Happy Summer ILD 2020, everyone! But wait… What is there even to celebrate? A pandemic is raging, systemic racism continues to kill black people, the LGBTQ+ haven’t yet got the truly equal rights they deserve, and the existential dread of knowing that global warming is killing the planet is by now second nature to all of us. Celebrating wearing frilly dresses just doesn’t feel appropriate in times like these. Unless you make Summer ILD in 2020 all about celebrating the power that you have as an individual within a niche alternative fashion community!
Social distancing and pandemic mean that for many of us having afternoon tea with our comms and friends is impossible. Of course, you can connect with your community via Zoom and virtual meetups, but it’s not the same. No, it’s not the same. The average cost of an afternoon tea in the UK is about £25. That is £25 you are now able to donate elsewhere. After all, if £25 can buy you a fancy afternoon tea, think how much it could provide to those needing food or shelter. It may be a small chip in the cost of someone’s funeral costs or legal fees, but a bigger one if your whole community of 50 lolitas donated. You could start with BLM’s list of funds for victims, but do your own research and see what your local black community needs right now.
If you are a member of lolita groups on Facebook, then you may have seen the thread of black lolita-relevant creators on the Lolita Updates page. With Covid-19 slowing or even stopping shipping, and social distancing rules to ensure everyone’s safety, buying a new hair clip or print may feel selfish. But remember that those are independent artists and businesses. Your purchase funds their livelihoods, the basics like food and bills. And given the plethora of black creators, you will surely find something for every budget. You could buy clothing, hair accessories, jewellery, stationery, original art, anything your heart desires. And what your wallet can afford. And if your lolita wardrobe doesn’t need anything right now, the look for black-owned beauty companies, coffee shops, plant shops – whatever your heart desires. It is Summer ILD, after all. You can still treat yourself whilst doing something good through that!
You don’t have to be a lonelita to spend the day browsing lolita content. And this Summer ILD choose content made by black lolitas. You could easily squeeze some even if you have a busy day with a virtual tea party planned. Maybe play a YouTube video while you get ready? Or read one of the blog posts while you wait for your kettle to boil? TikTok may be best if you’re very busy thanks to its short form, while following the #blacklolita tag on Instagram could inspire your outfit. There is no reason to not engage with the content put out by black lolitas, as there’s something for everyone out there. All that you need to do is pick a format and like, follow, subscribe and all that jazz!
An intelligent person knows that learning never stops. I also believe that being educated and well-read is part of being ladylike, which many lolitas aspire to be and embody. The world keeps changing, we are discovering new things and deepening our understanding of what we already know. But just like your teachers at school wanted you to find the answer yourself, you should not expect to be spoon fed knowledge in real life. I mean, you should know this already anyway, you’re in lolita fashion! You must’ve been told countless times to do your research, and maybe even said that to others yourself. Becoming a more informed individual will make you a better lolita within your community. As well as a better person. If you want something easily digestible and directly related to this fashion, start with Tyler Willis’ Can Black People Be Lolita video. Just remember to not stop there, patting yourself on the back. That is just the starting point and there are so many more books, films, podcasts and articles to get more than a surface glimpse into the issue.
Summer ILD 2020 should be even more about fostering a community spirit amongst lolitas than ever. We may be physically apart, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the fashion together. Hosting a virtual tea party requires almost no effort at all, you only need to agree on a time and hosting platform. Then make sure to actively encourage everyone to join and be part of your celebrations. Invite black lolitas, invite trans lolitas, invite immigrant lolitas, and then do a virtual toast with your teacups. It doesn’t matter whether they all attend, what matters is the explicit invitation which sends the message that everyone is welcome. You may all have very different experiences of life, but what unites you is your passion for these clothes. Focus on what you have in common, listen when they share their experiences and use their insight to make everyone feel truly welcome.
Here is the real key to this whole thing: it doesn’t stop at Summer ILD. It doesn’t even stop at one event or one protest movement. The world may move on to another big news story, but that doesn’t mean that there has been enough meaningful change. But we continue to support black lolitas, we engage with the content they create, carry on purchasing from black creators and keep inviting them to the lolita spaces we’ve created. It may be only a small, niche part of the wider community, since lolita is an alternative fashion after all. But our actions don’t stop there and we spread it to our non-alternative spaces until equality is a lived reality for everyone. It’s a long-term goal to aspire to. But you’re lolitas, you are seasoned through saving up pennies and waiting months for a preorder. Who better to stand this test of patience than you?
Stay safe, black lives matter, and have a meaningful Summer ILD in 2020!