Graduate student participates in Japanese street fashion group

Estefania de Leon

Kelly Ruiz, costume design graduate student, dresses up once a week in Lolita — a Japanese street fashion. When she wears it out, people in their 20s usually just look at her and keep walking.

“What’s fascinating is usually really young children and really old people love it,” Ruiz said. “They have no qualms about coming up to you and telling you how awesome you look.”

Lolita fashion generally consists of wearing wigs, Victorian-style dresses, bows and necklaces and is most popular with doll makeup. People who dress in Lolita fashion call themselves Lolitas. The style has been popular in Japan since its believed inception in the 1970s and has had an increasing following in the United States. Ruiz is a part of a group called ATX Lolitas, which hosts gatherings such as an upcoming trip to a tea house in Gruene, Texas, in honor of International Lolita Day on Dec. 6.

“It’s an underground subculture fashion,” Ruiz said. “Based on the frills, colors and patterns of Rococo garments with the modesty feel of the Victorian era. It was a fashion phenomenon that came from something called visual kei, another fashion subgroup in Japan based off music.”

ATX Lolitas plans gatherings, such as going out to have bubble tea, as an excuse to dress up in Lolita. Catherine Ramos, a social media coordinator for the ATX Lolitas, said that during gatherings, people get curious and ask what the group members are wearing.

“I usually don’t use the word Lolita because of the connotation it has here, and it also really isn’t that descriptive of a word,” Ramos said. “I’ll say we’re part of a Japanese fashion group in town, and if they want to know more about it, then I’ll describe it further.” 

Ruiz’s friend Kristina Guidry — a greyhound park worker in Mobile, Alabama, and former ATX Lolita member — remembers what Ruiz was wearing the first time they met.

“I remember the print perfectly,” Guidry said. “It was Cinderella Bunny from Bodyline, and it was in purple, and she had the pink blouse and everything and I just thought, ‘Oh, that’s so sweet.’ She looked absolutely stunning.”

According to Ruiz, the main topic of conversation at the group’s gatherings is what everyone is wearing, to find out what a print is and where it was bought, because few places sell Lolita. When an entire, outfit seamlessly coordinates they refer to it as a “coord.”

“Even if people have the same dress they are always going to accessorize differently or wear a different wig than you, so it’s fun to see,” Ruiz said. “We say, ‘Your coord is really cute,’ if you’re wearing a dress with strawberries and you have a strawberry hat, strawberry earrings and a strawberry ring.”

Ruiz has always wanted to design Lolita fashion. After graduating, she plans on moving to Taiwan and creating a line based off of fairy kei and Lolita.

“I keep doing it because it’s fun,” Ruiz said. “I know Lolitas in their 50s that are still dressing in Lolita. It has nothing to do with age. It has everything to do with the way you see yourself and what you want to wear.”