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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!


1 comment:

  1. I really loved this post, thanks for the advice! I don't really own any lolita outfits (yet), but this will definitely help me when I do.