Sunday, September 12, 2021

No Comm, No Problem: How to Start Your Own Lolita Comm

While some lolitas are lucky enough to have access to a local pre-existing comm, some of us are not quite as blessed. However, just because there’s NOT an established comm doesn't mean there CAN’T be one. This also goes for reviving dead communities, as I know many lolitas go to search for their local comm only to discover it has been dead for years. 

Full disclaimer, I can’t promise that this will work for every community, but this is what has worked for mine.

Things to ask yourself

Is there an existing local comm?

If you’re not sure if there’s a comm in your area, check the directory. It’s also worth checking 
old livejournal masterlists to see if there’s a history of lolitas in your area. If you can find their social media it’s worth checking to see if they’re still there or if they’ve moved away.

If a comm already exists in your area, there’s no need to create a new one. I’ve seen many an offshoot comm formed by those displeased by their community’s pro-concrit and anti-repica stances and they’re always a disaster at best. Try hosting your own meets if you dislike the way others run theirs. 

If the comm exists and is dead, you can always try to revive it! If you notice any members that still participate in lolita, maybe try reaching out to them and seeing if they know of anyone else who might be interested in breathing some life back into the comm. 

Do you have the experience to run/form a comm?

If the answer is no, wait until you do. I’m not saying you have to have the best coordinates in the world, but as flight attendants say, “Put your mask on before helping others.” If you are just working on your first coord, wait until you have your feet underneath you. Remember that by forming this group, you’re taking on a role of responsibility and you want your comm members to respect you.

Forming the Comm

Analyze your location.

Is there potential for a comm? 

I’ll be honest, not all cities and towns are created equally. The larger the city, the higher the probability of other lolitas.  The higher the population of a given area, the more likely it is to have lolitas. Large cities often serve as a gathering place for lolitas from smaller surrounding towns to congregate. Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that small towns will have the lolita population required to sustain a comm. 

Is there a college in town? 

According to this survey by Raine Dragon (See the results here) 32.7% of lolitas are aged 18-24 - the age that most people attend college. College students - while not known for their abundance of disposable income - make up a significant portion of the community. Chances are, if there’s a college near you, there’s probably a few lolitas there as well.

Meet new friends to join the comm.

Look for local conventions or nerd-based events

Even if there’s no J-fashion programming, simply dressing up screams “I AM HERE!” and you act as a beacon for other lolitas (or potential lolitas). By some sheer dumb luck, I managed to meet three lolitas at my first full convention. While this wasn’t the first time I’d ever attended this specific con, it was the first time I’d ever seen other lolitas in town. I got their contact information and we kept in touch to plan the first meetup.

Wear the fashion as much as you can. 

I’m serious. Wear it any time you can. Wear it to go to the grocery store, classes, out for lunch, etc. I’ve met several members of my comm just by running errands in my coords. The easiest way to recognize another lolita is when they’re wearing it. Usakumya phone charms are subtle but nothing screams “I’M A LOLITA” louder than…wearing lolita. Recently I found out an acquaintance (and hopefully future friend and comm member) of mine decided to enroll in our college BECAUSE SHE SAW ME WALKING AROUND IN LOLITA. You can’t make that up. 

Get involved with other lolita communities. 

If you have other communities within travelling distance and the ability to travel, I cannot recommend this enough. Attend meets and make friends. Make it known where you’re from. Not everyone who attends meets is local to the comm they’re a part of. When I attend meets with my “big comms”, I travel anywhere from one to two hours just to make it to the meet. Ask your fellow frillies where they’re from! There’s a good chance at least one of them is from your area. 

You can also ask in online lolita communities! If you can’t attend meets, you can still post in local lolita facebook/discord groups. Before doing so, make sure to search to see if the question has been asked before. 

You have found people to join your what?

Establish a consistent line of contact. 

For most comms this is a Facebook page. Create a group where you will consistently post updates about meets and submit it to the lolita comm masterlist once your comm is large enough to publish.  Once your comm has more people, consider creating a discord server.

Start hosting meets!

Once you’ve got another member or two, it’s time to start hosting meets. I actually recommend starting to host meets as soon as possible.  The longer you wait to host a meet, the harder it will be to get people to attend. Even if it’s just a few people, it’s best to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. The first meet I hosted with my local comm was attended by three other lolitas. We met at a semi-local garden shop with a cafe that served high tea. Local cafes, gardens, parks, boba tea shops, and other areas make fantastic spots for meetups. My town is particularly bare of lolita-suitable restaurants, so we usually just hang out in the local downtown area and see where that takes us. Use the first meet to brainstorm with the other members. Come up with an idea of things you’d all like to do together. Get other members involved and find things that sound exciting for everyone.

After the first meet, immediately plan another. You want to keep the momentum you’ve started. Since my comm is still small, I try to aim for monthly meets so that the members aren’t overwhelmed. I find that a meet a month is typical for many small to medium sized communities. You want to keep your members invested without feeling overburdened with constant meetups. As the founder of a comm, it will be your job to host the majority of the meetups for the foreseeable future. 

Moving Forward

Now that you’ve got a comm, it’s time to work on retaining members. It’s important to foster a welcoming environment at meets so new members aren’t driven off due to cliques. While hanging out with your friends may seem harmless, it’s important to make sure everyone feels welcomed. 

Whenever a new lolita attends a meetup, make it a point to hang out with them for the day. 
Make sure they’re included in conversation and introduce them to the other members! While it’s true I would usually prefer to sit next to my best friend at the tea party, it’s more important newcomers feel included and welcomed at their first meet. If they have a good time they’ll probably be interested in future events.

Keep in contact! 

Out of all of the members in my comm, the ones I talk to the most outside of meets are the ones that are the most likely to attend meets. Reach out to members you haven’t seen in a while and invite them to upcoming meets. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone WANT you to attend meets.

Be considerate of when and where you’re planning meets. 

Keep things like temperature, weather forecasts, dietary restrictions, and physical accommodations in mind when choosing locations for meets. Ask beforehand about things like food allergies, vegan/vegetarian options, wheelchair accessibility, and other important info. It’s better to prepare in advance than to scramble for a benadryl when someone eats something they shouldn’t have.

Brainstorm CONSTANTLY 

Modding a comm is a LOT of work. I personally keep a list of interesting places for meets so I have events ready to go whenever I need them.  Don’t be afraid to brainstorm with your comm. Ask your fellow lolitas for ideas. Your comm is a valuable resource - use it! What do people want to do and when? 

Be flexible

Not all comms have access to cute and trendy cafes or tea shops. Learn to make the best of whatever you’ve got locally! My comm often hangs out in the local downtown area and grabs drinks at a small hipster cafe. It’s best to be flexible and learn to work with what you’ve got. 

Hopefully these tips will have you a budding comm in no time! Don’t be discouraged by slow growth - it takes time for communities to establish themselves. I believe in you!

Stay Sweet!
~Sugar Cube

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