There’s a small “Lolita” fashion community in Singapore made up of about 100 members – and one of whom is a transgender individual.
Location sound recordist Kerraine, 36, told Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore during a recent interview that she had decided to come out as a transgender woman in 2016, the year she began her journey to becoming an avid fan of the kawaii and feminine cult fashion that originated in Japan.
Kerraine, who was born male and hasn’t gone through gender reassignment, bought her first Lolita-styled clothing in January 2016 from popular Chinese e-marketplace Taobao. Her first buy was a grey jumper skirt made of wool. Today, Kerraine, who shops at least twice a month, owns 20 pairs of tights, three over-the-knee socks, 11 jumper skirts, a one-piece dress, several hair wigs and a puffy petticoat that will give her that signature A-line or “cupcake” silhouette many Lolita fans aim for. The Lolita look is a combination of cute and elements of fashion from the Victorian and Rococo era.
“I love that it’s cute, it’s feminine and very modest-looking. For many Lolita dressing, the silhouette stands out the most and I like that,” gushed Kerraine, who also thinks that the Lolita look helps to add “curves” to her “skinny” figure.
Kerraine’s favourite Lolita styles include classic and sweet. Other styles available for Lolita fans to experiment with are, country, gothic, Wa-Loli (has elements of traditional Japanese fashion), Qi-Loli (has elements of traditional Chinese fashion) and steampunk, a style inspired by science fiction.
Members of the local Lolita fashion community attend meet-ups – commonly known as tea gatherings – during which members discuss outfits, styles and shopping, among others. However, due to her unpredictable working schedule, Kerraine hasn’t been able to participate much.
During some of these tea gatherings, members can also meet up to swap or give away clothing or accessories. For the ones organised by local event planner Haru House, members are encouraged to join “meet and swap” tea gatherings as a means to “cut wastage and save money on buying new stuff”, according to their Facebook page.
Lolita fashion can be a very expensive hobby, admits Kerraine, who was dressed in a classic-style Lolita fashion during this interview.
“I have spent so much in the last year just on clothes and accessories,” said Kerraine guiltily before she went on to take this reporter through the estimated cost of every single thing she was wearing – starting from her hair accessory.
“This is $20, the wig is $45, the blouse is $75, the jumper skirt is $350, the petticoat is $40, the tights $2 and the high-heeled leather boots $200,” said Kerraine.
Kerraine later whipped out her latest purchase, a pair of cupcake-themed high-heeled shoes from British brand Irregular Choice, which she pointed out was not a common brand for Lolita fans but it “shows that you don’t necessarily need to stick to popular Lolita brands to pull off the look”.
A number of popular Lolita brands Kerraine usually shops from are Mary Magdalene and Innocent World from Japan. She also checks out secondhand online marketplace Lace Market, where people can buy, sell or trade their items. For wigs, she prefers Taiwan-based brand Dream Holic.
“The ones made in the UK are usually of better quality. But it’s not uncommon for the items to be made in China. If you live in countries such as Singapore, where you won’t dress up as often, people are okay with things made from China, which tend to be more affordable, too,” explained Kerraine, who understands that Lolita fashion can be difficult if you’re on a tight budget. She would therefore loan out her items to other members of the community whenever she can.
It took Kerraine many years to gather her courage and embrace her true self. Being both a transgender individual and a fan of Lolita fashion can be demoralising for Kerraine due to the respective stigmas that society has on each of them.
Nevertheless, in January 2016, Kerraine decided to “free” herself.
“I’d been hiding for so many years and now that I’m in my 30s, I have a lot (of clothes) to catch up on,” said Kerraine, who remembered pinching her elder sister’s clothes and underthings when she was about 10 years old.
“I’m from a conservative Chinese family, and when my parents found out (about me taking my sister’s clothes) they were very angry. So, I knew that they would not be accepting of me and that I had to hide my true self so I could avoid quarrelling with them so much,” said the second of two siblings.
A set of Disney-themed stamps was the first item in her possession that the then 17-year-old Kerraine considered “cute”. About 12 years later, Kerraine discovered Lolita fashion in the form of cosplay while taking photos at a Cosplay festival in Singapore back in 2010.
“Many people think that Lolita fashion is cosplay, but that’s actually one of the biggest misconceptions. If you’re dressing up as a character from an anime that wears Lolita fashion, then yes, you can call that cosplaying. But if you’re not following any anime character, then you’re not cosplaying. You’re simply expressing yourself through Lolita fashion,” said Kerraine.
Today, Kerraine continues to live with a longstanding tension with her parents over her gender identity. And while she patiently waits for her parents to accept her for who she really is, she is glad that her sister and her children are coming to terms with it.
“My nephew once came up to me and asked why I was wearing a dress. I told him, ‘Because I can’.”
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