Ribbons, Frills, and Bows: What it’s Like To Be A Lolita in Reno

Nancy Vazquez Loera reports on what a Sweet Lolita is, how much time and money it takes to become one, and reactions from the public.

Ren poses in full Sweet Lolita mode at a local Reno park while teenagers and children playing in the park stare at them. Photo by Nancy Vazquez Loera.

Sweet Lolita

Ren, 18, a retail worker in Reno, took two hours prior to their interview to get into full Lolita fashion. They showed up looking just like an adorable doll with layers of lace, bows, hair clips, face stickers, and sparkly makeup. There was great attention to detail for the outfit such as Ren’s certainly cute pink doughnut purse, with a pink crocheted whale keychain.

Ren is a part of a Facebook Lolita group, Northern Nevada Lolita. The group and Ren are into different styles of the fashion but Ren’s main type is over the top Sweet Lolita. A Sweet Lolita is defined as typically a big cupcake-shaped skirt, that has animal or sweets prints, lots of pink and pastel colors, and sometimes even big curly wigs. The Northern Nevada Lolita group’s next meetup is the day before Valentine’s. The group plans to go see how candy is made at a museum to keep with the holiday theme. Usually, however, the group has casual meetups, such as going out to eat in their outfits. “It’s just a fashion club,” says Ren.

Lolita fashion emerged from Japan in the 1990s due to the love for beloved Sanrio characters and how cute they were. For those not in the know, from Wikipedia: “Sanrio is a Japanese company that designs, licenses, and produces products focusing on the kawaii (“cute”) segment of Japanese popular culture. Their products include stationery, school supplies, gifts, and accessories which are sold worldwide, including at specialty brand retail stores in Japan. Sanrio’s best-known character is Hello Kitty, a little anthropomorphic girl cat and one of the most successful marketing brands in the world.”

Labor-Intensive and Costly

Lolita fashion is heavily influenced by styles from the Victorian and Rococo periods. The three main types of Lolitas are classic, sweet, and gothic. Overall the fashion’s goal is to be cute.

Ren first got into Lolita fashion when they were 12 and obsessed with anime. “They use a lot of references to Lolita fashion in older anime and it just took off from there and I got into all sorts of Japanese fashion”, They said. “I’ve always loved fancy dresses, dressing up, playing dress-up, it just clicked. It helps me express myself,” Ren says.

Ren’s first Lolita item made an appearance in the interview; it is Angelic Pretty Candy Sprinkle JSK (or jumper shirt) in pink. “I saved up for it for about two months and bought it with all of my money in freshman year of high school,” Ren says.

Ren does not dress up every day due to Lolita being very labor-intensive. “Usually I only wear it when I know I’m going out with people I know I’m safe with,” they said. Ren worries about staying safe just in case anything were to happen in public while dressed up. Ren opts to dress in alternative fashion for day-to-day and leaves Lolita for special occasions. They do however wear the outfit’s accessories or staple pieces all the time. These would include lacy under blouses that sweaters or t-shirts can go over, hair bows, or wrist cuffs. “Lolita accessories find their way into my normal wardrobe constantly,” Ren says.

Lolita fashion ranges in price but in no way is it cheap. Even off-brand clothing can cost a lot. However, if a person wanted to stick to popular brands it wouldn’t be impossible to find affordable options. “Lolita is a pretty pricey fashion to be into”, Ren says. “I’m a Lolita on a budget and most of my dresses cost $60 or under because I don’t buy directly from brand websites.”

Their most expensive item, which was $400, was purchased on their birthday as a present to themselves from the Angelic Pretty store in San Francisco. Typically Ren shops on Lace Market which is like eBay for Lolitas where people can get things second-hand. “I go through Devilin Inspired resellers,” they said.

Ren waits for their boba tea at a local shop while the workers compliment them. Photo by Nancy Vazquez Loera.

Reactions From The Community

Once in a while, Ren is subject to rude or weird comments because of the way they dress. The reporter witnessed this while Ren was being photographed for the story, and a couple of teenage boys playing basketball at the park commented on them looking like an anime girl.

“It goes to say if you’re different at all you’re going to get rude comments,” they reflected.

Ren described the comments ranging from worse to sometimes being really nice. “It really depends on the area.” Regardless, Ren’s biggest supporter will always be their mom. “My mom is super-expressive as well, she’s covered in tattoos and wears affordable goth-like fashion,” they said.

Another member of the Northern Nevada Lolita community, Angelyn Owen, 18, a full-time student, says her experiences have been positive for the most part. “The only negative thing that I’ve personally had is when I get asked if the fashion is related to the book by the same name, it’s a bit annoying but it’s easy to avoid if you just refer to the fashion as Japanese street fashion.”

Angelyn’s family is also very supportive of the way they dress.

If anyone is looking to get into the Lolita fashion community Ren suggests going to Facebook and looking for your state name and Lolita. “Nine times out of ten there’s going to be a Facebook group, if you don’t have Facebook it’s going to be a little harder. That’s just how I found mine,” Ren said.

As for where to start Ren suggests if you’re serious about it to go get a petticoat from online shops WunderWelt or Me Like Tea. “They’re kinda pricey but it’s worth it, they’re the right shape guaranteed and they don’t deflate,” Ren said.

They also suggested getting a good blouse from Amazon or Ali Express as beginner Lolita since it’s a very versatile piece. “Once you get those two things you can get a JSK which is a jumper skirt or a dress you wear over a blouse. Then maybe a skirt and some good reliable tea party shoes,” Ren said. Those are staple pieces that can be branched off from.

Angelyn’s advice is for people to do the research on not only the basics of what you need and how to dress but also to look into the history as well. “There is a lot of neat history as to how it came to be and its overall message that I feel is the core of the fashion,” they said.

Reporting for Reynolds Sandbox by Nancy Vazquez Loera



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Reynolds Sandbox

Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.