“Lolita” isn’t just the name of a controversial novel, it’s also the name of a new fashion craze that’s slowly but surely taking the world by storm. The trend first emerged in Japan and has since been gaining followers across the globe. Now, though, other cultures are taking the concept of Lolita and mixing it with their own unique fashions. Meet the Hijabi Lolitas – a community of Muslim style setters mixing fashion with religion.
This is Alyssa Salazar, a young Islamic convert who wears modest clothing but is more than happy to dress it up Lolita style. Every day, she uploads pictures of her bright and beautiful fashion choices to her blog, “The Hijabi Lolita.” And, just like the name suggests, her unique outfits combine the Lolita fashion trend with the hijab – the religious head-covering worn by Muslim women.
And it works. Because despite its name, Lolita fashion is actually very modest and not intended to be sexual in the slightest. It is, after all, based on the fashion choices of the Victorian period. And as we all know, Victorians liked to keep everything well and truly covered up.
The Lolita look, however, involves some pretty complicated rules. Lolitas must carefully adhere to color schemes, for example, when choosing both clothing and accessories. They must wear petticoats at all times, too, and shoes must be appropriate – there are no sneakers poking out underneath these dresses! As for makeup, Lolitas keep it low-key but polished. And that’s just for starters.
“It’s actual fashion with its own rules and its own style,” Salazar told Vice. “Lolita has over a thousand different dresses and prints. There are different sub-categories of Lolita. There’s Sweet Lolita, Classic Lolita and Gothic Lolita. Then you have your Punk-Goth Lolita. You have Otome, which is extremely casual Lolita. You can even do Pirate Lolita, or Witch Lolita.”
Lolita fashion is so complex, in fact, that outfits aren’t even called outfits. They’re referred to as “coordinates” or “coords” for short, because every last detail has to be carefully organized. You can’t just get up in the morning and put on a dress: you have to plan it.
This is not, then, a fashion for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, even just a few years ago, Lolita was seen as nothing more than a Japanese fad, and a slightly creepy one at that. Moreover, any explanations regarding its real nature – women’s desire to have control over their image and to dress outside the traditions they so often found stifling – fell on deaf ears.
And this is something that Lolita fashion and Muslim fashion have in common. Because although the hijab and modest dress is enforced in some countries, many modern Muslim women actually choose to wear it. To them, the hijab represents a tasteful fashion choice proudly distinct from Western culture. Moreover, they find freedom in the hijab because they know wearing one will make them less likely to be judged on their looks.
As a hijabi, Salazar had already had to deal with comments about her clothing choices long before she became a Lolita. She told Vice: “I get drive-by haters that say, ‘Take [the hijab] off, it’s not Iraq.’” And so it’s no wonder that the Lolita trend appealed to the young fashionista.
Salazar first became interested in Lolita fashion when she purchased a skirt from a friend. But while she loved the style and everything it stood for, she was worried that her hijab would prevent her from adopting it fully. Luckily, though, she learned of another blogger who wore both Lolita and Muslim attire.
That other blogger was SugarNoor, aka Noor Al-Kattan, a British Muslim woman. Al-Kattan’s first dabble with the trend came in 2008, when she tried on a Lolita costume with her hijab. Unfortunately, she instantly found herself subjected to abuse when she posted the outfit online.
“People would take my pictures and put them up on other websites and write, ‘Oh, look at how disgusting she looks,’” she told Style.com/Arabia. And after experiencing so much racism, she almost gave up on the whole idea. Support from her friends, however, helped her carry on.
Al-Kattan continued, “I decided to stand up to my bullies and show them that actually, I didn’t care what they thought. I’m not offending anyone with what I do.” And over time, the bullies drifted away and only SugarNoor’s admirers – of which there were plenty – remained.
One such admirer was Salazar, who now wished to follow in her fellow fashionista’s footsteps. However, she was still full of trepidation. She told Vice, “SugarNoor was attacked a lot on [Lolita websites]… That’s why I was nervous, because I was afraid that would happen to me too.”
And, sadly, there was some hate aimed her way, just as she had predicted. In fact, trolls set up a Facebook page called “Ban Lolita Muslims” and started to repost her pictures with nasty comments. Fortunately, though, good things began to happen as well.
Salazar made lots of new friends through the Lolita community, too. In fact her blog gradually gained over 10,000 followers, and people even drew fan art of her in her coords. What’s more, she even got to host the 2016 Disneyland Lolita Day!
The whole idea of “Hijabi Lolita” began to gain more and more traction. Both Muslims and non-Muslims took to the internet to express how impressed they were with the concept. And then Japan – the birthplace of Lolita – discovered it.
Cross-cultural works, including fashion, can often lead to controversy and even conflict. The group that originated something may not like it being modified, for example, no matter how well it’s done. But the Japanese community loved what the Muslim women had achieved.
In fact as the Japanese internet sat up and began to take notice of the new subculture, the comments were overwhelmingly appreciative. “Look, Japan! This is Muslim Lolita fashion. It’s cute!” one Japanese fan tweeted. “Lolita fashion: overcoming national borders and religious obstacles,” posted another.
“People come from a lot of different backgrounds into Lolita,” Salazar told Vice. “And [the community is] very welcoming. They’ve accepted me, and they don’t judge.” And this Lolita is proof that you should dress however you choose to dress – and take no notice of the haters.