Project 5, part 1 – Meet the Dress and Lolita Fashion
Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! Today marks the beginning of another restoration project – this one a bit more modern (but with deep historical roots and inspiration!). The dress in need of restoration is Angelic Pretty’s Milky-Chan the Fawn Necklace Style JSK from 2009.
“2009?!” I hear you saying. “That’s not historical – that’s only 11 years ago!” (Or possibly more, depending on when you’re reading this. If you’re from 2321, wow, I’m really honored, and also – how’s the colonization of Mars going?) Still, at the time of writing, it’s not even vintage. However, the stylistic ancestors of lolita fashion (a street style from Japan), were in the Rococo (see my friend Mocha’s essays on the subject) and Victorian eras, as well as in the playful fashions of the 1950s and 1960s.
Lolita fashion has its roots in Harajuku, Tokyo, in the 1970s, when Japanese girls (like their Western sisters) were finding all sorts of ways to fight back against patriarchal ideas about their place in the world and what kind of futures they should be aiming towards. Many of the styling cues initially looked back to the 1950s (such as Lana Lobell) and 1960s youthquake culture (puffy skirts, Mary Janes, and modest necklines and hemlines reminiscent of children’s clothing and a more innocent time). Panniers (or petticoats) that were straight out of the 1700s, and ruffles from the 1800s completed a historically-inspired fashion that was intended as a complete rejection of the male gaze and dressing to “attract.” Therefore the fashion became a hyper-feminine assault on the senses that allowed (and still allows) people to dress for themselves and to have their clothes be perceived rather than their physical attributes or characteristics.
Ok, now hopefully you’re on board with me about this delightfully extravagant Japanese fashion and its historical roots! So let’s talk about my dress, shall we?
Lolita dresses have a manufacturer, or “brand,” a print name (the name of the design printed on the dress, and sometimes simply the design of the dress itself), and a colorway (the official name for the color the dress came in when it was released). Japanese lolita brands often release their dresses in only one size – you either fit the dress, or you don’t. (They also utilize measurement-based sizing rather than “S/M/L” which means you can easily tell what clothes will fit you!) Metamorphose is a notable exception, and additionally many Chinese and Western brands release multiple sizes.
This particular dress was made by Angelic Pretty, a very popular Japanese brand. The name of the print/dress is Milky-Chan the Fawn Necklace Style JSK (JSK stands for jumperskirt, meaning it’s meant to be worn over a blouse instead of by itself), and the colorway of mine is white. I purchased it from an online friend this year (shout out to candy_kumya!), with the full knowledge that, while the dress itself was in marvelous condition, it was in need of some restoration work.
First, the ribbon pinned to the front neckline on my dress has some light – but visible – purplish blue stains:
Second, and more importantly, it is completely missing the waist ties. The waist ties are long pieces of fabric in the same print as the dress, attached at the side by buttons, and used to provide definition at the waist (you can see them tied in a bow in the back view on the image of the brand new dress above).
This means I have two challenges for this dress’s restoration! First, to clean the ribbon. I’m feeling quite confident in that, considering my success with the Victorian Era nightgown! Second, to source buttons, fabric, and ribbon/lace, and sew replacement waist ties. I’m feeling a little less confident about this one only because I’m not 100% certain yet what my strategy will be. So join me in the next installment to see how I fare!