Growing with (and not out of) lolita

Just as lolita fashion in general has changed, the people wearing it have changed too. Now that lolita fashion as we know it has been around for more than 20 years, the teens and young adults who primarily wore it in the beginning are fully grown adults now. (Those babies and little kids in the early 2000s GLB street snaps are adults now too!) However, now that it's been around for over 20 years there is an ever growing number of older people who still love lolita style and want to wear it, but may also feel like the styles they liked wearing when they were younger don't quite suit them any more.

Over the years there have been countless people who gave up lolita completely as they've gotten older, and maybe (sadly) it was because they felt like they were too old for it even though they still liked it. Just because you get older doesn't mean you have to give up lolita, or change your lolita style if you still really love how you look and feel when you wear what you have. But if you want to grow and change with it rather than give it up, there is support for people of all ages and substyles in the fashion and it only continues to grow as the international community keeps expanding and getting older.

I think it's not a coincidence that more granular substyles of lolita really began to proliferate in the early 2010s, or that there was an over-the-top classic boom soon after over-the-top sweet style became really popular. As the community has aged, there are more people coming up with more ways to adapt the fashion they love to their changing life circumstances.

You don't have to "just wear classic"

As early as 2009, there were community resources available for building more mature looking outfits. One of the installments of Yuko Ueda's 2009 article series A Lesson in Lolita was about building more mature looking outfits (link here; opens in a new tab). However, her article suggests wearing classic style as a blanket "this is how to look more mature" tactic.

When I began building my collection in 2014, I was already nearly 30 years old. I resented the general advice at the time that older lolitas (generally assumed to be anyone 25+ years old from the communities I frequented at the time) should wear classic style to look more mature, and by extension implying that sweet lolita only suits really young people. Putting aside the assumption that 25 is "old" to be wearing lolita (which it absolutely isn't): No! I want to look cute and not be limited to floral prints and subdued colors! Even at 37 years old, quintessentially "classic lolita" dresses are not something I fawn over, though I've warmed up to them quite a lot. I still really love fruit and candy prints and bright colors, and being plus sized I usually do not fit well into major brands' more structured and tailored cuts (which tend to read visually as more refined and mature). 

Yes, in general, classic lolita has a more subtle and refined look that is more likely to suit many fully grown adults. But if you're not into looking like grandma's couch, then what are you supposed to do? First I tried the very sweet things I thought I would like but found those didn't quite feel like me. Surely there must be some middle ground, I thought.

So how did I find it? I have learned to style my main pieces in a more grown-up way with different accessories and color combinations, and complementary hair styles. I can push them toward classic when I want a refined look, and toward sweet if I want something a little more flashy and cute. Not all main pieces lend themselves to both kinds of styling, but it is surprising to me how nicely they mesh together in a way I find pleasing more often than not. An example is below -- I am wearing the same dress, blouse, bonnet, and style of shoe, and even the same general color scheme, but the left one leans sweet and the right one leans classic. The scale of details (larger accessories and bigger, less natural colored hair in the sweet coordinate) and level/distribution of contrasting colors (more contrasting colors next to one another in the sweet coordinate) are the biggest differences.

Unfortunately it seems that even now, "wear classic lolita" is still a common (if less direct) piece of advice given to older participants in the fashion, especially for those just getting started. But again: you do not have to limit yourself to classic lolita style or mature looks just because you're older! 

I haven't really seen this age debate going on for people who wear gothic style. I think it's because the goth style that came before it and influenced it has already undergone an aging process and the goth community is still active with many people who have been part of it for a long time. While goth and gothic lolita are two separate things, gothic lolitas are often also goth or goth-adjacent, and one thing that seems to be common among them is valuing experience and history, which creates space for the older people to continue participating as a respected and valued part of the community and helping shape its future.

Media and inspiration for older lolitas

Kera's Grown-Up Lolita Bible

In March 2015, Kera began a regular feature in their monthly magazine called the Otona Lolita Bible (大人ロリータバイブル; "Grown Up Lolita Bible"). The first installment was a list of 10 Rules for Grown-Up Lolita which I have translated from here:

  1. Build your silhouette vertically to look slim.
  2. Select petticoats with less volume, and longer skirt lengths.
  3. Softer/more flowy fabrics are better than stiff, structured fabrics for a ladylike look.
  4. Choose chic color palettes with ivory and dusty/muted tones.
  5. Elevate your looks with high quality fabrics like velveteen and gobelin.
  6. For footwear, shoes with a heel or simple boots will give a clean look.
  7. Opt for dressy outerwear, such as a fur cape or velveteen A-line coat.
  8. Wear limited edition items or a special occasion dress to stand out.
  9. Dress your items down for daily wear or mix them with pieces from your casual wardrobe.
  10. Bring out elegance in your outfit with lace or sheer items.

I don't think these were meant to be prescriptive; in other words, they do not mean "you have to follow these rules or you're not going to look right". They are tips to make your lolita outfits look more mature and polished if that's a look you want to achieve. I like that these guidelines can work with pretty much any substyle.

some Otona Lolita Bible coordinates from the September 2015 and January 2016 issues of Kera

I was able to find some issues of Kera from 2015-2017 (September 2015, January 2016, February 2016 which contains installments #8, #12, and #13 respectively) to dig deeper into the kinds of content this monthly section had. Installment #30 from May 2017 was published online shortly after their switch to digital-only content (link here), and I found a couple of blog posts from models that participated in photo shoots for it in 2015 (Misako Aoki and Sayaka Kanda). Most of them appear to be lookbook style introductions of new items/print series from major brands styled in more grown-up ways, with tips for hair styling and makeup. They feature a lot of soft hairstyles in natural colors, subtle makeup (also in more neutral/natural colors), and lots of muted color clothing, though there are plenty of cute prints that would very easily read as sweet if coordinated another way (Baked Sweets Parade and Dreamy Planetarium in particular).

some Otona Lolita Bible coordinates from the February 2016 issue of Kera

It appears they no longer publish this particular section (at least not regularly), but I don't think that's necessarily due to a lack of interest. Kera has been restructuring itself a lot in recent years so it may have become less of a focus as they transitioned away from print format and have been figuring out what they want to do and be online.


Japan really loves its mooks (they're like a magazine, but not published at a regular interval) and there have been a couple of notable mooks specifically aimed at older lolitas.

Lolicate cover images (source 1 | source 2)


Social media: Facebook | Twitter
There were two volumes of this mook published in 2014 and 2015. I own a copy of the first issue and it is HUGE (B4 size; approximately 14 x 10 inches, about 80 pages). It is by and large a photo book. There is hardly any text at all. Sapphira Doll has some more information on her blog about it.

What does a grown-up Alice wear? (source)


A single issue was published in 2016. The same team that created this went on to create Miel magazine. There have been no new posts on their Facebook and Twitter accounts for several years, but the photos are still nice inspiration. Miss Carol Belle has some additional images of the inside on her blog.

Social media

Otona Alice Walk (@otonaalice on Instagram; link opens in new window) was started by Mariko Suzuki, former editor of the GLB, in 2021. It's an account of street snaps of primarily older lolitas. I enjoy the GLB-like captions and especially the "how I got into lolita fashion" section of those captions. If you use Instagram and are nostalgic for GLB-like content, I recommend giving it a follow.

While not strictly of people wearing lolita, Kera regularly publishes street snaps on their website (link) and they feature people of all ages.

Closing thoughts

While I think it may be more due to the fact that the lolita models from the early days of the fashion are still around and most recognizable rather than lolita fashion media actively trying to feature older models, I think it is nice that the original models are still in demand even as there has been an influx of younger models in recent years. People still get excited to see Misako Aoki in new releases and she's nearly 40. Midori Fukasawa is also almost 40 years old. Yui Minakata recently had a child and she is still a regularly featured model. We've gotten to see some of the most well known faces of the fashion age and grow in real time with us, and I think that's neat, and not something that happens very often in the fashion world. Though I didn't discuss it above, I ran into a Vice article about aging in the goth community (which I feel has some crossover with lolitas who wear gothic style) and came across this quote that I love: "Parenthood does not mean the death of your interests or the death of you as a person." I am not a parent but the friends I have who are parents that seem to be happiest are the ones that continue to do what they love even after having children, even if they can't do it as often or as much as they did previously.

I also like that society (or at least certain parts of it) has progressed to the point that there's significant support for 30- and 40-somethings to dabble in fashion if they want. Who knows, maybe in another 20 years we will have an interesting body of resources and advice we can easily point to for people in their 50s and older who want to wear lolita that isn't "just wear classic," though at that point "grandma's couch" is just "my couch" so classic style might come a little more naturally.

If you have a favorite source of inspiration for more mature lolita looks, please share it!


  1. This post is amazing! Thank you so much for writing it!

  2. This is just what I wanted to read after turning 30. Best advices and inspiration ever!


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