Many people have been discussing, debating, and occasionally downright arguing on the necessity of a petticoat in lolita fashion. The debate has been taking place mainly via Tumblr, but I’ve seen it discussed on /CGL/, EGL, and many other places. I’ve avoided voicing my opinions because honestly, so many people have written on this subject, some having the same opinions as I, some different, that it seems simply redundant to write about it. However, since this “debate” has been full-fledged for a month or two now, I’ve decided to write on it, just to get it out of the way, and to make my stance on the matter known.
With that being said, I will just be blunt about it:
Petticoats, or other garments that achieve the “traditional” lolita silhouette, are completely necessary in lolita fashion.
There have been many, many examples that people have claimed are lolita and do not achieve the silhouette that lolita is known for. In my opinion, none of these outfits are lolita.
In the same way that people have argued whether the miniskirts, salopettes, or pants that lolita brands come out with are lolita, people have been arguing whether the silhouette really matters, or whether the general aesthetic known to lolita is enough for an outfit to be considered truly lolita. In my opinion, no.
There are so many fashions which contain the same aesthetics, or extremely similar aesthetics, as lolita. Here are a few examples:
Otome-kei shares a lot of elements with classic lolita. Using this particular outfit, from the gyaru brand Liz Lisa, as an example, we can see that it shares many details with lolita: the collar, nice lace accents, cinched waistline, near-knee-length skirt, relatively modest cut, and a color that is undeniably suitable to lolita. In fact, with only the addition of a petticoat, this outfit would easily be considered casual lolita. However, because it lacks the silhouette, nobody is claiming it is lolita.
Fairy-kei shares a lot of details with sweet or OTT sweet lolita. Pastel colors, long socks, lots of hair accessories, and similar themes like bears or rabbits. The outfit on the far left could pass as lolita with the proper silhouette. However, once again, without the silhouette, it is not lolita.
There are countless other examples of fashions that are aesthetically similar to lolita, such as kodona, mori girl, and hime gyaru, but I feel that I’ve made that point. Aesthetics and themes do not a lolita coordinate make.
Another example many people are falling back on is the unflattering look of empire-waisted dresses when worn with a petticoat. My response to this is simply that there are hundreds of unflattering details that lolita is known for that is never questioned. For example, knee-high socks look terrible on most legs, rocking horse shoes makes one’s feet look ginormous, and pastel wigs clash with many skintones. The flattery of certain items do not make them less lolita.
Along with the empire-waisted dress “defense” (to further the debate lingo) is that Momoko, from the much-beloved movie Shimotsuma Monogatari (dubbed as Kamikaze Girls) wears a very well-known empire waisted dress designed by Baby, the Stars Shine Bright without a petticoat. My rebuttal is split into two parts: one, as much as I adore the movie, is Momoko really someone you want to be taking any tips from? She is humorous, but as a person, she is not the best. She is self-centered and downright rude at times. I, personally, would not be taking any tips from her, fashion or otherwise.
Secondly, the outfit in question is extremely outdated. Let’s take a look:
In my opinion, this is an outdated and, honestly, terrible outfit in general. Giant maxipad headress, unflattering shoes, unflattering socks, and of course, no petticoat. My point is that although this outfit suited lolita and the time the film was made, lolita has evolved so much that this cannot be considered a “good example” of a modern lolita outfit.
There are many examples, even entire blogs, dedicated to coordinates that do not use petticoats, created to prove that lolita can be achieved without the proper silhouette. In my opinion, while these outfits are lovely, they are not lolita.
In the end, in my opinion, it comes down to this: How many “rules” can we break before an outfit is not lolita? How much can we change the look before it is no longer the look?
To me, removing the petticoat is too far.