Cosplay Lolita vs. Theme Lolita.

I found myself talking about this a lot due to recent conversations that have come up on Rufflechat and among friends. What are the differences between cosplay lolita and a themed lolita coordinate? Are there even any to begin with? And finally, are the official collaborations between Japanese brands and anime series evidence that cosplay lolita is very much a thing?

This is purely an opinion piece, and I can't guarantee that everyone would agree with me, nor can I urge you to subscribe to what I believe, but I thought it would make for an interesting discussion!

I collaborated with lovely Oli who lent me her amazing artistic talent to draw me a cute little infographic on the difference between cosplay lolita and an inspired lolita coordinate. She also really adores doing theme lolita as well, especially Pokémon coordinates! Please click on the photo to make it full-sized!

This is a great starting point for the rest of the post--thank you again Oli!!
I really want to emphasise something Oli said in her lovely diagram--some types of cosplay loilta require you being the character or personifying a character with a lolita silhouette. However, to do a theme lolita coordinate, you are still yourself, just wearing cute accessories that evoke the character.

I. Where to draw the line between cosplay lolita and a themed lolita coordinate.

The first thought that comes to mind when a person thinks of cosplay is someone trying to emulate a character as best as they possibly can with the means they have. Whether it means painstakingly sewing an outfit, purchasing a wig that is styled to resemble the character they are cosplaying, or creating extensively detailed weapons or armour. So, how does cosplay lolita tie into all this?

Similar to genderbending cosplays (where someone interprets what a character would have looked like if they fell into another gender role), cosplay lolita is born when someone wants to imagine what a character would look like if they wore lolita clothing. Someone would take a character--like say, Commander Shepherd from Mass Effect, and interpret how she would look like if she wore lolita. (As it turns out, this has been done a few times before! Here is my favourite example.)

This would usually include a dress in the colour scheme that is commonly worn by that character (sometimes it is not a colour combination commonly found in lolita), with props that have a distinctly cosplay flair (such as guns, armour, helmets, etc.).

In the case of Mass Effect, it takes a larger leap-of-faith to imagine a lolita outfit for that character. However, there are plenty of characters that already wear lolita-esque outfits, and those are ones that brands tend to like to create outfits for (but I will discuss that later).

However, I believe it's the props, accessories, and colour scheme that can take a themed lolita coordinate into the cosplay lolita sphere.

As discussed in my earlier blog post about "Fandom Coordinates," using jewelry, purses, and colours that are more lolita-friendly, but still directly inspired by a fictional character, can create a beautiful themed coordinate that is not necessarily a costume. A great rule of thumb is--could you wear your coordinate to a nice tea party and not get the stank eye from other attendees because you look like you're wearing a costume?

This is a coordinate I've put together in the past that I think really toes the line. The hair colour, colour of the dress, and accessories reference Legend of Zelda, but the elf ears take it to the cosplay territory. This would be a great example of a themed lolita coordinate without those elf ears. (I couldn't, in my right mind, leave them at home for a Legend of Zelda concert though, but it was still a really pretty coordinate!) I also made sure to paint my nails in such a way so that it made a Triforce if arranged a particular way!

This is an outfit that I think is a better example of themed lolita. There are motifs that are directly inspired by Kingdom Hearts, but if someone did not know what Kingdom Hearts is, they'd think it's just an OTT lolita coordinate. That's what I believe differentiates a themed coordinate from a cosplay coordinate.

The third interpretation of the term "cosplay lolita" is honestly just another word for "ita." It features stereotypical Halloween store lolita outfits with contrasting lace and fabric, cheap materials, and unflattering cuts.

I honestly would prefer to use the term "lolita costume" or just "ita" for this, because these outfits usually have nothing to do with a particular character, just a stereotype of what Japanese fashion is. It has nothing to do with cosplay.

II. Major lolita brand x anime production company--why their creations are not cosplay.

If you have kept track of any major brand releases in the past year or so, you would probably quickly realise that once in a while, there is a collaboration between a brand and an anime that is coming out or re-releasing soon.

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright x Kuragehime
Innocent World x Rozen Maiden
PUTUMAYO x Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Since PUTUMAYO had already handily put photos of the character that inspired the clothes in the same photo, I will continue my argument with the final photo. There has always been an overlap between Japanese pop culture and contemporary fashion--it's to be expected when both hobbies are constantly referencing and incorporating the other--even if it's not done intentionally or faithfully. However, this does not immediately make cosplay lolita a thing outside of... Well, the cosplay community.

Each of these collaborations did a few specific things that made their coordinates fantastic themed lolita coordinates, not cosplay lolita:

  1. They used trimmings and materials that would make the outfits look like high quality pieces, not cheap costumes.
  2. The cuts have been upgraded and changed in little ways so that it would lend itself to the lolita aesthetic.
  3. They also don't include props or accessories that are unique to cosplay.

The moment you start to think about incorporating armour or weapons into a coordinate, it's safe to say you are moving past a themed lolita coordinate and into something different.

(As a bonus, there have been many more collaborations--two of my favourites being Innocent World's Mawaru Penguindrum collaboration and Metamorphose's Macross collaboration!)

III. There is nothing wrong with wanting to mix lolita fashion with a video game/anime theme.

First and foremost, lolita is just another kind of fashion. And just like someone would carry around a wallet or a bag with their favourite video game title emblazoned across it, there's a way to leave that kind of mark on a lolita coordinate as well.

Some great places to begin include:

  • FYeahNerdyLolitas: a Tumblr dedicated to exactly this topic!
  • Vitae Clothing: sadly this indie brand is closing down due to health problems, but you may be able to score some of their stuff on the secondhand market! (They made a Katamari Damacy print I neeeeed.)
  • Spoonflower has a bunch of public use prints for tonnes of fandoms (be wary of Spoonflower though--they sometimes have problems printing darker prints). You can DIY your own dress or commission someone else to sew a great outfit for you.
  • Check out Etsy and Storenvy for some great jewelry inspired by anime and video games. Two of my favourite stores are Starlight Deco Dream and Nerdy Little Secrets. Below are links to some necklaces I own from both of those stores!

Sakura Key Necklace by Starlight Deco Dream
Pastel Controller Necklaces by Nerdy Little Secrets
And last but definitely not least, remember, there are things that can be learned from cosplay and vice versa. Happy coordinating, and I can't wait until I see some more cute fandom coordinates, whether or not they can be called lolita or not.


  1. I think this was a really interesting post! I rarely see people doing theme lolita because generally so many people are like "ooh ita" and they're all critical, but I think it's not really true that they're 'doing lolita wrong'. In many cases it just looks OTT, like in your Kingdom Hearts coord.
    And although the elf ears may be excessive, I just love the legend of Zelda coord, especially the headpiece! Where did you get it? c:

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! <3 I picked up the headpiece at my local renaissance faire. I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help there. ;A; I'm glad you liked the coordinate though. =)

  2. Hello!!! This question is not topic related to this post but...
    I saw your comment about kaleido scope lens for fujifilm instax cameras. And I'm wondering how does it look like? (Where can I buy it?) :)

    1. I bought mine off of eBay! I don't have any examples right now, but it repeats the photo three times on one exposure--it's kind of hard to describe!

    2. I couldn't find where to buy it though :(
      Can you give me the link to buy it please?

    3. This is the one that was included with the big Hello Kitty Instax set I bought on eBay yeeears ago: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Fujifilm-Instax-Multi-Lens-Hello-Kitty-for-Mini-7S-Close-Up-Self-Shot-Mirror-/221277514783?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item33852aec1f

      You can take out the inner ring that has the kaleidoscope effect and just take regular shots using the mirror for selfies too!

      I hope you found that helpful. ;A;

    4. Omg Thank you very much!!!


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