Subculture Spotlight: Lolita Fashion in Malaysia

Lolita is a form of street fashion which is inspired by Victorian, Edwardian and Rococo clothing. While Lolita originated from Japan in the 1970s, it has since become popular in countries all over the world, including Malaysia.

Malaysia is also home to a unique community of Lolitas known as Hijab Lolitas, who incorporate headscarves into Lolita fashion. Hijab Lolitas usually style their headscarves in the same way that other Lolitas might style their hair or wigs. The Hijab Lolita trend started in countries like the US, the UK and Egypt, before it became accepted by Malaysian Muslims around 2015.

A common misconception about Lolita is that it is a form of cosplay. However, unlike cosplayers, Lolitas do not wear costumes to imitate existing characters from video games or anime series. Instead, Lolita allows its wearers to express themselves through a specific Lolita substyle. These substyles include Sweet Lolita, Gothic, Classic, Hime, and many more. 

Now that we know a little bit more about Lolita, let’s explore the various Lolita substyles and get to know some of our local Lolitas!

Gothic Lolita

Gothic Lolita is a blend of the 80’s punk-rock aesthetic from the UK and Victorian Lolita from Japan. While this substyle can be traced back to the Harajuku street fashion scene, it did not become popular until the era of Visual Kei in Japanese Rock music, between the 90s and the 2000s.

In particular, the J-Rock band Malice Mizer is known for popularising Gothic Lolita through their guitarist, Mana. Mana is also the designer of a popular Gothic Lolita clothing brand, Moi-même-Moitié.

Featured Lolita: Nadia 

Nadia is wearing a one-piece dress from Flying Dance Steps, an indie Taobao brand. She decided to add an overskirt to balance her elegant and gothic vibes, as well as a corset to better showcase her silhouette. To suit the substyle of Gothic Lolita, Nadia also added on punk rock elements such as chains, leather pants and black platform boots.

Similarly, Nadia’s makeup is themed after punk rock. She feels that this kind of makeup suits her facial features and brings out the look of Gothic Lolita best. The overall dark-coloured goth coord represents how Nadia sometimes feels out of place everywhere she goes, but also how she is determined to stand out and own it nonetheless.

Classic Lolita

Classic Lolita is highly inspired by historical fashion, with common elements including flowers, old paintings, antiques, animals and crests. This substyle radiates the elegance of a Victorian lady, and can appear more mature than other Lolita styles.

While the exact history of the name “Classic Lolita” remains unknown, the term was most likely coined in the early 2000’s to differentiate the look from Sweet and Gothic Lolita. Famous Classic Lolita brands include Atelier Pierrot, Dear Celine, Haenuli and Innocent World.

Featured Lolita: Yan

For this look, Yan utilises a Quondam Snow Angel jumperskirt (JSK) from Surface Spell, which brings out her inner elegance without being too over-the-top or too understated. As she prefers for the audience to focus on the details of the dress, she has kept her accessories minimal, using only a bonnet and a parasol. Instead of wearing eye-catching hand accessories, Yan decided to get her nails done based on the design of the dress.

Old-School Lolita

Old-School Lolita is a style of Lolita that maintains the original vision of the Lolita fashion.  Despite its age, it is still frequently worn today and various brands still make special releases dedicated to it. A natural look is favoured here; wigs are not as common with Old-School Lolitas, unless they are of a more natural colour and style. Their makeup is often also very simple, natural, and fresh-looking.

The iconic headwear of an Old-School Lolita is the ribbon or headdress, while their legwear mainly consists of lace-topped knee-high socks or thigh socks, paired with platforms or chunky soled shoes. Their shoe colours are also almost always limited to either black or white.

Featured Lolita: Rai

Rai is wearing an Angelic Pretty Heart Pocket Frill. This JSK is able to stretch at the back, making it a go-to dress for Rai. For her headwear, Rai decided to put on a red ribbon hairband because she prefers simple and easy accessories, some of which she made herself. The look is completed with black shoes from Bodyline and white tight socks from Tutu Anna. The shoes’ 5cm heels make Rai feel confident while walking.  

Sweet Lolita

Sweet Lolita is all about looking cute and colourful, with a focus on pastel colours, ruffles and overall sweetness. The most common elements of Sweet Lolita are desserts, fruits, animals, berries, and the occasional fantasy accents. Their dresses also should not be too revealing, especially around the shoulder or cleavage area, in order to maintain a child-like look.

In general, Sweet Lolitas are usually surrounded by all things kawaii, with their accessories featuring cute designs of all shapes and sizes.

Featured Lolita: Alicelle

Alicelle was inspired to choose this dress because of its pastel pink, lavender and baby blue tones, as well as its adorable cat prints, which are her favourite amongst all other kinds of prints. Her dress and Katyusha (headwear) are Fantasy Castle by Moonlight Forest.

For finishing touches, lacing-print socks help to make the whole look cuter. As for her makeup, Alicelle chose to put on a cat liner and some decorations around her eyes. Her makeup look consists of pink-reddish tones and glitter, paired with red pinup lips.

Wa Lolita

Wa Lolita is a Lolita style that is inspired by Japanese traditional clothes such as the kimono. The print and details on Wa Lolita dresses are designed and applied in the same way as they would be on a kimono. Because of their unique design, these prints are often more costly and limited in production compared to other main Lolita substyles. When Lolita brands like Metamorphose (メタモルフォーゼ), make Wa Lolita, they tend to focus more on Japanese textile patterns and more subtle details.

Wa Lolita is often paired with more traditional Japanese hairstyles, accessories, and jewellery. Their legwear usually includes solid or subtly patterned over-the-knee socks or tights, paired with geta shoes or simple, classic Lolita shoes. Other famous brands that produce this substyle are Maxicimam, Royal Princess Alice, and Triple Fortune.

Featured Lolita: Alicia

Alicia’s dress is designed in a style that is based on the Taisho era in Japanese history. Therefore, the dress is being worn with a high collar blouse, a hat and high heels. Most of her accessories are black in colour, inspired by the gothic elements on her haori. Jewellery such as pearls are added to the coord to give it a more elegant look. Her makeup look mixes traditional Japanese and EGL (Elegant Gothic Lolita) makeup, featuring a red eyeshadow and red lipstick.

Qi Lolita

Qi Lolita is a style of Lolita that combines the traditional Chinese qipao with Lolita fashion. It is closely related to Han Lolita, which combines Lolita with Chinese hanfu. Common elements in this style include panelled or slit skirts, cheongsam-inspired high necks, frog fastenings and keyhole details; as well as patterns ranging from Chinese-inspired cotton prints, to more detailed brocades.

Qi Lolita is often paired with traditional Chinese hairstyles, accessories, and jewellery, as well as traditional Chinese shoes or classic Lolita shoes.

Featured Lolita: Honey

As a Hijab Lolita, Honey combines Chinese traditional wear, Muslim wear and Lolita fashion. Her dress has a unique feel that carries both an ancient and modern touch. Her hijab is styled to give the coord the vibes of Chinese traditional wear, while still maintaining the code of Muslim ladies’ wear. Bows and daisy pins are her go-to accessories to complete the look. 

Her makeup style is based on a natural Chinese makeup look, mixed with a Korean coral makeup style. To complete the coord, Honey chose to pair it with a traditional Chinese umbrella.

Guro Lolita

Guro Lolita or Gore Lolita is a substyle of Lolita that focuses on horror elements like blood, bruises, bandages, and eye patches, mixed with the cute and innocent look of Lolita fashion. This substyle often draws inspiration from imagery such as broken dolls and nurses.

This substyle is related to a fashion style known as Yami Kawaii, which can be roughly translated as “sick cute”. While Yami Kawaii isn’t part of Lolita fashion, both styles tap into the moodier side of pop culture. Both styles also use similar props and accessories, though Yami Kawaii often uses pastel colours while Guro Lolitas mostly use red, black and white.

Featured Lolita: Bibi

Another notable Hijab Lolita, Bibi chose a nurse theme for this outfit. She decided to style her hijab in twintails to maintain the cute look of the coord. Her look also includes dolly eye makeup with facial stitches, to balance both the cute and creepy sides of this style. Her props and accessories include a blood bag-inspired handbag, as well as a big syringe filled with blood.

Country Lolita

Country Lolita can be best described as what would happen if a Lolita grew up on a farm in the countryside. Common elements include straw hats, baskets, braided hair, flowers and parasols. Country Lolita dresses are often made out of cotton or linen, featuring natural colours and gingham, floral, animal or fruit prints. They tend towards simple, classic or sweet shoes and boots in neutral tones.

While their hair should be kept neat and clean, it does not need to be styled as formally as some other Lolita substyles. Common hairstyles include loose curls, waves and braids.

Featured Lolita: Ili

Ili wears a jumperskirt with a flower motif and a brown pair of shoes to bring up the look of a Country Lolita. She has kept her accessories minimal to suit the substyle, featuring a must-have straw hat from Axes Femme. Her hair is braided to give the look more of a Country Lolita vibe. Her natural hair colour and makeup look are perfect for this substyle as well. 

Casual Lolita

Casual Lolita is a term simply used to describe a Lolita outfit that has been toned down for more casual wear. While any style of Lolita can have a Casual Lolita counterpart, they usually steer away from the over-the-top styling that is more typical of Lolita, favouring cutsews over blouses, petticoats without a lot of poof, and minimal accessories and styling.

Many times, tee-shirts with cute, Lolita-appropriate prints are worn with Lolita skirts to make a Casual Lolita outfit. In short, this sub-style can be described as what a Lolita would wear when not ‘dressing up’.

Featured Lolita: Fuu 

Fuu has chosen a Classic Lolita JSK to coord up a Casual Lolita, paired with black pants and an ivory blouse, as well as a brown hijab and beret that match with the overall coord. As for her shoes, Fuu decided to go with black boots for more casual look. Her sling bag completes the whole look and is also practical for everyday outings. 

Sailor Lolita

As the name might suggest, Sailor Lolita features nautical elements like sailor collars, ship anchors, wheels and shells, along with headbows or sailor hats for headpieces. Though Sailor Lolitas’ main colours are dark blue and white, they sometimes add a touch of red to the style, such as by adding a red bow to their dress. For the makeup, a minimal touch suits this style best.

It’s also important to note that a school uniform skirt is not the same shape as a Sailor Lolita skirt, and so they are different and not interchangeable.

Featured Lolita: Alice

Alice’s dress is sponsored by Devilinspired, a global online retail destination for Lolita fashion enthusiasts. Devilinspired offers various kinds of Lolita Fashion, as well as other Japanese street fashion like Pastel Goth, Decora-kei, Otome-kei, JK uniforms, and many more. 

Alice also enjoys adding to or upgrading her Lolita dresses to better reflect her personal style. For this dress specifically, she decided to add on sleeves to suit her style of Hijab Lolita. The colour palette is neutralised with a grey hijab, black pants, and black shoes. Her coord is completed with a prop lifebuoy, which she decorated herself with a gill net made of cotton twine, some shells, and bows. 

We hope that this article has given you a glimpse into the world of Lolita fashion in Malaysia. With many more substyles out there to be discovered, it’s safe to say that once you step into the world of Lolita, you’ll never look back!

This article was contributed by the following members of the Malaysian Lolita community. Be sure to check out their links below if you want to learn more about Lolita!

Alice: @littleberrybum
Fuu: @missfukumi
Nadia: @nadiadzul
Yan: @zhanxiuyin 
Rai: @paulianawinter
Alicelle: @alicejag
Alicia: @alicia_kin_e
Honey: @honeystrawberry831
Bibi: @chibibie.chan
Ili: @littlemissili

Photographs courtesy of

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