Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Era of the Accursed Day Star; Or, Wearing Lolita in Summer

Ah, yes, summer. Summer is one of those seasons that I both love and despise. In my area of the country, it's full of summer storms and rain showers, which I adore (anything for an excuse to sit at home listening to rain on the roof and the boom of thunder). But it's also a season I hate because of one undeniable, ever-present factor: heat.

I do not do well in the heat. At all. I get quite cranky and irritable, and turn into something of a bear. And wearing Lolita in summer? The first year I wore it, it was unthinkable! With the amount of layers needed for the average Lolita coordinate, I'd be roasting, especially when the temperature rose above 100 Fahrenheit in late July. But the next year, I swore to figure out how to wear Lolita in summer--because gosh darnit, I've spent hundreds of dollars on these clothes, and I'm going to wear them! Thus, my research into how to survive while wearing Lolita (especially Gothic) in the era of that accursed day star, the sun.

Parasols are a Loli's Best Friend

Rose Birdcage Parasol by Metamorphose

I've ranted about parasols in the past, so I'm sure anyone who has read those entries knows where I'm going with this one: portable shade! A parasol is literally shade you can bring with you! Why are they not common during summer anymore?! It can be a difference of as much as a few degrees cooler in the shade when it gets really hot out, and in any case, it helps to take the summer glare out of your eyes a bit and helps with UV protection. Even if you aren't using a parasol, it can always help to stay in the shade in general, so I would recommend trying to ensure that you'll spend picnics and other outdoor events in an area with substantial shaded areas to prevent heatstroke and other sun-based unpleasantness.

...And a Lolita Would be Nowhere Without her Fans.

Black lace fan found on Amazon

Besides a parasol, another historical item that is criminally underrated is the fan. Not only was this humble item used as a tool of communication during the Victorian era, but it served a very practical purpose, as well: to keep its user cool. Being able to bring a breeze with you helps offer another cool-down option for those blisteringly hot days. Not only that, but they make for a great accessory when out--and folding fans are very easily stored in a purse.

Fans come in a variety of finishings, fabrics, patterns, and colors--all of which can be made to perfectly match your coordinate! You can even customize your fans by embroidering, painting, or otherwise embellishing them.

Leg and Footwear -- Ankle Socks, Mesh/Lace Tights, and Lolita Sandals

Cover your legs! No one should see your knees! Everyone thinks that the Lolita Police will be out to get them if they dare to disobey this Lolita Commandment: Over the Knee Socks at minimum! I'm going to tell you upfront that this "requirement" is not only false, it's absolutely ridiculous. While traditionally, yes, Lolita does usually require covered legs, Lolitas also are a practical bunch of people--even if we wear impractical clothing. Keeping the skin from your knee to your ankle covered isn't worth hours of sweating and possible heatstroke.

Enter my three saviors of Summer Lolita: ankle socks, mesh/lace tights, and Lolita-oriented sandals. That's right! Not only can you wear short socks, but there's even the option to go completely sockless! The scandal!

Petit Ribbon Ankle Socks (2013) by Alice and the Pirates

Ankle socks are just what they sound like--socks that stop at the ankle. Lolita ankle socks are usually topped off with a decorative ruffle to add a little detail. You can pick them up from both Lolita brands, and for incredibly cheap on sites like Amazon or eBay (I purchased an adorable pair for only $2 including shipping). They're a great option for when you have a Lolita shoe that requires socks to be worn, but it's just too hot to have something covering your legs.

Mesh tights by Torrid

Mesh and lace tights (particularly the ones made from natural fibers) are also a great option to stay cool. Because they aren't as heavy as regular tights, they don't trap heat against your skin. Some mesh tights are fine enough to wear I almost feel like I'm not even wearing them, which is nice when the thermometer is getting a little angry. They're a great option for that dress that's a little too short, so you feel like you should be wearing something on your legs. Mesh tights go great with Gothic and darker Classic looks, while lace tights look amazing with just about any style (so long as the colors go together), but mixing and matching can make for some truly stunning combinations, so feel free to experiment with your legwear!

Sandals by An*Tai*Na

Next we have the Lolita sandal. Given that this is a fashion that usually stresses the importance of legwear, this might sound surprising--but they do actually exist! And they're absolutely darling. I've never been much of a fan of how socks and sandals look together. Some Lolitas will pair them off, and occasionally it can look really cute--particularly with short ankle socks. But the easier--and cooler--path is to forgo socks entirely, and make use of that summer pedicure!

Headgear -- Sunhats and Going Natural

Black touring hat from the Ladies' Emporium

Sunhats are something that I never really thought about being a fashion accessory. But maybe that's because of my mother's habit of buying the biggest, floppiest, ugliest sunhats for the two of us while growing up. She absolutely loves them. To this day, she picks out the most ridiculous sunhats she can find when she needs to buy one. And so I was shocked beyond belief when I found that there were not only tolerable sunhats, but really cute ones. Or the revolutionary idea that you could take these cute hats, use them as a base, and add decorations to them.

Sunhats are a great (and underrepresented) accessory for summertime Lolita. Not only do they check off the need for headgear from your coordinate, they're versatile and pull double-duty as portable shade, much like parasols. You can clip your matching head bows or star clips onto the band of your hat, or sew on extra decorations to match your outfits--flowers, skulls, fuzzy stars, you name it! You can take inspiration from Victorian and Edwardian hats in order to decorate with a more historical feel, or just go all-out with a decoden fervor. When altering your own hat, it's all up to you! If  you use large stitches, it's even possible to alter and remove decorations with ease, allowing you to change up your hat in order to best serve your current coordinate needs.

An example of a Lolita updo
(Original from a GLB, translated by LittleGally on Tumblr)

The second thing I wanted to bring up on how to keep your head cool in summer is the topic of wigs. Wigs are a big part of the fashion--to the point where some new to the fashion erroneously claim that it isn't a real Lolita coordinate unless you're wearing one. But they most certainly aren't required. Most of the heat lost from a person's body is going to be lost through their head. When you cover that up with a wig, it only traps heat. While this might be a great thing in winter, it probably isn't the greatest thing in the middle of summer. So my advice is to ditch the wig and go natural with your own hair, whenever possible.

Going wigless was actually the norm in old school! GLBs have a plethora of hair tutorials, including plenty of up-dos that will help you remain cool in summer. Pigtails, ponytails, buns, and dozens of other styles will help you keep the hair up off of your neck, and keep you nice and cool!

Skimping on Layers

It's no surprise to anyone who wears Lolita that there are just tons of layers involved. Some elaborate coordinates can have upwards of five layers--with underthings, a corset, blouse, dress, and even an overdress or jacket to tie together a look. It's no wonder that it can be intimidating to wear it in the summer heat.

A short-sleeved lace shrug from Wal-Mart helps cut down both heat and cost.

So what's the best way to combat the heat? Skimp on the layers. Take out what layers you can with comfort. Skip on wearing your corset if you know you'll be in the sun for a while. Opt for an OP instead of a JSK, or switch it for a skirt and cutsew made from natural fibers, like cotton. Anywhere you can skip a layer, do it. If you have a JSK that you really, truly want to wear, perhaps you could consider investing in a small shrug to cover your shoulders and stick to "guidelines". Or just forget it and rock the sleeveless look.


When it comes to underthings, try to stick to the basics. Skip extras (like corsets or binders) when possible in order to cut down on the number of layers. Opt for cooler alternatives for things you can't switch out. For example--instead of the traditional lace-trimmed bloomers, try wearing a pair of biking or pajama shorts.

For items like bras and underwear, try to find cotton or other natural fibers when possible. The natural fibers will wick sweat away from your skin, and will breathe more easily than a synthetic material. For an extra burst of coolness in extreme heat, they make thermal gel pads that you can place inside the cups of your bra. It sounds weird (and they're technically for nursing mothers)--but it's a real life-saver when you're stuck in extreme heat.

Things to Keep in Your Bag

While I mentioned fans earlier as an item you could keep in your bag to help stave off the heat, there are a few other items that you could toss in your bag to help ward off the heat:

  • A misting bottle. Evaporating water takes heat with it, so misting yourself can help you cool down before you get too sweaty! (This works particularly well with a hand fan, which is why you often see combination fans and mist bottles sold in amusement parks and the like during the summer.)
  • A bottle of drinking water. Dehydration is incredibly common during the warm summer months. It's a good idea to keep a bottle of water with you just in case! (If you store it in the freezer, it'll stay cool longer, and can even be used as a makeshift ice pack for a while. This is especially potent at your pulse points on your wrists, neck, elbows, and the backs of your knees.)
  • A handkerchief. Sometimes feeling cool is as far away as getting rid of that sticky, sweaty feeling. Keep a handkerchief to help soak up some of that sweat; or, you could even soak it in a drinking fountain or other cold water source to use as a compress. (A note: To avoid smearing your makeup, don't wipe sweat off with your handkerchief; instead, gently pat-dry your face and neck.)

Proper Sun Care is Paramount

Even if you tan, you should still worry about sun safety! Being tan does not prevent you from getting skin cancer due to excessive UV radiation! Now I'm not saying you need to cover up constantly and live in fear of the sun, but prolonged exposure should be cause for you to take precautions.

Sheer spray-on sunscreen like this one from Neutrogena helps
cut down on gunk that might ruin your makeup.

First and foremost, sunscreen. Make sure that you always wear sunscreen in summer! Some with fairer complexions (like myself) find that they actually have to wear sunscreen nearly year-round, even when it's cloudy. (I wish I was kidding.) It's recommended that you use at least an SPF of 15 (some makeup products will even have this built in!). Whether you use a spray or lotion is completely up to you! Whichever option you choose, make sure that you reapply regularly according to the instructions on the bottle. Personally, I like sprays because they tend to feel lighter and not gunk up/smear my makeup. They also re-apply more quickly than a lotion.

These decoden-inspired sunglasses were prepared by MyLittleKitsch on Etsy.

Second--and perhaps more fashion-oriented--sunglasses. There are literally thousands of different designs for sunglasses, and it's only limited by your Google-fu. Gothic-oriented sunglasses? Try a wrought iron-look frame with purple, blue, or red lenses. Sweet? They sell tons of heart-, star-, and flower-shaped sunglasses! Classic? Maybe try repurposing that vintage pair of glasses into a new pair of sunglasses by having the lenses replaced at a glasses shop. You could even use a basic pair of sunglasses in the color of your favorite coordinates, and add decoden embellishments to snazz up the plain pair into something one-of-a-kind and special.

If you wear corrective lenses, you can opt to skip this entirely by using transition lenses, which turn your everyday glasses into sunglasses when exposed to UV light. I personally opt for this, since I wear my glasses daily; and my insurance even covers them! For the "Megane" Lolita, it's worth at least looking into.

Be Realistic

Sometimes you just can't wear Lolita that day. And that's okay! Wearing Lolita is fun, but having heatstroke certainly isn't. Check your local weather forecast to make sure that the day isn't going to be too hot for you to feasibly and comfortably wear Lolita. If wearing Lolita is going to be a hazard to your health, skip it. Clothes are not worth getting sick over. People can actually die from heat stroke, so I cannot stress the importance of taking care of yourself enough. Even if it means skipping out on wearing your favorite dress for a day, your health is more important.

Beyond that--remain indoors when possible, and sit as close to the air conditioner as possible, my frilly friends... Autumn is coming, and with that, our time to shine shall rise again! Stay frilly, my friends.

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