“I saw a girl dressed as a Lolita and thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen,” Ms. Ramos said. “She was wearing a pair of rocking-horse ballerina shoes, and I had never seen anything like them before. I was fascinated that you could walk with your heel missing.”
While the term Lolita is usually associated with Vladimir Nabokov’s ground-breaking novel “Lolita,” about a 12-year-old temptress, these Lolitas insist there is no connection between them and their namesake.
“We share the same name,” said Amber Rutland, 18, of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Ms. Rutland, a student of City-as-School, an alternative high school, is an active member of the city’s Lolita community, whose numbers are elusive. She added: “Our Lolita is an elegant young girl inspired by Victorian or Rococo times. They aspire to create a sense of nobility.”
The style, which emerged from the Japanese street fashion scene in the 1990s, has many incarnations and subsects, among them Elegant Gothic Lolitas, Erotic Lolitas, Gory Lolitas, Sweet Lolitas and White Lolitas. While some practitioners veer toward the goth influence with inky black garb, others emphasize what they describe as “cuteness” expressed through pastel colors and pretty bows.
In New York, Sweet Lolitas are especially popular. “It is the most childlike of the looks,” Ms. Rutland said. “A lot of the prints are fruits and sweets or cute animals.”
Frilly skirts with petticoats, baby-doll dresses, bloomers, corsets and high-necked, ruffled shirts are all part of the style, and no look is complete without a parasol, a headdress, a handbag or the perfect pair of Mary Janes. Fine lace and demure cuts emphasize the overarching preference for modesty.
For many young women, being a Lolita is more than a way of dress. It is a state of mind, a way to live even when not dressed as a Lolita. As Ms. Ramos summed it up, “For me, Lolita is rebellion."