Ella has always had a bit of a difficult time deciding what to be for Halloween. Whereas Annie can just jump onto the first idea that pops into her head, Ella prefers to take her time and weigh her options very, very carefully (not unlike when I took them to the dollar store). Over the summer, the girls talked about being a team, with Ella being a baker and Annie being the oven with a cake inside of it. Cute, cheap, and clever, until Ella decided that she would “feel stupid” walking around for the school’s Halloween parade wearing a chef’s hat.
Because it’s one thing to enjoy being a baker while begging for candy under the cover of darkness, but it’s quite another to actually have people see you in broad daylight. Such is your dilemma when you’re eight.
Next, Ella was determined to be Missy Franklin, the highly-decorated Olympic swimmer from the 2012 games. Having become fully immersed in the world of the swim team, she and one of her best friends thought it would be grand to strut around the school parade in their bathing suits and swim goggles and caps (with a weather-appropriate warm-up suit for cover, naturally), gold medals dangling from necks. I was all for it, considering that we already had the accoutrements, and I thought it was pretty cool that she wanted be a kick-ass female role model for Halloween. When Ella was informed, however, that she wouldn’t actually be trick-or-treating with said friend — and would have to go solo as Missy — she dismissed that idea, too.
Because it’s one thing to waltz around the school parking lot in your Sharks swim suit with your BFF at your side, but it’s quite another to actually wear lycra all by yourself on Halloween night. Such is your dilemma when you’re eight.
At last, Ella arrived on her (final) costume of choice: an ice witch.
Because of course.
What is an ice witch? SO GLAD YOU ASKED. Well, to begin with, it’s a witch – but not just any witch. See, Ella has been a witch of various iterations on at least two previous Halloweens, so she certainly didn’t want to just repeat that this year. Nor – naturally – could she incorporate any elements of her previous costumes into this year’s outfit.
Which makes sense, because an ice witch – or, at least, Ella’s vision of an ice witch – doesn’t just slap on any old black dress and pointy hat and call it a day. No, an ice witch’s dress has a black top (long-sleeved) and a jagged bottom. But not regular jagged — irregular jagged, with asymmetrical triangles pointed downward and then sticking out just so. It is also not just a single layer – no simply cutting a piece black fabric into triangular points – but is multi-tiered, with each triangle layered on top of another. But staggered. It must fall below the knee, but not all the way to her calf, and not just touching her knee. Below it. Slightly. The jagged points, below.
And then we’d attach icicles to it and it would magically transform itself into an ice witch costume. DUH.
We scoured every corner of the internet for such a dress, Googling every combination of words I could think of. Child’s witch costume. Long-sleeved black dress. Jagged witch costume. Layered witch dress. Raggedy black dress. Black pointy witch dress. Long-sleeved black witch dress with jagged tiered triangles at the bottom.
The internet was empty. THE ENTIRE INTERNET WAS EMPTY. Such a dress simply did not exist, and there was just no way that I could make one. To say that Ella took the news well would be
sarcasm outright lying. Many tears were shed; many feet were stomped and many doors were slammed. Perhaps we could find a skirt and then pair it with a black top? What about a regular witch costume that we could jazz up? Maybe an ice witch just isn’t in the cards this year? No, no, NO. She swore angrily through her tears that I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand her vision. Why was this so complicated??
To be honest, I didn’t know. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t find the perfect dress for an ice witch, but I couldn’t. We searched for WEEKS – in and out of stores and online – and could find absolutely NOTHING that met the description. It simply didn’t exist. She was heartbroken, and although I was exhausted, I was pretty bummed to see her so sad.
And then, completely by happenstance while I was scrolling, blurry-eyed, through a page of Google images of possible (wrong) dresses, I spotted one that looked somewhat similar to Ella’s vision… so I clicked on it… And found myself in a world I didn’t even know existed.
The world of the Gothic Lolita dresses.
What? You’re unfamiliar with the Gothic Lolita culture? LET ME INTRODUCE YOU.
According to the Wiki page, “Lolita is a fashion subculture originating in Japan that is based on Victorian-era clothing…” It is not, so says Wiki, an attempt to dress sexually to attract older men (as the “Lolita” name might suggest), but really the opposite — a rebellion against over-sexualization, where the wearers revert back to more modest styles that make them feel empowered.
The “Gothic Lolita” style combines Lolita clothing with, you know, Goth (albeit generally without the pale-faced makeup and dark lips and eyes). Colloquially, it’s also called GothLoli. OBVIOUSLY.
So, okay. I get that the entire point of this subculture is to dress more modestly, to cover oneself up quite dramatically, and to be “elegant” and “innocent” rather than “sexy.” And a lot of the dresses that appeared in my search did, indeed, support these claims.
Like this one. Full coverage, FTW!
Or this Victorian delight.
But don’t you think the sleeves would get dirty while you ate? Could you really ride a bike wearing this? Or update your Facebook status? Perhaps it’s a bit impractical…
Others… not so much.
“Devil inspired” indeed.
SO EXACTLY how I envisioned my third-grader in the Halloween parade.
I’m not sure that this is what Nabokov envisioned, but do they resemble nymphettes or what?!
Because I wasn’t particularly interested in the Gothic Lolita subculture as much as I was in simply finding a damn black dress with a jagged bottom, I wasn’t exactly poring over sites filled with historical references and images of exceptionally modestly-clad Japanese schoolgirls. Indeed, the American sites seem to focus as much on the literary Lolita references as the fashion Lolita references, filling my computer screen with images that eerily resembled the ones I discovered while trying to find out just exactly what was going on in Fifty Shades of Grey.
I had to erase my computer cache at least three times and also maybe say a few novenas. And I’m not even Catholic.
At long last, I found this dress on Amazon – one matched Ella’s description as closely as possible – and placed the order, texting an immediate apology and explanation to Nick (who, because we share an Amazon account — Prime, of course, holla! — would receive confirmation of the order on his cell phone).
So, okay, it doesn’t have long sleeves, but the skirt is oh-so-jagged.
Not pictured: the black fingerless lace gloves that came with the dress, like Madonna would have worn in her Gothic Lolita days.
Nick was really pleased to learn that such an “elegant” and “innocent” item would be arriving in the mail. For our eight year-old. Because nothing says “innocent” more than something that is CALLING ITSELF INNOCENT. And also has fingerless black lace gloves.
Nick was even more pleased to discover that the above dress was being shipped from China, and was not slated to arrive until November 7th. Which, for those of you playing along at home, is a full week after Halloween.
And so I decided that we’d return the original dress when it finally arrived, and quickly ordered a second Gothic Lolita dress, this time from California.
Again, no long sleeves… but the jagged skirt is just perfection, no?
The second dress was able to be rush-shipped, and arrived last Thursday. The first dress – the one from China that was scheduled to arrive on November 7th – arrived on Friday.
Meaning that we are currently the owners of not one but TWO Gothic Lolita dresses.
Ella decided that she preferred the second dress – it fit her a little better (it’s amazing how corset strings can really cinch you in!), and because the lacy halter top is capable of being untied (“innocent”!!), it also is easy to take on and off. (No worries, though; she’s wearing a black shirt underneath, because an ice witch costume absolutely requires long black sleeves, COME ON, MOM. How I ever obtained a Masters Degree is beyond her.)
There were still more tears when it was discovered that the plastic icicles we’d ordered on Amazon were only about 1.5″ long, rather than the dagger-like 6″ Ella had envisioned… But when I finally found some longer icicles at Michaels and Ella realized that she could drape the shorter icicles from her earrings to create the illusion of dangly earrings (something she’s not allowed to wear yet), she was officially in ice witch heaven.
To the right is her ice wand and her ice witch hat, complete with icicle garland hanging off the brim. Annie commented that, because the hat contains a large square buckle, it looks a bit like something a Pilgrim would wear. Personally, I think that the dangling icicles give it a slight sombrero feel, but whatever. It’s art, people.
The (properly long) icicles were easily attached to the bottom of the “elegant” dress with some black thread, and Ella cut a length of the icicle garland and glued the ends together to create an icicle necklace. Those, along with the icy earrings, icicle hat, her wand, some sparkly black leggings, and a pair of black heels that I’d never normally allow her to wear out of the house (unless she was in a Nabakov production) have completed her look. She IS an ice witch, y’all. Just like she’d said.
With the icicles sewn to the bottom of the dress, it looks a bit less Nymphette and a bit more Gothic Elf, which has helped Nick (and me) breathe a sigh of relief. The other dress is back in its packaging, awaiting a return trip to China.
In the meantime, I half expect every knock at the door to be from CPS. If the German Chancellor can be monitored, who knows who’s seen my computer searches.
November 1st cannot come soon enough.