Is there a place for tea parties and frilly dresses for women in the 21st century? The answer is a resounding yes from these lolita fashion ladies!

Lolita fashion is a subculture that originated in Japan but has now spread around the world. While there are many sub-styles, in general it’s an elegant look inspired by Victorian clothes with lots of frills and bows. Meet-ups are a big part of the culture and are often lady-like outings for tea parties or picnics. These events offer an opportunity for girls to get together in their fanciest outfits and have a good time together. I was able to attend one such meetup, an international tea party in Tokyo organized by our hostess Ai Akizuki.

Ai established a lolita community at Waseda University which had grown to 150 members when she left it in 2009. Since then she has been working on her own to spread lolita fashion and connect fans around the world. You can find out more here at her blog.


We gathered at Cafe Friends in Tokyo’s Yoyogi neighborhood and were treated to drinks and a selection of pastries with plenty of ice cream, fruit, whipped cream, and sauces to cover them in.

I decided to ask the girls a few questions, starting with what first got them interested in lolita fashion. There was a wide variety of answers; one girl was first interested in cosplay before making the move to lolita fashion, and another found her way there through J-pop and J-rock music after spotting an advert in a music magazine. Another girl said that she had always worn frilly and girly clothes so it was a natural transition to step it up a notch and start dressing in lolita fashion, while yet another came to it through modelling, and someone else through theatre. One girl had been a big fan of Japanese video games and spotted girls wearing lolita fashion when she was visiting Harajuku, then when lolita brand Angelic Pretty opened a branch in San Francisco she went to check it out and was hooked. One girl added that dressing like this expressed her real self, and that was a feeling I got from all the girls, that they were comfortable and happy dressing this way.

It seems that most non-Japanese lolitas discovered the style through a prior interest in Japan. I certainly remember gazing longingly at street snaps of Japanese girls in gorgeous outfits on the internet, yet I never had to dedication to pursue it off-screen. Like many other hobbies it certainly takes effort and, of course, money.


These dresses are elaborate and expensive, so I wanted to know how much people spent on their clothes. The answers were generally between 10,000 and 40,000 yen per month (US $83 to $332), although one girl estimated that she spent over 1,000,000 yen in a year! However, many girls make their own accessories, and even their own dresses, which can cut down on costs. While brand loyalty seems to be extremely important, there’s also a big emphasis on creativity.


Finally, I asked if they wore lolita fashion every day or just on special occasions. Most said just on special occasions, such as the tea party. One said just on weekends, and two girls were full-time lolitas, although their style would vary from day to day. There are many reasons why some choose to only dress this way from time to time, including the need to dress professionally in everyday life and being worried about getting spills and stains on their delicate dresses.

The afternoon was spent eating sweets and chatting about fashion and life in general, before ending with a photo shoot to show off the girls’ beautiful outfits as seen below.

▼ Ai Akizuki, the hostess of the tea party in her chocolate-themed dress


▼ Yoshiko Veronica who works as a model and designer


▼ Yuko is a full-time lolita.


▼ Mariana from Mexico


▼ Kitty, from Germany, made her own dress from fabric imported from Japan!


▼ Hina’s outfit was based around a rabbit motif.


▼ Akira’s all-time favourite brand is Angelic Pretty.


▼ Nami was wearing rocking horse shoes, which are a staple of lolita fashion.


After the tea party was over some of the girls changed back into their regular clothes, while others were happy to wander out into the streets of Tokyo in their dresses. Whether they wore lolita fashion every day or not, these girls all shared a love of pretty dresses and a cute but extravagant aesthetic. While lolita fashion is still a distinctly Japanese subculture it appeals to girls from all over the world and, as the tea party demonstrated, has the power to bring them together as an international community.

Images: RocketNews24
Links: Ai’s blog, Ai’s Twitter, Secret Tea Party, Cafe Friends