Oldschool Lolita: A Primer

If you discovered Lolita before 2010, or if you were drawn to Gothic at first, there’s a very good chance that your first glimpse of real Lolita Fashion was of someone wearing a black and white dress, clunky shoes, their own head of hair, and maybe looking like something an unseasoned newbie would might call ita. Baby call it “Classical”, Misako calls it “Traditional”, but what exactly is Old School Lolita?


It wasn’t all black and white!

First off, it’s important to note that it’s impossible to pin down the exact turning point where Lolita started to become the style we know today, but it’s very easy to see that as prints phased in, a lot of traditional dress styles began to appear less and less often. It’s possible to say that 2008 is the “year it all happened”, since Angelic Pretty decided that prints were the way to go after the success of prints in their previous year. As any smart business would, they decided to keep making them, and, as everyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows, they still do, churning out print after print even to this day, but that’s another story for another day. A lot of brands followed suit, or were doing their own thing, but the OTT sweet explosion that AP fueled had a huge impact on the fashion as a whole.
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Before this sweet print boom, Lolitas largely wore coords that were reasonably simple. No pastel wigs, no sweetshop-explosion prints, sometimes lower poof pettis, and few accessories. Handmade was a huge deal, under-the-knee socks were commonplace, and rectangle headdresses were the bee’s knees. This style is what we now know as “Oldschool”.

While the print boom did have a lot to do with the decline of this gorgeous style, a lot of people started to associate black x white outfits, which were hugely popular, with cheap Milanoo lace monsters, unfortunate Bodyline pieces, or even maid costumes. It didn’t help that not everything “back in the day” was good. There were plenty dodgy lace monsters in street snaps from photographers who were likely desperate to document a little of the style.

For a few years, and when I was starting to get into the fashion myself in 2009, rectangle headdresses were considered ita, with almost no exceptions. Black x white coordinates were almost taboo, and people were warned away since it was “really hard to make it look good”, which is, of course, nonsense. Even today, when a brand releases something with a lot of lace, people have that old knee-jerk reaction of screaming “ita!”.
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However, years have passed, and people are starting to warm to this style again. Coordinates are beginning to resurface, and and people who want out of OTT, or who just want to get back to the roots of the fashion, are finding it to be perfect. It’s accessible, essentially devoid of trends, universally recognisable among Lolitas, and mostly very wearable, points that the modern style often lacks. 

This is the first in what I hope will be a short series of posts about Old School Lolita. Next time I’m hoping to cover wearing the style without looking ita, and some of the more interesting street snaps from the old GLBs.

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2 Responses to Oldschool Lolita: A Primer

  1. Mimi E. says:

    I have always loved the old school style as it is so wearable and simple. Most of my favorite street snaps are from the old school era. I am really glad the style is coming back.


    • josiephone says:

      I love looking at old street snaps, there’s something really charming about them, even the ones where the girls are scowling! It’s been creeping back for a time now, and I’m really happy that people are taking interest in it again.


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