ANCIEN RÉGIME VS VICTORIAN LITTLE GIRL DRESS

The authenticity of historical European dresses has also been negotiated in terms of practicability suited to our time.

By Balthazar Malevolent

ANCIEN RÉGIME VS VICTORIAN LITTLE GIRL DRESS

Judging from its appearance, a Lolita pannier might be described more precisely as a hooped petticoat of the twentieth century rather than the authentic eighteenth-century French garment. The knee-length of these dresses is not a style of the Ancien Régime, but possibly draws on a ballet skirt or a Victorian “little girl” dress. Further adding to this mix of appropriation and “trans-periodic” quality, one might argue that the Lolita dress’ silhouette is stylistically closer to a 1950s American formal gown—as immortalized by the prom dress—rather than to the eighteenth-century French court robe. While the 1950s American dress was popular at the same time in Japan, and again briefly in the late 1970s, Lolita style has rarely been considered in relation to 1950s American culture, either by Lolita brands or the community. Instead, the style is commonly correlated with historical Europe, reinforced by descriptive terms such as princess, maiden, and ballerina.

Vivienne Westwood’s Mini-Crini skirt

The authenticity of historical European dresses has also been negotiated in terms of practicability suited to our time. While Lolita style’s elaborate qualities can impede the movement of the wearer, the calf-length dress, made of such fabrics as cotton or nylon, hooped with the (petticoat-like) pannier, is lighter, less restrictive, and more affordable than a long, full-length velvet, silk, or wool dress with a heavier crinoline. Such apparently functional concerns contrast with Lolita fashion’s avoidance of a lighter and more practical structure to craft and sustain the bell shape—such as the plastic hoops implemented in Vivienne Westwood’s Mini-Crini skirts (1986)—and is worthy of attention.

Although the fashion industry in the country started to gain international attention in the 1980s, with the arrival of higher-end fashion designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo in Paris, Japan's one-of-a-kind and trendy street fashions entered a whole new form of customer.

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