Many people discovered the world of j-fashion during the pandemic through social media. Discord, Tiktok, Instagram, and other social media are great introductions to niche fashions, but they aren’t the only way to connect with people. There’s a lot of benefit with finding people in your local community who love the same fashion that you do. And as various communities begin to hold conventions or meet-ups again, it seems like a good idea to give some pointers for finding people in your area!
While I’ll be speaking more generally about local communities, I’ll also include some recommendations if you live in California (sorry friends in other places, I just don’t know your area that well.)
A quick word on making friends: the lolita community can seem somewhat closed off to outsiders. Private groups or Discords, questions required for membership into a group, and invite only groups exist because lolitas don’t want bad actors into their spaces. However, many people are happy to answer questions and guide newbies who want to know more the fashion. You don’t have to have a vast closet of Japanese brand or an encyclopedic knowledge of prints to be a lolita, but you should be able to demonstrate a genuine interest to gain access to these spaces. When you’re approaching people who you don’t know to ask about local lolita communities, remember “please” and “thank you”. Don’t be rude if they can’t or won’t answer you, people may have all kinds of reasons for not disclosing that information. Just thank them and keep looking.
While not everyone wants to use it, Facebook has functionality that makes it good for hosting an online community. If you aren’t already part of Rufflechat and Closet of Frills, those large groups are good places to start looking for your community. Both of those groups have a search function that will allow you to look for mentions of your city or area. If you find someone posting about events in your area, you may also have luck NICELY asking that person where you can find out about upcoming events.
Your local community may also have its own Facebook group. Try searching “your area lolitas” or “your area EGL” and see what comes up.
Southern California has many Facebook groups, including LA Lolitas, and Orange County Lolita Community. These are private groups, so you will need to be approved before you can join.
Discord servers are a little trickier to find if you don’t know where to look, but they offer a great space to connect with other people. Servers are sort of like a cross between old school forums and chat programs, with built in voicechat if that’s what you’re into. There are usually channels to talk about events, fashion, and slightly related topics, like gaming, music, or crafting. If you’re just dipping your toe into the Discord world, trying the BAK server or the newly created Rose Foret server. Both of these groups hosted online events over the past two years and are gearing up to host in person events as well. Though they are located in the western United States, there are people from all over the world in the chat and they may be able to point you to a group in your area.
While it’s slightly less search friendly, you may also be able to connect with people in your area on Instagram. If people tag themselves in locations in your area, you can NICELY ask them where to find out more about lolita meet-ups in your area. I find that this is particularly helpful for conventions (which we’ll talk about more in a bit). Some areas have an Instagram dedicated to their community, so try “your area lolita” or “your area EGL” and see what you find.
Lolita specific events
Lolita specific events do happen all over the world! These are a great way to meet lolitas in person. These events tend to attract people from all over, so if you aren’t close to one of these events, you may meet someone from your area!
In the United States, Royal Vegas Retreat hosted by the Pretty Princess Club took place in 2021 and will likely return in 2023. Paradiso: Symphonia in Missouri will take place in 2022. Check their websites or social media for more details.
Anime or comic conventions or Japanese cultural events can also be a way to find people in your area who are into j-fashion. Even if these events don’t have fashion specific panels or meet-ups, you may find clubs or people who are dressed up. If you see someone dressed up, a good opening line is always “I like your coordinate!” While it helps to be dressed up yourself, just knowing the right terminology to use will help other j-fashion enthusiasts know that you’re serious about joining their community.
Of course, if the event does have j-fashion specific content, definitely attend those events! Panelists are there to teach or entertain, and they’re often good people to ask about community with the local community.
In California, Anime Expo in Los Angeles has a j-fashion track that includes a Japanese fashion show that usually includes Metamorphose and H Naoto. Fanime in San Jose has a j-fashion track that includes independent designers from all over the world.
Disneyland Lolita Day has not happened since the pandemic began, but this annual event is open to anyone who comes to Disneyland in Anaheim on that day.
Harajuku Day in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles has been less active since the pandemic began but is planning on holding monthly meet-ups again. You can find them on Instagram at @harajukudayla for more details.
J-fashion or Kawaii shops
This one is a little bit more of a stretch because not all kawaii shops are created equal, but if you have a j-fashion store near you, stop by and see if they can help you. Shops that stock Japanese brands or independent artists will likely be connected to the local community, and will be able to let you know about events or conventions you can attend.
Pink Moon Atelier just opened in Bellflower, California.
Baby the Stars Shine Bright and Angelic Pretty in San Francisco hold events periodically, check their website and social media for details.
Kuro Shiro Kawaii in Texas hosts some events in their store and does send items for remote vending at other events. Check their website for more details.
Kei Collective in Arizona hosts workshops and events in their store. Check their website for details.