I have my parents to thank for planting the seeds that grew into my discovery and appreciation for lolita fashion. One of my first memories is staring into a closet full of dresses, both handmade by my mom and hand-me-downs from my cousins and people my mom knew. My mom learned to sew as a teenager and got pretty good at sewing clothes by the time I was little. She taught me how to sew after I found out that she made dresses and Halloween costumes for me. She taught me that when you’re making clothes, you get to decide how you want them to look. My dad was and still is a music and electronics geek. He would put on music for me and I’d dance in the living room all afternoon when I was a small child. He taught me to use a computer when I was 4 years old and got children's games for me, but we also played computer games together. He helped my older brothers buy a Super Nintendo (a Japanese invention), and they asked if I would throw in my birthday money to help buy it. I said sure, because I was five years old at the time and didn't know what that meant. For a while I watched them play because I liked watching video games. Then one day when they weren’t playing, I realized that helping pay for this video game machine meant that it was mine too and I wanted to learn how to use it. I turned it on and played my first level of Super Mario World. I got better and better at the controls, eventually managed to finish the game, and remember trying to sound out the names on the credits rolling by.

In middle school and early high school I became interested in Japanese pop culture via anime and soundtracks by way of a friend’s cousin (who was/is a big Sailor Moon fan) and American cartoons, particularly the Powerpuff Girls. Computers and the internet made forays into Japanese culture and music possible. My dad taught me how to connect to the internet with our dial-up modem. I had joined an online forum and began to post my fan art there, and made a friend who introduced me to girly anime besides Sailor Moon that wasn’t on American TV (Card Captor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, Ojamajo Doremi, Di Gi Charat). She was one of the best artists on the forum so I was pretty excited about being her friend. Youtube was nonexistent, digital video files were scarce and when I could find them they were WAY too large to download with a dial-up connection, and I didn’t want to shell out $25 per 2-3 episode VHS tape for a 26-episode series, so with the advent of MP3 format and my newly learned music downloading skills (thanks papa), I got my hands on some music from these series and decided I *really* liked it. I began teaching myself to read Japanese in order to sound out the lyrics so I could sing along. I spent a lot of my free time in high school looking for music, hunting down the lyrics, and solidifying my reading skills with no formal training.

I first saw lolita fashion in 2001. The same friend previously mentioned whose cousin was a huge Sailor Moon fan went on a trip to New York City in the spring, and she came back with a Japanese fashion photo book (FRUiTS) and brought it to school to show me. I loved what I saw so much that she lent it to me for a few days, and I spent HOURS looking at the photos. I decided that I was going to try this out for myself, even with limited resources. I attempted to make my own skirt since I knew how to use a sewing machine and had made clothes before, and even managed to get another friend mildly interested, to the point where one of the last things we did before going off to college was walking around our city's downtown dressed up to take photos.
From there, the internet led me to people and their creations at various intersections of those three interests (Japanese language/culture, music, and cute/fancy fashion). I got a degree in Japanese language and literature to gain greater access and deepen my knowledge and appreciation of the culture I had been fascinated by for so long. I studied abroad for my junior year of college in Nagoya, and it was simultaneously one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done. My final presentation in my Japanese language class was on lolita fashion, and my co-presenter (my boyfriend, now husband) was surprisingly enthusiastic about it. We both really liked this teacher and I was excited about the topic, so we put in a lot of extra effort and made outfits to wear for the presentation. We had meant to surprise him when we walked in the classroom door, but he saw us walking outside and greeted us with a「見ちゃった」("I see you!") as he rode his bike past us. Nevertheless, I believe it made quite an impression.
oh god someone please put a blouse on me
After graduating from college and spending a number of years finding my footing as an independent adult, I was looking through cards from wedding guests after unpacking them at our new house, and came across one from the teacher of the class we had given the lolita fashion presentation in. He had written:
"May your lolita spirit live a thousand years."
I had seen this message right after the wedding too but it hit so much harder this second time. I realized I finally had the means, the space, and the motivation to dive in with all my heart. I joined a community in 2013 and began building a wardrobe.