As a Lolita-fashioned girl for 14 years, Melody Fang was first attracted to the subculture because of the 2004 Japanese film “Kamikaze Girls” when she was 14 years old. Now in her 20s, Melody still finds Lolita fashion a lifestyle of elegance and confidence.
Melody (left) dresses as Lolita even for grocery shopping.
28-year-old Melody looks younger than she is. (Photo provided by interviewee)
The term “Lolita” is first derived from Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel about a middle-aged man’s obsession with a 12-year-old girl named Lolita. When the word took root in Japan in the 80s, it was turned into alternative street-fashion highly influenced by clothing and aesthetics from the Victorian and Rococo periods.
Melody’s kawaii-style bedroom is filled with 40 Lolita dresses and dozens of matching accessories including hair pieces, handbags and gloves. Like other Lolita enthusiasts in Hong Kong, most of these bargains, each costing HK$600 to HK$3,000 (US$77 to US$386), were snatched up from Japanese shopping websites.
Melody has over 40 Lolita dresses and dozens of matching accessories such as hair pieces and handbags.
“While I keep my Lolita dresses in the wardrobe, I stack my casual clothes in a drawer beneath my bed because I can’t be bothered to organize them,” Melody says, smilingly sheepishly.
Every weekend, Melody dresses up as Lolita to meet her friends over a cup of tea, attend private photo shoots, or even just for grocery shopping or eating at a cha chaan teng (Hong Kong-style fast food restaurant) with her mother. The level of her wardrobe’s elegance varies based on the occasion. Her biggest fantasy is to wear the most expensive Lolita dress — a HK$20,000 Lolita wedding gown with a veil — when she marries her like-minded partner in the future. “It would be a dream to wear that gown on my wedding day, with my love in a classic Lolita suit.”
Melody’s father used to completely disapprove of her lifestyle, even refused to walk next to her when going out. She has slowly convinced her father into accepting her habit by restyling their sitting room with cute decorations and making him her photographer and styling advisor. While he still gives her the occasional sneers, her father is now more willing to support and offers suggestions for her outfits.
Melody bought her first Lolita dress from Anna House, an upstairs shop in Kwun Tong. Anna, the shop owner, was inspired to open the store 16 years ago after sewing a Lolita dress for her daughter. All Anna House products were proudly made in Hong Kong, as she has been creating all the dresses from her daughter’s sketches.
Anna House, launched 16 years ago, is where Melody bought her first Lolita dress with her mother.
All Lolita dresses, blouses and accessories at Anna House were handmade in Hong Kong.
While most people associate Lolita with girls, Anna says her clients include male and female. “Most men have a bigger bone structure, so I need to tailor-make the clothes for them. Some of them can carry the outfits so well that you can hardly tell they are men.” As Lolita fashion has lost momentum in Hong Kong, Anna also sells her products online to enthusiasts in the United States, Australia, Europe and China.
Melody loves shopping at Miss Summer for accessories to complete her Lolita outfits. Michelle, who owns the store, handcrafts the accessories using materials like fabrics, lace and glass beads. Some of them are multifunctional, like a necklace can be used as a brooch as well as a hairpin. Michelle, who used to wear Lolita, dresses her shop in a kawaii style. She also sells antique cups and vintage clothes collected from Europe and Japan, as well as illustrations and knick-knacks from Taiwan.
Owner of Miss Summer, Michelle, has handcrafted accessories for over a decade.
The cloth floral earrings, dyed and made by Michelle, are sold for HK$350 (US$45) a pair.
Melody and her fellow Lolita friends sometimes hold events and private photo shoots at Galet Antique, a vintage shop filled with antiques, including a 19th-century wooden church podium and an 1870 Viennese oil painting. “I always feel like walking through history when I’m here.”
Vintage collector Allen recalls receiving enquiries about shooting rentals when he first launched Galet Antique. “I just intended to make the shop look stylish. Surprisingly, it has slowly become a place for filming advertisements, as well as holding events for cosplayers and the Lolita community.” Among all the antiques, Allen loves collecting furniture the most. “Whenever I see nice things at flea markets, I just can’t wait to give them a new life.” Vintage wedding gowns, watches and accessories from other collectors are also consigned in his store.
Melody has known Yami, a Lolita enthusiast who wants to be known by her pseudonym, for over a decade. Yami loves wearing a Lolita-inspired male outfit — a tuxedo paired with lace-lined trousers. She finds most Lolita followers gender-tolerant. “Fashion cannot be categorized by gender. You can wear anything as long as the clothes fit you,” Yami notes. She adds that anyone can instantly look classy and elegant once they wear Lolita. “You cannot act coarsely because this is just not the style of Lolita.”
Melody (left) and her Lolita fellow, Yami, often rent Galet Antique for private photo shoots.
Going out in a Lolita outfit is challenging not only because the dress is heavy and huge. Melody and Yami often need to withstand the prying eyes of strangers and scornful laughs from passersby. To become Lolita, they have learned to deal with whispers and sneaky photographers gracefully. On the day of filming, Melody is even ridiculed by a foreign woman. “I used to feel uneasy, but I’ve slowly gotten used to it. Starting a row with them may just make them dislike Lolita even more,” Melody explains.
The 28-year-old confesses her years-long Lolita journey is not without struggle. “I once tried to stop wearing Lolita as I thought I was too old for it. But it was not easy for me. When I went out in my casual wear, I felt so embarrassed that I had to walk quickly with my head down. Only when I am in a Lolita dress can I really be myself and walk confidently.”
“I hope that, when I become an old lady, I will continue to live elegantly and with class, just like Lolita,” Melody says.
Owner of Galet Antique, Allen, loves collecting antiques from around the world.
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