Lolita culture’s initial motive was a reaction against the strict norms that Japanese culture forced on people and the rebellion against traditional gender roles. It was an escape to childhood where everything was perfect and everything went the way they wanted it. It was also a way to have an ideal alternate identity that they could use. The motive has changed over the years and some people dress up as Lolitas for the fun of it. It is often confused as “adult women dressing up as sexualized children” but that is a giant misconception.
Lolita culture was a follow-up to the emergence of kawaii culture in Japan. Lolita culture started developing in 1980’s Japan. Its predecessor was the ‘doll-kei’ which was literally a DIY style to bring originality to the fashion style. Lolita culture was a combination of ‘doll-kei’ and other fashion cultures. Brands started adopting these handmade styles into their clothing lines which tended to increase their popularity among Japanese women. Lolita culture began in the Harajuku Shopping District in Tokyo. Lolita has many subsets and Victorian-era dresses are a trademark of every Lolita fashion. The first famous Lolita style was the Gothic style in which women dress up as Depression-era women.
There are around 12 different subsets of Lolita and each one has developed its own niche. What makes Lolita unique is its DIY aspect and hence more and more styles keep emerging. ‘Visual kei’ was extremely important for its spread worldwide. The worldwide fame of Lolita skyrocketed with the ‘visual kei’ that J-Pop singers and bands adopted.
X Japan (Popularised Lolita Style)
The economic depression of 1990’s Japan and the anime boom went hand in glove with the development of this style and its increasing popularity. It's mixing with foreign influences furthered this style and the peak of Lolita culture was reached in the mid-2000s when it was a worldwide trend.
The Lolita culture developed in Japan by shoujos, young unmarried girls, mostly of high school age but the trend also appeals to younger girls and even some adult women. It’s been referred to as more of a fashion sub-culture and it centers on girls wearing English Victorian, Edwardian, and late Baroque dress styles.
Although the Lolita culture also extends to objects and toys. This Lolita style is characterized by cute, often “childlike, soft, colorful, round and cuddly” designs. It’s been said this style of dressing is a way for Japanese girls to assert their independence and express themselves in a non-traditional way.