


Friday, May 27, 2011

Plagarism in Lolita: a Teacher's Perspective on Milanoo and the Replica Debates

A recent post on EGL inspired me to write about this, and it happened to be a post talking about how the infamous Milanoo company is now using its own product photos in advertising (you can read the original post here: http://egl.livejournal.com/17350082.html#cutid1).

About Milanoo
Now, for those of you who are unaware of the Milanoo drama, Milanoo is a Chinese wholesale company that sells a wide variety of products: wedding dresses, zentai suits, cosplays, and lolita fashion. This company also sells these clothes at suspiciously low (we're talking "too-good-to-be-true") prices - the average lolita JSK looks to be around $70 (for reference, a brand-name JSK runs anywhere between $130-$250 on average). Now, what makes Milanoo an absolute no-no for lolitas everywhere is that they have established themselves as scammers in the community. They steal stock photos of brand clothing and photoshop their own background into the image, making it look distorted and wonky. The following is an example of a stock image from FanplusFriend, a company that produces lolita clothing inspired by brand designs (note: inspired =/= stolen), and the stolen Milanoo image:

Original JSK from FanplusFriend (photo taken from FanplusFriend.com)

Milanoo image - stolen FanplusFriend stock photo (from milanoo.com)

Looks just a bit suspicious, doesn't it? Don't worry, the fun doesn't end there! Milanoo also is known to create sock puppet accounts that post false positive reviews of the site (luckily they are easy to target for poor English). It wasn't long before EGL caught on to Milanoo's deceitful business practices and signed a massive boycott petition against the company.

Why it's Plagarism
Well, as if stealing stock images from both high quality brands (Baby, Angelic Pretty, etc) and lesser brands (FanplusFriend, Bodyline) wasn't enough, the deceitful business practices such as sockpuppet accounts surely are the icing on the cupcake.

From the Perspective of a Teacher
From the perspective of a teacher, the Milanoo ordeal makes me sick inside. This is no different than plagarizing sources for a research paper, but to worsen the blow it's like the "student" not only plagarized research, but went the extra mile to make up his/her OWN research sources to quote for extra padding (or maybe that's because there weren't enough legitimate sources that supported the "student's" case in the first place, eh Milanoo?)

The Replica Debate
Now, this is a topic in the lolita community that has been beaten and revisted multiple times: replicas - are they products of theft that should be boycotted, or are they valued opportunities for the lolita on a budget?

The heat of the replica debate seemed to kick off via Dream of Lolita, a Chinese store on TaoBao (the Chinese equivalent to Amazon) that takes the prints off of brand designs and makes cheaper lolita clothing from them. Recently one of the hot replicas has been Sugary Carnival, a print by Angelic Pretty:

 Original Sugary Carnival by AP (photo from hellolace.net)

Sugary Carnival replica by Dream of Lolita (photo taken from CLOBBAONLINE)

As you can see, the print design of the replica has been taken piece-by-piece from the original Angelic Pretty print, but it's not hard to notice that the dress is made from materials that are not as high-quality as the original Sugary Carnival. Regardless, many who are opposed to replicas argue that stealing every bit of print (including the Angelic Pretty logo), is plagarism and art theft.

Why It's Plagarism
The anti-replica community is right in this regard - stealing a print without making any modifications to it is indeed art theft and a form of plagarism. However, what sets Dream of Lolita worlds apart from Milanoo is that this company takes photos of its own work, and does not create fake accounts that praise the comapny's work.

From the Perspective of a Teacher
As a teacher (specifically an ART teacher), the replica debate is a challenge. I see the good and the bad in them. The good points are that replicas allow highly desired prints that may be out of stock or very highly priced to be available to more people. Another plus is that unlike brands, Dream of Lolita can do custom sizing, meaning that the plus-sized lolita community can comfortably fit into a dress with a print they adore. But then there is still the matter of art theft, which is, well, wrong. With these contradictory feelings going on, I had to sort through them (especially since I preordered the replica of Vampire Requiem!) and figure out where exactly I stood in this. This is the conclusion I came to:

I'm sure at one point in a class you were given the situation: "A man's wife is very ill, and she needs a specific type of medicine. The medicine is unreasonably expensive and insurance won't cover it. The man loves his wife very much, so he steals the medicine to save her life. Should the man go to jail?" Now, let's change things around a little: "There's a print a lolita desires, but this print is very expensive. Not only is it expensive, the dress will not fit her measurements. A company makes replicas of this dress that will fit the lolita and be affordable, however the print designs are stolen. Should the company be boycotted?"

**Special Note**: In no way am I saying human life is on par with niche fashion - I'm more or less using the first scenario as an example that is commonly used for ethical debates.

My Conclusion
From looking at the replica issue in this way, I was able to conclude that yes, stealing is wrong, but the type of stealing that was done made something available to more people, therefore more people can be happy. On the other side, Milanoo stole stock photos and claimed them as their own. They did not feature photos of their original products, replica or no, for the longest time, and sent people products that barely passed for costume quality. THAT is out-and-out wrong, whereas there's a bit more grey area in the Dream of Lolita replicas, which is probably why there is so much debate about it at all. In fact there is so much grey area that this more-or-less becomes an issue about personal opinion. I certainly believe "to each their own", and I don't look down upon those who are anti-replica, because I certainly understand their reasonings and rights to their opinion; it's just a challenging situation overall.

A Lesson Plan Can Come of This!
Since art theft is a topic that was brought up in this blog, I'd like to briefly mention that replicas can easily become a lesson in the classroom (this mainly applies to visual art but could probably be tweaked to fit other subject areas). When I was student teaching, as a project I had my painting students actually replicate some of my fractal designs in order to practice color mixing and matching as well as shading. Through this project I was able to give my students a mini lesson on copyright and art theft by explaining that I gave them permission to use my work, so it's okay, but it's considered theft to take something without the permission of the original artist. Feel free to use this idea in your own classroom and even take it a step further and pose the "Is it ethical if...?" questions that I had to pose to myself!

Hopefully this particular blog educated you on some debates and issues within lolita fashion, as well as inspired some lesson planning!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Graduation Day - A New Chapter Begins!

Sunday the 22nd was my college graduation ceremony. Although it was a rather strange day, sitting for two hours in uncomfortably close quarters between two girls I didn't know, surrounded by over 5,000 graduate family members, it was a day that marks an important transition in my life. I walked across that stage when my name was called, and was handed a diploma case. I shook hands with the college president, had my photo taken, and then walked back to my chair with the realization that my life would now change. No longer am I a college student, but now I am officially a "grown up", off to bigger and better things - off to begin my career, and up to my elbows in debt no less!

The scary thing about graduating college is that it marks the beginning of a chapter where everything is uncertain. When we graduate high school, we know certain factors will remain the same. We know that most likely we will still see our close friends, because we are all from the same hometown. We also know that we are either going to go to college, or go into the workforce. We also know that *most* of us will still have our families to support us. College graduation is another story - I don't know if I will see many of my friends again apart from occassional Facebook chatting. I also don't know where I will end up, or when I will get a job. Lastly, while I'm lucky and grateful that my family is willing to continue supporting me until said job comes along, I know many college graduates might be feeling the pressure to leave home right away and no longer be a "financial burden" unto their parents. I didn't cry at my graduation ceremony but I certainly cried when I was alone in my room afterwards, because I am genuinely afraid of all these uncertainties. But, I know I'm one of 700+ students in my graduating class who is going through the exact same thing.

 Yours truly in cap and gown
 Can you see the little bit of concern for the future there? ;)
Where my graduation ceremony took place

However, I'm hoping that the uncertainty doesn't have to last for too much longer! Last Friday I had an interview in Davenport, IA to teach middle school art part-time. It wouldn't be the most high-paying job in the world, and I'm not entirely sure what I'd do in the summer to make sure the bills are paid, but I do know that it would be a job and that's more than 85% of my graduating class would have at this point. I will find out whether or not I got the job on Friday. Please keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer that everything will work out the way it's supposed to!

I guess, though, even if I don't get this particular job all hope isn't lost! I will be teaching summer classes at Woodlawn Arts Academy in Sterling, and I'm very excited to blog about them. I will be teaching three sections of Japanese: one for teens, one for adults, and one private tutoring session to two young women who have already taken my Japanese for teens course. I will also be teaching creative writing for 10-13 year-olds, and hosting two seminar sessions on lolita fashion. But my big class that I am especially looking forward to is Princess Academy (a seperate blog entry on what Princess Academy is will be written at another time).

So although the future is uncertain, my bank account is tight, and I'm worried about what might be coming, I am trying to look towards the unknown with hope and excitement. I am now an educated lolita teacher, ready to go forth and leave my mark on the world!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Product Review: John Frieda Precision Foam Colour

Seeing as my college graduation ceremony is tomorrow I figured my hair could use a color boost. I've decided to review the product I used here because haircare is something that matters in both the lolita and educational realms. In regards to lolita, hair is simply part of the package deal - you want it to look nice, and if you color your hair and choose not to wear wigs you want something that will go with your style. With being a teacher you want to keep yourself looking clean and well put-together (again, it's really just part of the package).

This was my first time trying out this coloring product. I used John Frieda Precision Foam Colour in 3VR (Deep Cherry Brown). I purchased this from my local Wal*Mart for about $12, placing it as one of the more expensive hair coloring products Wal*Mart had to offer (I'm sure you could find this at Sally's or another beauty supply store too).

The box came with the colourant, developer, conditioner, foamer, instructions, and gloves - so the standard box-hair-dye package. What was different about this product, however, was that the dye came out as foam rather than liquid.

Using foam over the normal liquid hair-dye was interesting. I liked it in that it was easy to get everything covered, but not having the standard dye bottle with the fine tip for sectioning made it hard to cover areas without getting dye on the skin (such as around the ears). The instructions were pretty straight forward and easy to follow. I liked that there were photographs instead of just written instructions, so if you're a visual person such as myself you'll probably find these more user-friendly as well.

Mixing the developer and color was also different from the norm, in that you don't shake the bottle but rather tilt it back and forth a few times (the instructions don't recommend more than 5 to keep the foam from getting too liquidy). After the dye is mixed you place the foamer on top and squeeze the sides of the bottle to release the foam - pretty straight-forward and easy and figure out, just different.

You only have to let the dye sit in your hair for 20 minutes, but I normally do 30 just to be safe. This was the end result:

Overall, I don't think it turned out half bad! I like the end result and the process was a bit easier than the standard coloring routine. I would recommend this product, just prepare to have your ears turned whatever color you're using (unless you're quite skilled with foam).

As a final hair tip, I use this product to help keep the color longer:

Tiger Protein Reconstructor costs about $30 and can be found in a general hair salon; it's pricey but trust me, it's worth it, especially if you use red coloring. Using Tiger will keep your color longer and and will help keep it very healthy if you are someone who dyes their hair frequently.

Got a favorite coloring product that you swear by? Please comment and let the world know!


Friday, May 20, 2011

The Obligatory Introduction Post

Greetings to all who may stumble across this, and heaven forbid - read this of their own free will!

I'd like to introduce myself, as I feel that introductions are the proper thing to do in a first blog post. Although those who already know me will recognize my identity through the outfit photos and such I will be posting on this blog, the rest of the world can know me as Loli-Sensei. Or, if you happen to frequent LiveJournal, you might also know me as Esperella. I am choosing to write as Loli-Sensei on this particular blog, because I am a lolita as well as a teacher, and this is what this blog is about - being a lolita, and a teacher (ta-da!)

I wanted to start a blog about this because I know that there are many lolita teachers out there, however I haven't seen any blogs about this existence between two worlds, and I feel like just maybe I could give some good insight into what this existence is all about. I don't want to bore you all with day-to-day drab and nonsense. I'd like to talk about real issues that I face in the education world, such as:

budget cuts
classroom management
lesson planning
community events

And I'd also like to look at issues that I face in the lolita world:

new print releases
hair/makeup tutorials
outfit posts
purchase reviews
public reactions

Of course, I believe that my topics should also be influenced by what people want to read about. So your suggestions and questions are always welcome! You can email them to me at teachpretty@gmail.com. Just put in the subject "Blog Topic", so that I know not to delete it.

Now, I'd like to spend the rest of this post telling you a little more about myself and what I am currently doing. I've been wearing lolita for over one year - I will never claim to be an "expert" on the fashion, or the "best" lolita in existence, because there are many young women out there who have been doing this for far longer. But, after a year I've gone through and come out of my "ita phase", found what styles work best for me, and have made and learned from all of the classic newbie mistakes so that I can better educate those interested in taking the plunge into lolifying their wardrobes. I do take lolita seriously - while I respect it as a hobby and something to have fun with, I recognize that it is something that takes a lot of time, and a lot of money. I would never recommend someone to begin being lolita unless they completely understood the investment, an investment that is to the self.

What gives me the greatest joy about lolita is that it has helped me learn to take better time in making my appearance in and out of the fashion a priority, and it has helped me learn to better coordinate my mainstream and professional attire while giving me a boost in self confidence (you need it to go out in public looking like you hopped right out of a fairy tale book) and a pride in a hobby that is not entirely well-known in America.

In two days, I will be receiving my BA in Art Education, which is extremely exciting! Art has always been something I've been very passionate about. As a small side-job I design fractal posters to sell, and I love digital photography - portraits and nature photos particularly. Here are a couple samples of my work:

 In case the watermark didn't give it away, the studio name I work under is "New Era Artwork". I have a Facebook fanpage you can find and "like", if you wish.

But hand-in-hand with my passion for art is my love of teaching children to appreciate art and find a new way to express themselves creatively and safely. Although I am certified to teach K-12 Art, I would love to eventually obtain a K-5 job, since the younger crowd is where I shine the most. Today I actually interviewed for a part-time art teaching job at an intermediate school in the town over from where I went to college, which is great because this happens to be the same district I student taught in. I will know by next week whether or not I got the job and will be moving to Iowa!

I feel that this has probably sufficed in terms of introductions. I hope you continue to check back for more updates. But of course, before I close out for the evening, I'll present you with an outfit post:

This is what I wore yesterday - a more "artsy" take on classic lolita in attempt to bring good vibes my way before the job interview that was this afternoon. My friend took me to Panera to celebrate being done with college; it was quite nice! The skirt is from Bodyline (great quality, by the way), but the rest of the outfit is offbrand.

Thank you for reading! I hope you check back in the future and follow Teach Pretty to hear more about the life of a wacky lolita teacher!