Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Regna Darnell


Lolita fashion is a youth street style originating from Japan that draws on Victorian-era children’s clothing, Rococo aesthetics, and Western Punk and Gothic subculture. It is worn by teenage girls and women of a wide range of ages, and through the flow of related media and clothing aided by the Internet, Lolita style has become a global phenomenon. Wearers of the style are known as Lolitas, and local, national, and global communities can be found around the world outside Japan from North American to Europe. This study is a cross-cultural comparison of Lolita fashion wearers in Japan and North America, examining how differences in constructions of place and space; conceptualizations about girlhood and womanhood; perceptions of beauty and aesthetics; and formation of social groups and actor-networks have bearing on how an individual experiences the fashion. This work deconstructs Lolita style by using Japanese cultural concepts like shōjo (‘girl’ as a genderless being), otome (maiden), kawaii (cuteness) to explore the underlying framework that informs Japanese Lolita’s use of the fashion as a form of subversive rebellion, creating personal spaces to celebrate their individuality and revive the affects and memories of girlhood that are distanced from gendered social expectations. English-speakers, not having the same social and cultural knowledge, attempt to recontexualize Lolita fashion along the lines of feminism, sisterhood, personal style, and escape from the ‘modern’ to give meaning and purpose to their involvement with the fashion. Lolita fashion allows wearers to travel in between the lines of becoming-girl and becoming-women by offering a way to access girl-feeling and its associated happiness objects.