The Pure Maiden: Lifestyle Lolita to the Extreme

Lately I've been digging around old community posts, as well as archived older websites about the Lolita fashion, out of a sense of nostalgia and curiosity to see how the Western Lolita community has evolved from those dark days. When I say old, I do mean old, I'm talking posts and websites that either just passed their 10th birthday, or are soon to see one! Even back then there was still the idea of the Lifestyle Lolita, but of course, that wasn't a term coined until much later, but rather at the time the idea of the Lifestyle Lolita was a sort of nebulous half-formed idea of what it meant to be Lolita. Myself and some friends who were around at the time refer to this old school extreme Lifestyle Lolita as being a "Pure Maiden", a term inspired by the flowery musings (or ramblings, depending on your thoughts on the author) of Novala Takemoto that were published around that time.

The Pure Maiden was a far cry from today's Lifestyle Lolita, who's motto is often simply "Beautify your life!" and even quite a bit different than the Kamikaze Girls era Lifestyle Lolita, who was a self-professed Lolita princess. Rather, the Pure Maiden of times past was deeply invested in the Lolita aesthetic of the time, which had a very heavy emphasis on being doll-like and elegant, and was focused on making every aspect of her life as Lolita as possible. She wasn't exactly Lolita royalty, but instead was something more akin to a frail princess locked away in a tower, with nothing but the frills to keep her occupied.

"Traditional" Lifestyle Lolita activities were not just considered appropriate hobbies for Lolitas to take up, but were an absolute must and taken very seriously. Tea, dolls, reading, generally obsessing over Japan, and various Lolita-related creative endeavors were how the Pure Maiden whiled away her lonesome hours.

The Lolita Pure Maiden of long ago was a somewhat strange creature, I never could be sure if she was real, or an elaborate online persona adopted by many in a time where getting your hands on anything even remotely close to "authentic" Lolita was nearly impossible, so you sort of had to overcompensate in other aspects of your life to let people know you were serious about Lolita. But real or mythical, despite being the complete opposite of my daily Lolita life, she holds a special place in my heart as a symbol of the ultimate Lolita that one hoped to one day be when I was first getting into the fashion.
Pure Maiden Checklist
Are you a Pure Maiden at heart? A lonesome princess of your own heart with a lace cage wrapped around your melancholy soul? This handy check can help you tell if you are one, or set you on your way to becoming a Pure Maiden!
  • Always has a parasol ready for potential strolls, to protect your delicate skin from the sun.
  • Loves dolls in every way. Collects them, as well as takes beauty inspiration from them.
  • Have an air of mysteriousness and fragility around you.
  • A penchant for the poetic in your frequent public musings on what it means to be Lolita.
  • Adores Novala Takemoto and takes his essays to heart.
  • Has streak of melancholy or the morbid, often expressed through musical choices.
  • Gentle in manner and quiet in speech.
  • Prone to waxing nostalgic about a time long before you were born.
  • Thinks tea, a book, and classical music is the perfect company for the evening.
  • Has an array of flowing nightgowns, for when not in Lolita. 
  • Keeps an elegant boudoir. Complete with an antique vanity with a big mirror on top.
  • Sews your own Lolita accessories by hand.
  • Very interested in Japan and how Lolita is done over there.
Of course, this checklist is all in good fun, a bit tongue-in-cheek, and certainly not any standard by which a Lolita must live her life! Simply meant to illustrate the somewhat stricter standards that incredibly old school Lolitas claimed to live their lives by. By today's standards the the Pure Maiden is a bit extreme, to say the least, even for the most dedicated Lifestyle Lolita!

This extreme style may have been something more of a myth than reality, and not exactly suited for Lolitas living in the real world, but I find the sort of frivolous decadence that the Pure Maiden Lolita claimed to indulge charming and nostalgic. If you're interested in reading what would have been considered a Pure Maiden's bible, even in the days before the Gothic & Lolita Bibles were published, check out this page for some linked translations of some much older Novala Takemoto essays on living a maidenly life! Check out this sample from his essay, The Illusion of a Flowering Young Lady:
In a faded pastel world, where it's absurd to believe that the hearts of children are pure, a clown is shedding tears over the lack of imagination, and it is this which we must scorn.
After reading even just a couple of Takemoto's essays, it's not difficult to understand how fans of his back in the day decided to live their lives so fancifully.

What are your thoughts on the Lifestyle Lolita in general? If you consider yourself one are you part of this modern era of Lifestyle Lolitas who simply try to enjoy Lolita as much as possible and add some beauty to your life? Or do you live your lifestyle more like one of the fabled Pure Maidens?

30 comments:

  1. lol, it's funny that you made this post considering that I'm writing a story about a Lifestyle Lolita for NaNoWriMo (hoping to at least). Some of the items on the checklist I am having as part of my girl, but she's more Victorian/elegant/old fashioned as that is how she gets into Lolita in the first place and not so much into Japan/Novala Takemoto, along with other things that I consider a Lifestyle Lolita would do like playing musical instruments (violin, cello, piano), doing an elegant sport (ballet, ice skating, gymnastics), etc.

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  2. Not minding the tongue in cheek I am a tad worried of the fact that many of those things listed come in to my life quite easily. Admittedly I don't adore Novala Takemoto though acknowledge his writing skills. Maybe I have some "pure maiden" tendencies XD

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  3. I find a lot of Novala Takemoto's essays to be a bit extreme, but I do agree with some of his writings and find them to be very beautiful. I do consider myself to be in general a lifestyle Lolita (it is not possible for me to dress or indulge in Lolita every day at present while I'm in the US.. It's tough!), I enjoy tea and a good book and like to decorate my home with antiques and beautiful things, and am very interested in and charmed by old mannerisms.. I don't think I'm mysterious or fragile, though! Haha!

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  4. Same for me as the two above comments - Some tendencies, but not all of it. I'm definitely fond of tea, books, and classical music, and I think those things (or going to a play or something) are a much better use of an evening that, say, going to clubs or bars.
    I don't think there's anything wrong with being, or not being, any of it. As long as you do want you want with yourself, don't let anyone make you do otherwise, and aren't rude to other people for what they want to do... it's great to be whatever type of Lolita you want! etc.
    lol I wish I could get an antique vanity, that would be cool~ ^_^;

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  5. I've been living "the lifestyle" for a looong time, despite only owning two Lolita dresses and nearly no accessories. I took interest in Lolita because it so wonderfully paralleled my own developed interests.
    I identify more with the NeoVictorian/Retro Eccentric movement, since the Lolita subculture seems to center primarily around consumerism and I can't afford to be a Lolita.

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    1. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be rich to be a "Lolita". I know the stereotype is a brand-hoarding, snobby rich girl who uses Daddy's money to buy a closet full of $600 dresses, but that's really not what most of us are like. Anyone who wants to can wear Lolita. There are less-expensive brands, and sites where you can buy and sell gently-used Lolita items. You can also pull together great Lolita coordinates using primarily mainstream pieces. Or, if you really want a closet full of one-of-a-kind custom Lolita without spending much money, take a sewing class. All you need is patience, creativity, a sewing machine, and some pretty fabric to get you started.

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    2. lol Ironically I was doing embroidery as I was reading this.

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  6. People who go out of their way to identify themselves as lifestylers usually seem like tryhards to me trying to get loli cred and one up people who actually participate in the fashion. You can't have a fashion lifestyle without the clothes.

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  7. I actually grew up a tomboy and still very much am. I'm too rough around the edges to be a lifestyle loli - among other things I geocache, train dogs, and swear a lot. :) When I discovered loli about six years ago, though, I realized that I did indeed have some femininity in me and it's been screaming to get out! Since I have to make my own clothes (I'm 5'10 and like learning how to sew anyway) and am currently losing weight from an unfortunate medication I was on I'm putting as much loli in my lifestyle that I can. I've become keen on baking cupcakes and I'm trying to get some skin/beauty routines in place so it'll be easier to do them when I'm finally wearing the frills!

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  8. "People who go out of their way to identify themselves as lifestylers usually seem like tryhards to me trying to get loli cred and one up people who actually participate in the fashion. You can't have a fashion lifestyle without the clothes. "

    This is an unfortunate misconception. While they may be rare, there ARE people who live rather "Pure Maiden-esque" lifestyles without the aid of Lolita fashion (or just a few pieces of it in addition to other clothing that is not strictly Lolita, but Victorian/Edwardian inspired). Lolitas do not have a monopoly over lace, antique furniture, demure personalities, ballet classes, parasols, classical music, tea, historical musings, and lacy nightgowns.

    Some people are not enchanted with the modern world - they much prefer an older one - and see Lolita as a delightful and welcome subculture that is relatable, admirable, and enjoyable. If they wake up in the morning and think of the same things that a AP-clad Loli thinks of, why deny them the title of Lolita?

    Come out of your bubble, it's a big world out there!

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    1. I definitely agree with this and I feel that there is a distinction between those who refer to themselves as Lifestyle Lolitas, and those who live their life around this unnamed "Pure Maiden" style that may or may not involve actual Lolita clothes. Also, there are TONS of Lifestyle Lolitas out there who actually do wear Lolita on a very regular basis!

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    2. Well, If you want to be a lifestyle lolita it seems that one would really require the lolita part of that arrangement. However if one is interested in a "pure maiden" type life then it seems that the clothes are less a requirement. To be a lolita i do think that one must have some clothes though: brand or no brand. Otherwise it would be like walking into a goth club in kakis and expecting to fit in: even if you read Poe and write terrible poetry the people who also wear the clothes would still feel you didn't understand them.

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    3. While I adore the Quaintrelle lifestyle, I think price of upkeep for that lifestyle is much, much more costly than Lolita :D

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    4. Very well written. I totally agree ♡

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  9. Wow memories. This post reminds me of an amusing (I think) anecdote from years ago:

    It was the day before the Otakon lolita fashion show and myself and several lolitas were at a "tea party" and we were discussing what music I should pick for my models to walk to. Nearly across the board my lolita friends assumed I listened to classical music, which I actually generally dislike, preferring 80's new wave and synth-pop.

    I just found their imagining me as a "pure maiden" listening to harpsichord hilarious when i really bop about my sewing room dancing and singing to depeche mode and the cure!

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  10. I have always felt the "Pure Maiden" way more relatable than new Lifestyle Lolita today. But only more relatable. I'm not as extreme as the Pure Maiden. I'm not really even a maiden, just some introverted girl in occasional frills or Japanese punk inspired outfits.

    But this is really nostalgic. I remember how I really wanted to one day be "like a lolita" back in the day when I found lolita 9 years ago. I still strive to "be" a lolita, but I guess in a completely different sense than how it was when I first found the frills.

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    1. Yes, Pure Maiden is more relatable for me too. To be honest, quite a few of those items on the checklist suit me just fine, in or out of Lolita.

      Granted, I'm not a fan of Takemoto at all, but yeah.....

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  11. Oh my god, this is me. Or at least, it would be if I didn't also have a tendency to make dirty jokes and swear like a sailor. XD

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  12. I think it's silly to believe that there are some who dont believe there are people out there who behave traditionally even in this day and age. I wouldn't call myself the purest of maidens, but I do believe I do act like a maiden. I don't cuss, I don't act violent, I don't party\club\drink and I just simply don't enjoy this modern world. I'm extremely feminine and i don't even think I have a masculine trait in my body. Hiwever, there's some things that are unavoidable like modern transportation, clothes, technology, but I try to spice it and give it an old world charm if I can. I think it is possible to be a maiden to live in the real world if you have enough dedication for it and you truly enjoy it.

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  13. I hope I'm not the only one who finds Novala's ramblings close to sociopathic; himself being a male (yet NOT transgendered) and defining what feminism should be in his Princess Mind's Eye:a pure maiden is truly selfish and wicked at heart and naturally flourishes in solitude. (In which that trait was shown with Momoko from Kamikaze Girls, whom Novala professes, is his alter-ego)

    Really? Hmm I guess the woman Billy Joel sings about in "She's Always a Woman" is Takemoto's perfect example then... Or, did he base the ideals of his persona from the very lyrics? :p

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  14. I think i've checked almost every box. Everything but the Novala Takemoto writings - I never even heard of him before this post!
    I found it strange how many traits that completely apply to me, all but that one. I really do love this lifestyle♡

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  15. Feel need to say that I know at least three lifestyle oldschool lolitas who lives by your Pure Maiden guideline. One of them even lives by the Princess Code, which is funny, because she does not know it. I am from Czech Republic and here lolita fashion oscilate inbetween hardstyle oldschool habits and newstyle fashion choices. Quite unique environment probably. Many of Czech lolitas collect some kind of dolls and take fashion inspiration of them, but I doubt it has anything to do with lolita influence. It is more like some ladies who love dolls and their clothes somehow discovered lolita fashion and keep their collections of dolls. Nex

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  16. I find some of Takemoto's statements to be a bit... extreme and limiting. Of course, I find that my personality largely a study of contrasts, and that the many lifestyle Lolita traits I hold are tempered by my rather non-Loli interests. I collect dolls, I drink tea, I protect my skin with a parasol (not to stay pale but because I'm paranoid about skin cancer), listen to classical music, etc. I also love horror movies, and my taste in classical music tends toward the "Night on Bald Mountain" end of the spectrum.

    But, really, I think Takemoto lost me with the closing lines of "I Don't Need Things Like Friends" from 1998: "For me, my tv and potted plants are my close friends." Before that, I was able to pick and choose and romanticize the lifestyle. Now... I just can't. Can't take it seriously.

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  17. Thank you so much for this post! I am another long-term Lolita so I enjoyed the trip down memory lane!

    I do feel it is shame that these ideals are so often sneered at in the current Lolita community. Of course, even then most Lolitas did not go to these lengths, but it was much more common to see girls talk about being drawn to the fashion because they wanted to feel like fairytale princesses, regain the innocence of their childhood, or take pride in being feminine without making themselves into sexual objects. I sometimes wonder how many girls still secretly aspire to these ideals but are too embarassed to admit to it...

    Personally, I have always felt out of place in the modern world, and Lolita has always meant much more than just clothing to me. While Lolita is primarily fashion, I do believe that fashion (or any sort of design) is a visual language, capable of expressing principles such as femininity, innocence and harmony. Lolita has truly helped me to find myself, and get closer to becoming the person I have always wanted to be.

    However, although I still wear and love the fashion as much as ever, I now feel much more at home in Aristasia than I ever have in the Lolita community. I hope any other girls who feel the same way find what they are looking for as well!

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    1. This is exactly what I feel and I thank you for wording it far better than I could; also deep thanks for writing about Aristasia - I have never heard about it before and so far it seems to be a very interesting project.

      I, too, fell in love with the fashion due to the possibility of connecting with my childhood innocence and being a girl without being a sexual object; plus the whole concept of being sweet, nice and polite to people, the Lolita etiquette which is, as you have put it, so sneered upon today. Witnessing the sweet, polite 'Lolita maidens' in my then budding community turn slowly into the everyday cruel, foul-mouthed and drunk teenagers was rather painful.

      I shall strive to be a Pure Maiden for as long as I live:)

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  18. omg this is so me...


    xoxo Wengie
    www.wengie.com

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  19. I personally consider myself to be very close to the Pure Maiden, if not exactly one, even though I am just starting when it comes to clothing. Although Novala Takemoto's "I don't need things like friends" is a bit much... I WAS always a loner, but now I have a couple close friends who are very dear to me.... I don't think that makes me any less of a Pure Maiden. Otherwise I find Takemoto-sama's works to be beautiful and inspiring.

    As for the checklist, everything checks out except the antique vanity, although I would love one, I cannot afford it and I haven't the space in my small bedroom. I am also looking to find lace parasols, even though I do not have sensitive skin, I do not want to tan!

    Anyways, I find this post to be a good oppritunity to say this:

    I am currently looking for an online friend who is a lifestyle Lolita. I think it would be lovely to have a Lolita friend, no matter how un-maidenly it seems to do this, here is my email address: furbylady05@gmail.com

    Thank you, and good day,

    -Raven

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  20. I swear, every time I read your blog, I love it more and more!

    This article describes what I consider, and always have considered, to be true Lifestyle lolita. I adore the idea of a solitary princess, going about her frilly life in her quaint (if not slightly lonely) way, creating her own perfect space to slip away from the crazy modern world when she needs to. As someone who's not highly social, this kind of 'hidden-away' lolita lifestyle is appealing; when I say I aspire to someday go Lifestyle, what I've actually been talking about the whole time is becoming a Pure Maiden! I think there's a time and place for 'new-school' Lifestyle lolita, especially since it's a bit easier to achieve, but what I always wanted to be was something more akin to Momoko from Kamikaze Girls.

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  21. This is very interesting to read about. I have only been into lolita for eight years now, so it is cool to see what it was like "Back in the day" before 2006. I definitely think the idea of thelifestyle lolita, at least todays interpretation, very interesting and attractive for when I graduate school; however, I have not seen this older side. I think it's certainly an interesting idea. I may even read some of his essays just for the fun of it!

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  22. Sounds like a mixture of a Southern Belle and a Lolita. A real Southern belle does these types of things unconsciously, and it is extremely unbecoming to be less than polite or to be unfashionable or ill-prepared for guests. She speaks softly and respectfully, and femininely. She is the type of female that males do not swear around or, if they do, they apologize to. As a solitary figure and a Southern female living in a place where people are very t-shirt and jeans and women are less feminine and scorn such things more as time goes on, I respect this lifestyle because I live it, and because it is pure, feminine, and beautiful.

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