What is Wa Lolita?

Wow, we definitely live in a global village… I’m going to take a moment to break away from Thailand to dash back to an interview I did with a Canadian friend who enjoys wearing a unique Japanese-inspired fashion style.

Phew. I feel like I dashed around the planet a few times there.

Anyway, for all you open or closet Lolita fans out there! Please meet Jennalee Banman a 24-year-old Canadian from British Columbia and Alberta who enjoys wearing the style. She’s a quirky and quiet individual who enjoys making things, drawing and reading. Jennalee describes herself as a tomboy who loves cute things.

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When I found the Lolita fashion and wore my first dress I knew that it was me and part of who I am.

She and I sat down for a Facebook discussion about the style’s origins, accessibility, and recognizably and you can read it down yonder.

If you have no idea what Lolita is PLEASE READ THIS. You’ll find out why when you learn more about Jennalee’s experiences.

Photos with red wig taken by Chad Findlay.
Photos with red wig taken by Chad Findlay

Me (M): What is Wa Lolita?

Jennalee (J): Wa Lolita is a fashion blend of the traditional Kimono and the Lolita dress-style. The top of the outfit is usually done in the kimono style and the bottom is a bell-shaped skirt puffed out with a petticoat.

Photo curtesy of Jennalee.
Photos with dark hair curtesy of Jennalee.

M: Where did the style come from?

J: The fashion Lolita originated from the desire to look cute and doll-like. The Wa style did not spread until later because it is a sub-style that is not as popular.

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M: So, how and when did you come across Wa Lolita yourself?

J: I came across Wa Lolita about four or five years ago while I was looking up the Lolita fashion on the Internet. It was right after I’d bought my first Lolita dress.

M: And you fell in love with it on sight? Or did it grow on you?

J: I liked it at first sight and thought it was pretty, but yeah, it grew on me as I found more websites selling the dresses.

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M: When you wear your Wa Lolita and Lolita dresses do you consider it cosplaying (mimicking a character from a comic/manga or anime series)? Or do you feel you are just wearing ordinary, everyday clothes?

J: I consider the dresses an everyday outfit. When I get asked if I’m cosplaying or dressed up for a play I get a little annoyed.

M: Why do you get annoyed?

J: Well, the Lolita style itself is unusual and doesn’t go with what is worn in plays and cosplaying is dressing up like a specific character, so I get annoyed because of the misconceptions.

M: Many people, when they see clothes that are not of the norm, assume they are a costume. Are you hoping that will change in Canada?

J: Yes, I really hope that it does change. I don’t mind telling people that I’m dressed the way I feel, but I don’t like telling people that every time I go out in one of my dresses.

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M: Are there places in the world where the Wa Lolita and Lolita styles are better understood?

J: Right now Japan is the main hub since the fashion was founded there. It’s hard to say where the Lolita style is recognized because it is still a relatively new fashion.

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M: How many dresses do you own in the Wa Lolita style?
J: Right now I own only one, but I plan to either make or buy more.

M: Oo, you can sew?

J: I sew a little bit, but I plan to take some sewing classes to get better.

M: Have you sewn an outfit together already?

J: Not a full outfit. I have made bloomers for a boyish style. I have bought many patterns of dresses to use as templates for dresses I would like to make though.

M: Great! I wish you luck with that and look forward to your designs!
J: Thank you!

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M: So on the other side, if one can’t sew, how much do a Wa Lolita dress and its trimmings generally cost and where can I buy them?

J: Well, the dress itself can cost from about $200 to $1,000. The accessories can be homemade, found at a local store or bought online from about $10 to $70. There are multiple online stores that sell Lolita clothing, but only some sell out of their home countries. Lolita fashion includes special wigs that can cost from $20 to $800.

M: *whistles * wow, so it can add up to an expensive closet. How much would you say you’ve spent on the style?

J: Maybe over $900… I have three dresses and lots of jewelry, accessories and shoes. I have over 10 wigs.

M: That sounds like a sound budget. Some people spend that much on shoes alone I hear.

J: Yeah, I tend to look for discount and sale options.

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M: When did you wear your first Wa Lolita/Lolita dress? And was it hard to venture out with it knowing that people might not understand your fashion choice?

J: I was 19 when I went out in my first Lolita dress. It was a black and white checkerboard coloured dress. I don’t think I had a hard time, but I did have to start ignoring the looks and the sensation of people staring at me. My dad and siblings were excited to go out and about with me when I was all dressed up, but my mom had to warm up to it at first.

M: Do you wear the wigs often too, to complete the outfit?

J: Yes, quite often I will put on a wig to complete my look. I do add hair extensions when my natural hair is at a length that can help create the illusion of long hair.

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M: How long does it take to put on one of these dresses? Are they as difficult as a kimono?

J: For me it depends on the style I am going for. If I am doing a Classic Lolita style then I can take an hour-and-a-half to two hours. If I do the Wa style then I can take up to three hours. The Wa Lolita style is almost as difficult as a kimono, but no, the other dresses are much more simple to put on. The things that take the longest to apply are the make-up and the hair.

M: Right, I can see that being the case.

Is there anything you’d like to add or tell the people of the Internet about yourself or the style and sub-style?

J: Well with the Lolita style it is important to be confident in yourself. You will know how confident you are when you walk out your door for the first time in a Lolita dress. If you don’t feel confident walking around in Lolita, then the comments and reactions of those around you will only hurt you.

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I personally am very confident and have always been myself, or I least try not to show a false side.

With the Lolita fashion all I have to say to people about it is: please don’t judge a style without either researching what it is or asking about it first.

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