During my first year of studying Japanese, in the Spring of 2002, I discovered Japanese Visual Kei while doing a report on Japanese music for a school project requiring us to listen to native Japanese speakers in a media format (TV show, movies, music, etc).
At that time, Japan was still very into Visual Kei, with bands like Dir en grey, X-Japan, Penicillin, Buck-Tick, Malice Mizer, Gackt, and Mucc being very popular. It was through my research on Visual Kei that I discovered Gothic Lolita fashion, and immediately ordered the Gothic and Lolita Bibles from my local Japanese import bookshop. Fortunately, living in Southern California, there was a very large Japanese community, and access to Japanese books, music, and dvds was relatively easy, but the fashion was not yet being exported by any brand. All I could do was look.
I really wanted to participate in Gothic Lolita fashion, but couldn’t buy any of the clothing. The fashion was still in the early days, and most people frowned on the fashion as it was considered a sign of deviancy and not the artistic self expression that the wearers saw it as. My only hope was to try to piece outfits together from vintage clothing, fetish clothing, Hot Topic accessories, and hope I didn’t look like a fool in the end. Of course, looking back, it was a tragic coordination, but I was so proud. I had never been more confident and happy in my entire life. Lolita fashion really gave me a freedom to feel good about myself, even if I looked ridiculous to everyone else.
Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. My classmate and friend was also interested in the fashion, and together we planned our outfits and wore them out – to the mall, to conventions, to restaurants.