A Whimsical Photoshoot
After the success of the Florence Griswold Museum meetup, I talked to other members about what they might like to see or experience in September. Someone told me that they had tried a couple of times to host a meetup at the Lavender Pond Farm in Killingworth, CT, but they had to cancel it twice over once because of COVID and a second time because it was too hot. Now the Lavender Pond Farm is free admittance, but during peak bloom season they would normally charge a photographer fee for taking photos at their farm. The peak season is about May-July, so we were well within the FREE everything mark. Unfortunately though, by waiting until September they had already put away their little white electronic train that gives you a tour around the farm. (Don't worry, it's not a big place for adults...it just would have been cool to take photos on the train). The farm is set up for many little photo shoot areas though. This tree that we are sitting under has a circular bench built around it. There's even little sit down gardens, a labyrinth, a "child-life-size" chess set, a romantic looking gazebo, a pond with a fairy garden next to it, and a small bridge to a shaded picnic area under some trees. Overall it's a fantastic place to stop with your family on a nice day. There's a shop too, with lavender themed gifts, spices, tea, jewelry, plants, etc. At least by September when there's not as many people going to the farm daily...they offer in store discounts.
The coordinate suggestion for this meetup included ideas like country lolita or anything that is lavender. To be completely honest, I really wanted to pull off a true classic look for the first time; but at this point all I had that read as "classic" was the bloomers and the semi-sheer peignoir. Fortuitously, about 3 weeks before this meetup, someone on my community's forum was just giving away things from their closet and this beige skirt was one of the items they were giving away. I then built the rest of my outfit through things you can purchase on Amazon, including the purple shirt, bonnet, gloves, and parasol. The socks were a pair of beige honeycomb trouser socks my mom had bought for me a long time ago that I stashed in a drawer for about 15 years. They came two sets to a pack, but one of the socks ripped open when I put my foot in it, so it's good I had extras to work with. And of course I wore my light colored oxfords as shoes.
Sarah's outfit also reads as classic, but it's very clever how she put so many different prints together. The skirt and black boots could almost read as gothic, but then she paired it with the plaid vest and a shirt with a bit of extra flounce at the neck and wrist cuffs. She actually had two different headpieces; one was a half bonnet that matched the print on the skirt (which she only wore when we were under the gazebo) and the lightweight hat in the photo that has an almost cloche shape with a panama feel.
Marisa identifies mainly as a Sweet style lolita. So she was following the lavender theme with more typical sweet colors like pastel pink and purple accents. She coordinates this jumper skirt dress really well. The jsk has a hibiscus pink and purple flower design that she pairs with a half sleeve purple chiffon shirt, a purple waist belt, two different pastel purple socks, pink shoes, and a purple beret with a pink bow attached to it.
After I saw both of their outfits, I felt like mine still needed serious work. I later found out that the beige skirt that I wore, is actually listed as an "underskirt" on a site that sells it. An underskirt should technically be worn under a dress or a jumper skirt over a petticoat...not as the main skirt. So I felt like I had committed a bit of a fashion faux pas in that regards. I still wear it now, but not as a main piece as it is quite comfortable and lightweight, especially since it's mostly cotton.
A beautiful blue dragonfly landed on my parasol just as we arrived. Marisa was able to take this photo on her phone while I held up the parasol for the dragonfly.
Sweet Style Lolita Imitate Dana Sherwood's Art
After the June meetup at the Cat Cafe, there weren't a whole lot of meetings planned. In fact there weren't any at all in my fashion community. I was looking on a list of cool things to do in Connecticut, and I discovered this special exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum called Dana Sherwood: Animal Appetites and Other Encounters in Wildness. This exhibit looked super fascinating to me, and I really wanted to go. I just clicked with Dana Sherwood's art right away. This exhibit was apparently her first museum survey where she exhibited films, sculpture installations, oil and watercolor paintings painted over the last decade that interrogate the relationship between wild nature and domestic culture with symbolic references to cross-species commuincation, the feminine experience, and the occult.
I know that the best way to gather people interested in art and culture is to make an event out of it and encourage them to dress up in their niche fashion while attending. I was still so new to lolita fashion at this point, the only coordinate suggestions I had for attendees based on a quick online glance at Dana Sherwood's exhibit were "Animals, Tea Party, Florals, and Bonnets!". How we managed to perfectly all match Dana Sherwood's art with our sweet lolita coordinates and color choices, I will never know; but I consider it a moment of serendipity.
Ave is wearing a Sweet jsk from Bodyline along with some decora accessories in her hair and a very cute frog themed Ita crossbody bag. Eleanor's coordinate is actually more of a Classic style. She had matching sunflowers on her bonnet and even on her nails. Almira's dress she actually commissioned from a seller so it fits her proportions perfectly! This was Barbara's first meetup and she cleverly assembled this coordinate out of various pieces that she found on Amazon along with a pair of work shoes! My main piece (the cat mermaid jsk) that I had ordered in July came about two weeks before this meetup, so my heart was set on wearing it; but everything else about my outfit changed due to the extreme heat and humidity of the first Sunday of August that only a place like Connecticut can provide.
Yes, even though I had two actual beautiful lolita blouses from China, they were in fact WAY TOO HOT for this meetup. I had to settle on my old faithful, the same Hot Topic shirt that I wore at the Cat Cafe because I would have passed out if I wore any of the chiffon ruffled shirts I received. I wore an everyday petticoat with this, but the real star are the cotton bloomers, peeking out from underneath. Because the Hot Topic shirt and the bloomers are off-white, I had to go with my natural colored oxfords and off white socks, which almost skew this look more Classic. However, by styling my hair in bun braids and tying on bow ribbons (that were part of a decoration for a birthday gift I was given), I am affectively still reading as a Sweet style Lolita.
Now I know why the community doesn't really plan meetings in mid to late summer. The materials used in the fashion just aren't super conducive to spaces and places without air conditioning. At least I know I will never suffer from "being too cold" again in the pursuit of fashion!
Cat Cafe Meetup
Just after the World Goth Day meetup, I went to an actual website for Chinese Indie lolita brands and started ordering pieces for coordinates. I went to Devil Inspired, which is a website that has not only EGL fashion, but also a lot of other fashion styles. They often have a lot of free shipping promotions and sometimes even sales on top of that...but they are incredibly slow at acquiring your items and communicating with you if something isn't actually in stock and processing refunds. Most people advise against using them at all, but I have found that if you're wondering about the status of an order or an item, creating a "Ticket" within your order on their website is the easiest way to get their attention. And then if you need further help...just keep making tickets. It's kind of a customer service nightmare to be honest, and I think I just have a lot of patience [I used to be a middle school teacher], so this is just a minor inconvenience for me. I actually made two orders before the Cat Cafe meetup (one at the end of May and another at the beginning of June). I figured I would pick up a few sweet lolita jsk, a petticoat, something like a peignoir, a few blouses in different colors and sleeve lengths, some OTK (over-the-knee) socks and a sweet lolita purse. These orders mind you...did not come close to arriving until about the end of JULY.
The Cat Cafe meetup was in mid June 2022. We had to purchase tickets for our time with the cats in advance (on weekends) at the Mew Haven Cat Cafe. Your ticket is timed for about one hour with the cats and you can purchase beverages and food on site to consume while hanging out with the cats. The food/beverages are prepared in a separate area from the cat enclosure. Overall plan to spend about $18-25 for visiting and getting a beverage.
The person who set up the event for our group encouraged us to wear coordinates with cats on them. I had exactly one real jsk at this point, and it if you looked closely there were tiny brown silhouette cats with heart shaped chests on the print. THERE. CATS. The rest of the outfit I put together from stuff I had. This shirt from Hot Topic actually works pretty well with sweet and classic lolita coordinates because it has a slightly puffed sleeve, peter pan collar, and the buttons are adorable. If you are waiting for the "real stuff" to come in, this is what you can wear in the meantime. Other parts of my outfit include a pair of semi-sheer polka dot Snag Tights, the natural colored oxfords (I bought when I was an art teacher but never wore because I didn't want to get paint on them), and a paper flower hairband I received in a Tarte makeup order as a free gift circa 2015. Interesting to note, I added a cameo pin that belonged to my maternal grandmother that fit perfectly between the bows on the bodice.
Clover's coordinate is much more put together and reads as Classic, but also "OTT" [Over the Top]. She perfectly pairs a jsk that is sax blue and gray as its main colors with a gray shirt, gray hat, socks that match the coordinate, and jewelry that matches in color and theme. She even had a giant bow bag which can be seen on the side table that kind of matched. You can't tell in this photo, but she also had matching blue shoes that worked really well with the dress. I think that particular jsk could also be read as a Sweet style if it was styled differently. For instance, instead of the long gray button up to swap with a white short sleeve shirt, a KC (bow head band) of some sort instead of the bonnet, and a pair of shorter white lace socks would give this piece an entirely different vibe.
Want to know a secret? I originally had this beautiful pastel wig on with my coordinate. AND THEN IT SLIPPED OFF MY HEAD while we were inside the Cat Cafe. I was so embarrassed but I threw my wig in my backpack and just carried on. NO ONE apparently noticed and said that the flowers looked just as good on my real hair. I learned after the fact that I was wearing the wrong kind of wig cap and some other tips and tricks from my cosplayer friends for putting wigs on. I still am working up the nerve to try again...
VIBES FROM THE CRAFT
Pictured from left to right:
Carol @sacred.tears Colleen @collasweet Jess @foxybella75 Danielle @helixis7185
The second elegant lolita fashion meetup I attended was for World Goth Day. Now this is a theme I could get behind. I've been wearing goth/industrial themed clothes for about twenty years now as part of my normal wardrobe. It was never just a phase for me. However...did I have anything that could pass for lolita?
It was incredibly hot that day. (We were originally going to start our meetup with a cemetery picnic, but it was so hot, we ended up at a house, with A/C.) The outfit I was going to wear was definitely going to be too hot either way. I had to think of something, and quick. Now Killstar is a great place to get gothic themed clothes, accessories, even some delightful spooky/witchy themed housewares. They claim to have plus sizes, but don't be fooled...the largest size...4XL is equivalent to a US 18. I tend to run in the L or XL size, (Similar to lolita fashion--WHAT A COINCIDENCE!) The dress I picked is kinda neat; it has patterned lace sleeves with bows that end in a flare (a bit like wristcuffs). It also has a ruffled neckline. I thought for sure that it would pass for lolita. Well not quite. The neck is plunging which seems counterintuitive to more modest necklines in lolita. And alas the same old same old...there's not enough flare in the skirt for a petticoat or even an underskirt to create the iconic poof. However my other accessories are working pretty well. The witchy themed fishnets, heeled brogues, and my hairband with the black roses and lace are working great (all stuff that I got elsewhere for other outfits).
Carol went for a gothic/pirate look. She has a witchy skirt and blouse with a vest over it, big hat, big purse, and Strangecvlt shoes. I remember her saying something like her outfit could also have been worn at the Renaissance Faire. Colleen, has all the pieces for a gothic lolita look. Witchy contrasting diamond themed jsk with a lace like long sleeve top underneath. Patterned black tights, black booties, a book themed crossbody, and a black veil with a flower round out this look. You can't tell from the photo, but she also has matching jewelry. Jess is into lolita fashion, but she's also an avid cosplayer. Since part of our meeting was to go to Curioporium for a haunted shopping experience as group, she wanted to dress up as Misa Amane, an anime character from the title Deathnote. A quick google search of this character will show you that she nailed it from the black blouse and skirt to the long lace gloves, and especially the blonde pigtail wig.
Now I just want to get a bit of a close up on my makeup look. I googled something like "gothic lolita makeup"and I found that I had to purposely put bright pink blush around my eyes after putting on a foundation a little lighter than my skintone. It was a little tedious and scary at first...I never put blush up that high and I knew I had to layer it slowly because it could get muddy fast if I wasn't careful. At first I thought it was a bit harsh, a scary look---well that's what it's supposed to be!! NAILED IT!
Colleen and I are helping Misa summon her beloved Light at Curioporium.
Casual Lolita Meetup: My First Coordinate
One month after the clothing sale, I was determined to go to my first meetup. However, I wasn't ready to debut my Rose Bustle JSK with the Meta shirt yet as I didn't have a proper petticoat, or other matching accessories. I decided that SWEET style was the easiest style to imitate without at a lot of time or money. So I did what any stubborn person would do---SHOP at HOT TOPIC! (Now back in my youth, Hot Topic was the place for teenagers and college students to get goth/punk clothes and accessories, hair dye, piercing hardware and band t-shirts.) They still have all that stuff, but they've diversified into kawaii styling, toys, other pop culture references, even some housewares! A quick search on their site for "kawaii clothing" will bring up a variety of pink pastel blouses, skirt-alls, dresses, and accessories loosely inspired by various Japanese street fashions. If you type in "lolita" it gets even more specific. You can even see the Strawberry and Bows Petticoat skirt I purchased.
I built my entire outfit around this skirt. I purchased an additional pink normie petticoat to go under it to billow it out a bit more (believe me it has enough extra material to achieve this look), the knee socks which have little pastel bear buttons on them (which you can't see), the 4 inch platform heel wing shoes, and even the ivory colored crop top. If you're a petite height and you have a short torso, you can cheat with crop tops if your skirt is high waisted enough. And this logic also works well with actual jsk's to help you save money on blouses especially in those humid summer months!
Additional styling on this outfit includes a pink crop cardigan from Hell Bunny (a vintage inspired alt fashion brand), some of the bracelets I purchased at the clothing sale, a pair of earrings my friend Barbara made me over ten years ago, and a pink bow barrette I purchased from Shein. Oh and the bag I'm carrying is a mini backpack from--guess where--HOT TOPIC. I actually used this bag everyday during the spring and summer of 2022 (it just happened to match most of my fashion club outfits at that time).
The meet up was at Old Mystic Village at the Alice and Wonderland themed cafe. I had only been to Mystic Village once before, about a year prior, so I didn't know exactly where to park so I parked on the edge of it all. Once I found the map, I realized I had parked on the exact opposite end of the village from where the cafe was. I put on my big girl shoes and got to experience walking in 4 inch platform heels for the first time in my life. It was also the first time I experienced the reactions of the general public to alt fashion that wasn't goth. A man told me that I looked BEEE-YOU-TIFUL! Another man told me I looked like a living Barbie Doll. I didn't realize I was going to get so much...attention. I was so relieved to make it the cafe and meet all my new friends for the first time!