Monday, September 29, 2014

Lolita 52 Challenge - Week 1: 5 Pieces That Every Lolita Wardrobe Should Have, Regardless of Style

In an effort to bring new and interesting content to Courtly Dreams aside from Print Watches, Historical Frills, and summaries of Be Lolita, Be Happy, I'll be posting a segment dedicated to the Lolita 52 Challenge each week. This lovely list of topics was originally created by F Yeah Lolita last year and includes a list of 52 lolita related topics to post about. I highly suggest it for anyone looking to pump some inspiration into his/her lolita fashion blog! As the title suggests, this week's topic is about the quintessential lolita wardrobe and which items I find to be indispensable regardless of which lolita style one gravitates towards. Let's get started~
 -In no particular order-

1. A Quality Brooch

My "Frenchie" brooch from Peppermint Fox's Bon Bon Parade Collection
Though it may seem a bit unorthodox, a nice quality brooch is one of the best accessories to own. You can dress up any shawl, blouse, sweater, cardigan, or even hats with sweet and quirky designs. Not to mention that they're a great way to hold draped pieces in place or add a bit of pop to a blouse neckline!

2. A Shawl, Stole, or Long Scarf

Photo courtesy of Lolibrary
Shawls, scarves, and stoles are by far some of my favorite wardrobe additions. Whether it's a light shoulder covering for summer, or a nice warm piece for winter, long flowy layers are an instant way to class up a plain JSK. The most elegant lolita will find the best way to manipulate the fabric to make her movements appear graceful and her bearing as elegant as the women portrayed in period films.

3. A Cute Pair of Booties

Powerful Protagonist Bootie from ModCloth
As fall gets into full swing and winter approaches, I've found booties to be the most indispensable shoes. They're short and cute with just enough heel to keep out of inclement weather puddles and cover up so much more than flats to keep your feet warm. 

4. A Solid Statement Bag

My favorite bag for lolita outfits by AP
We've all been there - we have a meetup and a long journey ahead of us, but are at odds with our purse situation. We can either take the cute bag which holds next to nothing or the less-than-ideal-carry-all which will see us through our trip with snacks and backup eyelash glue. My advice? Invest in a gorgeous, but adequately sized bag that you can pair with a variety of coordinates. Aim to fit just as much as you need inside without sacrificing any of the lolita necessities. 

5. Solid Colored Tights

These are a personal favorite of mine - brightly colored tights I can use to add some pop to my otherwise ordinary outfits. Use them for accent colors, or go bold with colorblocking! With colder weather fast approaching tights are sure to be your best friends at outdoor meetups or shopping trips. Not only will they keep you toasty warm, but they'll create tonal depth for your coordinate.

And there you have it - my absolute must-have pieces for every lolita style. Though they might seem small and cursory, it's amazing how much these pieces can do for your coordinate! They're all versatile for life in and out of the petticoats and allow you to add a touch of personal style to your favorite designer pieces~

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lolita Treatise A La Skye

Frost by Sleepy
Skimming through the endless depths of the internet this week I was hit with a sudden bout of nostalgia for when I first discovered lolita. It was around 2007 and the online community had a number of different ideas about what it meant to be a lolita. Some girls were entirely taken with the idea that to wear such beautiful clothes, one must take on some sort of stately Victorian airs and uphold a certain moral code. Others firmly rejected this idea with the concept that altering one's mannerisms to match one's looks was far too close to cosplay for comfort. Regardless of which side of the argument you were on, one of the most famous lolita blogs at the time was The Princess Portal run by the lovely Princess Skye. This Australian lolita captured the hearts of many with her poetic writing style, ethereal photos, and charming stories of her life as a lifestyle lolita. She is the author of the famous 101 Lolita Lifestyle Ideas post on EGL and was active between December 2006 and April 2012. Though she left the scene quietly, Princess Skye left behind one of the most beautiful and uplifting legacies the fashion has ever seen. From her writings on beauty to her very own Princess Code, Skye fueled a romanticism for the lifestyle lolita which still persists today. Whether you agree that lolitas should act like princesses or not, the Princess Code lays the foundation for a beautiful life centered around building up one's idea of self worth and inspiring the same confidence in as many people as possible. 

:heart: The Princess Code :heart:
A Princess inspires others to follow their hopes and dreams through pursuing her own.

A Princess greets everyone with a welcoming smile, melting the hearts of friends and disarming her enemies.
A Princess has dignity, which protects her from the opinions and spite of ignorant people.
A Princess always looks beautiful, even when she is asleep.
A Princess aims for perfection in every step.
A Princess should be given fresh flowers everyday, even if she has to give them to herself.
A Princess grows in recognition and stature in proportion to how much she treats others as royalty.
A Princess reflects her inner beauty in her aesthetic choices.
A Princess goes to war against the violence of incivility with the weapons of etiquette and prodigal generosity.
A Princess lives each day from the heart, expressing herself freely and treasuring every moment.
A Princess has the right to spend her funds on beautiful things she does not need because beauty in itself is priceless.
A Princess should follow her heart and believe in her dreams, even if the whole world seems to be against her.
A Princess respects her environment and nurtures the beauty of nature.
A Princess is never too busy to give a kind word or smile where it is needed.
A Princess’s most precious jewel is Hope, which lights her darkest days and shows her the beauty in every soul she meets.
While a number of points might seem over the top, the code is, at its core, as elegant as it is inspiring. One need not be a lifestyle lolita to live by the code; rather, lolita fashion simply provides a catalyst by invoking the romanticism associated with Victorian England and Rococo France. By clothing ourselves in beautiful designs made from sumptuous fabrics, we are reminded to love and respect ourselves as much as we love and respect our clothes. We are encouraged to remember that treating oneself to luxury is the best medicine to soothe a tired soul. And we are urged to treat others with the same unfailing respect and decorum as every human being deserves. The Princess Code is a reminder that the world is a beautiful place full of beautiful people, even if it may sometimes appear otherwise. There is always a silver lining to the raincloud, and we are encouraged to partake in that positivity and spread it to our own sphere of influence. This is not our goal as lolitas, but rather our goal as human beings who are all part of this crazy connected world.

Though Princess Skye has since moved on to more vibrant salons, she left us with one of the most positive lessons one can learn from fashion: ultimately we must love ourselves and remember that we are the only ones capable of altering our concept of self worth. Though you might not live every day as a princess, I hope that its essence will be a guiding light to you in dark and stormy places as it has been to me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Be Lolita, Be Happy Episode 2 - Fun with KUNIKA!

Photo from Kunika's Twitter
This week on her show Be Lolita, Be Happy, which details the work of various professionals within the lolita fashion scene, Misako Aoki welcomed famous Japanese confectionary artist KUNIKA. In celebration of her guest, Misako started off by explaining her chocolate-themed coordinate from Baby the Stars Shine Bright, and inviting viewers to send in questions and comments throughout the show via Twitter. In a brief interlude, Misako showed a slideshow of her favorite desserts from this summer which featured a lot of sweets which were perfectly cool for the hot August weather in Harajuku.

From the brief description given by Misako, we learned that KUNIKA is a trained chef who worked at the Mandarin Oriental before moving her talent into the field of confectionary artist. She makes incredibly detailed cakes, and cookies for all sort of occasions and customers including AKB48 and Popteen. Misako revealed that the two worked together last Christmas to create images for Misako's Lolita Fashion Book and that KUNIKA created many of the cakes and iced cookies which were used in the various photoshoot sets. Some of her most creative works featured in these photographs included tiered hear cakes and large colorful star cakes. Misako at one point marveled at how KUNIKA was even able to bring all of her cakes and cookies in such perfect condition to the studio on the day of the shoot. The photos shown illustrated the real artistry which KUNIKA brings to her work and the detail-oriented execution of her craft which mirrors the production of our favorite lolita dresses.

The two then went through some photos of KUNIKA's works including colorful edible cakes, beautifully painted frosted cookies, delicate towers of sugary cupcakes, and even a Barbie doll's dress made entirely out of layers of ruffled icing. In her work at the Mandarin Oriental, KUNIKA mostly worked with cakes which she finds to be a staple of her works even today. KUNIKA brought a number of her animal cookies to the studio and it was amazing to see the details up close! The icing job was superb and the lines looked clean enough to have been drawn in ink instead of something edible. She also showed off her sketchbook where she plans out various different elements of a creation and drafts designs with a ballpoint pen before working with more difficult materials like frosting.

Looking through the portfolio photos, Misako featured in a number of the lolita photoshoot ones and she recounted a story of when she worked with some cookies which KUNIKA had made for the shoot. Misako noted that they had smelled so buttery and delicious that she had been tempted to try, but hadn't been sure if they were actually edible or not. Laughing, KUNIKA noted that unlike some of the cakes, the cookies she makes are all quite edible.

Throughout the show a number of different viewers sent in questions via Twitter. One viewer asked which piece took the most time to make to which KUNIKA responded that her sugary castle which was featured on the next slide took her two months. The whole piece wasn't really edible but it looked like it had come right out of a fairy tale with its colorful spires and pristine white walls. Another asked about her favorite cafe which ended up being a place in Yoyogi called Asterik which serves cakes, chocolates, and macarons. We learned that KUNIKA's favorite dessert is chocolate cake, and the most important thing she keeps in mind when creating a piece is the customer and their wants. The funniest question came from a viewer who wanted to know whether she had ever gotten hungry while working and eaten one of her creations to which KUNIKA responded in the negative. She did note that while working at the Mandarin Oriental she had tasted things before they were served, but she's never eaten one of her masterpieces.

Aside from cakes and other tasty delights, KUNIKA also sells hair ties and similar accessories which feature her edible works. She recently came out with an iPhone seal which created a pattern of alternating colored Barbie cookies on a plain white background. Due to the ephemerality of her work, these pieces allow for others to incorporate such amazing artworks into their personal style and interact with KUNIKA's designs in a way they would have otherwise been unable to. In this way, KUNIKA's work intersects with photography in much the same way as lolita fashion as the two are ultimately archiving art (whether wearable or edible) made for personal consumption.

At the end of the portfolio slideshow and the Q&A session provided by Twitter, Misako asked KUNIKA how she really figures into the lolita fashion industry. KUNIKA noted that in high school she was inspired by the details of lolita fashion (the lace, the bows, the ruffles), and really admired girls like Misako. She now brings the same passion for beauty and luxurious things into her own work and finds herself working with the very people she admired.

Be sure to watch this full episode over at CYTV and keep your eyes peeled for the release of this week's episode which aired today (Sept 3rd, 2014) featuring Erika a sweets accessories artist from Antoinette Boutique!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tea Time Reads: Longbourn

Jo Baker's Longbourn is a new take on the favored Austen Regency no doubt inspired by Downton Abbey's success. Instead of the above-stairs world readers have adored for generations, Baker transports her readers to the servants' hall where the likes of Mr. & Mrs. Hill run the Bennet household alongside Sarah, Polly, and the newly arrived footman, James. Rather than following the popular retelling trend that so many authors have followed for the past decade or so, Baker plants us in the heart of Pride and Prejudice, but the upstairs life fades into the background like the incessant buzzing of bees on a summer day. Austen fans must beware however, as Baker does not romanticize the lives of working class maids, footmen, and cooks in our beloved Regency. Instead, she challenges our views of our most beloved characters by humanizing the servants who ensure that Jane's hair is done to its finest, and Lydia has all the shoe roses she could hope for. Baker humanizes the very people that the Regency sought to exclude which shocks our highly romanticized version of Austen-era living. Even Elizabeth, who is seen in the original novel as the most realistic and least taken with frivolity is shown to be entirely naive about the realities of the world. Behind closed doors, Lydia appears all the more silly, and Wickham all the more insidious as he circles young Polly like a wolf in sheep's clothing - offering her sweets and gentlemanly airs which can only spell disaster.
Groombridge Place or Longbourn in the 2005 film. (Image:
Many points in this book had me holding my breath and hoping for the best for the characters I had come to love. The descriptions of early mornings and late nights full of hard labor had me admiring the plucky Sarah far more than any of her mistresses. But fear not dear reader, Baker includes plenty of intrigue to hold your attention and perhaps push you to view time-honored characters in a new light. My only grievance was the romanticized ending which took an impossible situation and wrapped it up neatly with a frilly bow. However it was clear that Baker wanted for Sarah what Austen had given Elizabeth and Jane - the impossibly happy ending given to a character we feel deserves nothing but the best. Perhaps this is our modern equivalent to the fairytale - historical fiction wherein we hear the voices of the invisible and celebrate the triumphs of those who had to fight for every yard of muslin and scrap of dignity. For lolita fashion fans, Longbourn is full of young women and therefore full of beautiful dresses and sumptuous fabrics which are described in great detail by Baker. Though the mistresses are far from the focal point of this novel, their constant stream of engagements supply Sarah and Polly with a full day's work, and us readers with many pages filled with muslin, silk, and lace all of which is constantly washed, mended, folded, unfolded, packed, and unpacked in a parade of ruffles and bows.