'I'll be a lolita my whole life': Misako Aoki on dating and the concept of 'age-appropriate fashion'

Misako's birthday cake, June 2019.
from @misakoaoki on Instagram

In February 2019, Misako Aoki gave an interview to Marie Minami of Huffington Post Japan. (Here is a Wayback Machine link to view it in case the original article disappears at some point.) In this entry, I summarize the content of the interview, translate some quotes, and offer my opinions.

If you are unfamiliar with Misako Aoki, she is a veteran fashion model with more than 20 years of experience in addition to being a nurse, and she is one of the most well known lolita fashion models worldwide. If you have spent any time researching the fashion, you have almost certainly seen her face.

Why lolita became so important to her

The article begins with Misako explaining how she got into lolita fashion and how it helped her gain confidence. Like many teenage girls, she was self conscious about her appearance and didn't like how her body looked. She was drawn to lolita fashion because she could hide her body in the puffy silhouette, and covering up what she didn't like about herself made her feel better when she went out in public where others could see her. It became her battle armor to face the world.

It goes on to give a brief explanation of lolita fashion history and substyles. Misako says part of the appeal of lolita is that there are so many different style choices to explore. There are even specific terms for people who wear it every day as their main clothing (daily lolita) and those who wear it occasionally (weekend lolita). Maybe that's a more common distinction in Japan, and there are certainly "daily lolitas" living throughout the world, but in the US it seems most people are occasional wearers so it probably wouldn't even warrant a mention here.

A social experiment on a dating app

Misako turned 36 years old in 2019, and as she has gotten older she has thought more about dating and marriage. However, Japanese men who are looking for a serious life partner generally don't have a positive opinion of lolita fashion. While lolita fashion did originate in Japan and is probably best known there, it is still very much an alternative fashion. Not everyone understands it or even knows about it. Much of the general public still sees lolita fashion and its participants as ridiculous and childish, and hold the view that responsible, functional adults do not look like lolitas do.

The next part of the interview details her social experiment on a dating app to test how much this would affect her prospects. This experiment involved making a lolita-forward profile and a nurse-forward profile, and examining the differences in responses that she got. In total, she met 12 men. She began with the lolita fashion forward profile. She received matches, but her potential partners tended to be condescending once she showed up to a date wearing lolita or saw pictures of her dressed up, and talked to her like she was a child. She said "the level of communication dropped immediately". Some responses include:
"Do you eat macarons every day?"
"Do you live in a castle?"
"Are you an alien from a nearby planet?"
It is not clear whether she mentioned that she is a veteran lolita fashion model in her dating profile. I'd like to think that men might respect her fashion choices more if they know she is gainfully employed because of it, but given that many societies in the world are at best uncomfortable with bold femininity when it's for anything other than pleasing men, I doubt that knowing she gets paid to do it would change their opinion or behavior. She went into it thinking there have to be some men out there who might understand, but her experiences suggest they are few and far between. Ultimately, the overall message she got from the men she interacted with is "you should stop wearing that." Sadly but perhaps unsurprisingly, she got more serious, positive, and respectful engagement with her nurse-forward profile.

The article talks about how Japanese men's views are likely more conservative than those of men in other countries, possibly due to being steeped in a culture of conformity which looks down upon people who stand out. It brings up that men in China seem to have a positive opinion of women who wear bold fashion, so they are not embarrassed to be seen with women who dress in lolita, and some really like it. However, I think that given the current gender imbalance in China (literally millions more men than women at this point due to centuries of sex-selective abortion and female infanticide), in order to get and keep a partner, men might have to be less picky and/or more supportive of their potential partner's hobbies. If one man doesn't appreciate or tolerate her hobby, there are plenty of others out there who likely would.

As far as the US goes, I think the likelihood of finding a partner that tolerates you wearing lolita fashion (or better, does their best to understand why you like it and supports you) is highly dependent upon where you're looking, but in general probably more likely than in Japan.

'I'll be a lolita for the rest of my life'

Despite all her woes with finding a partner, Misako wants to be a lolita for the rest of her life. Why?
"I feel a sort of responsibility to it. Lolita has given me the strength to face the negative aspects of myself. It has changed me and supported me. Being through that process now, I want to continue to give hope to other people who have been saved by lolita. It gives others courage to see me still wearing lolita at 35. There are people who quit lolita to raise children and then return to it, and I want to welcome them back. I feel pride and a sense of purpose in it, but most importantly, I love it more than anything else. It's cute! No matter how much others' opinions might weigh on me, I still love it."
The rest of the interview discusses her views about the idea of "age-appropriate fashion" prevalent in many societies and how lolita tends not to fit into that concept. Misako's take:
"I don't think there's any need to change what you wear based on your age. The concept of wearing certain clothes because you're in your 20s, because you're in your 30s, or because you're a mother is weird. Grandmas and men can wear lolita too. My dream is to wear lolita with the child I might have someday. I think there should be more freedom in fashion.
And not just fashion -- marriage and career choices too. Japan can't be the only country that has these rules based on age, like '35 year olds shouldn't wear lolita' and 'it's strange for a 35-year-old to not be married'. Having that mindset is what is strange, and it's such a waste of potential. Giving up on something just because of your age is such a waste, isn't it? If you love something, you shouldn't give up on it. That's what I think."
There are certainly unspoken rules (though I doubt any two people could agree on exactly what they are) about how one should act and dress based on age in American society too. I think these age-based rules specifically for fashion come from hundreds of years of reducing women's worth to their attractiveness to men, and telling women that they should hide their bodies and feel bad about how they look when men no longer find them attractive. To hell with that bullshit. If men are no longer paying attention to you or criticizing you no matter what you wear, then you might as well dress however you want to. I agree with Misako. I am of the mind that as long as you're able to do a thing that brings you joy and it's not hurting anyone, you should keep doing it!

Some closing thoughts

While I don't feel that lolita = battle armor for me personally, her explanation helped me to understand how some people arrive at that mindset. To me, lolita doesn't really feel like armor, since the public seems to view me dressing unusually as an invitation to stare, talk to me, and/or comment on my appearance. I wear lolita because I feel good in it, not to get attention. However, I do identify to the extent that it has helped me feel better about myself and my physical appearance. I can accept my measurements in lolita because they're more reliable than arbitrary sizes in helping me find clothes that fit. I have finally learned to put on makeup in a way that I like, not to hide but to enhance my natural features and as a form of expression. It has given me a creative voice and an outlet to rage against the patriarchy in an artful, colorful, beautiful way, and I intend to wear this fashion for as long as it suits me. Even if I'm no longer wearing proper lolita, I think I will always tend toward more feminine styled clothing.

I sincerely wish that Misako finds the supportive partner she deserves. Just like you don't get too old for certain clothes, you don't get too old to find true love either.


  1. Thank you for translating the interview! I was disappointed but not surprised about people's reactions in the dating section. The overall message of the interview was encouraging and I liked reading your thoughts on it.


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