Lolita Chic

Quite haunting.

I took this picture while wandering through the completely desolate shopping district of Den Haag at two in the morning. The city is smaller than you would imagine the capital of a country to be, not to mention the world’s capital of human rights. It lays claim to the Dutch Parliament, the Royal Palaces, and the International Criminal Court. During the days it is a bustling hub of activity, although once the sun goes down, the city goes quiet- save for a few disparate coffee shops and bars. Think of it as the Washington DC of the Netherlands.

Nestled in between all of these governmental buildings and wide avenues is a stunning outdoor mall. Several long,  winding streets paved with white tiles twist around each other, creating a maze for the consumer. What starts as a brief detour to admire the beautiful light that filters through the arches overhead invariably turns into a 2 hour flight of fancy amongst haute couture outlets, innumerable jewelers and pricey chocolate shops. You really feel as if you are in heaven.The senses become focused and refined as they acclimate to the opulent beauty.The strong sunlight melts the white walls into the white tiles of the street. Smells of leather and chocolate float around you. Everyone is beautiful and wide eyed, window shopping with their hands politely behind their back- avoiding employees like they were sirens who would beckon them to hand over their wallets. Staccato clicks of high heels skate above the low, impressed murmur of the masses. This is just during the day, however.

At night, the streets are transformed into a haunted twilight zone. Sunlight is replaced with moonlight, which makes the pavement glow eerily. Cages are pulled over the doors to the shops, amplifying a feeling of rejection. You shouldn’t be here now- this is a hidden world, meant to be secret. The lonely streets seem to make the mannequins in the window a little bit more alive. You could swear that one swiveled their plastic head in the corner of your eye. But, when you turn your head to look, they just stare vacantly back, grinning sensually. Their bodies carry an unfulfilled momentum.

It is in these streets that I found this mannequin girl. She stands naked in the center of a ring of stuffed animals. I was embarrassed to be alone on the street with her. I tried to avert my eyes. But it was such a striking image, I summoned up the courage to take a picture- at the risk of being labeled a pervert. But behold: the glorious symbolism! I didn’t even have to try! Superimposed over her body are the names of designers, etched into the window- her only hope for modesty. But they don’t do a very good job at covering her nudity, and this is acceptable. Ralph Lauren, Mr. McGregor, Tommy Hilfiger, Replay and all of his Sons have worked hard to make it alright to look at this girl in such a way. Seeing their names before her reassures us- they’ve sanctioned her as an object of beauty and desire.

Are these all of the different brands of clothes she has worn? She would be very lucky to have this wardrobe. Perhaps it isn’t so bad to be a mannequin. Forever plastic, forever beautiful. Her breasts will never sag, and she will never see a spider vein. She never has to shave or paint her nails. Her lips are permanently lipsticked. By morning she would be dressed in a different, fun outfit, made to be decent before the gawkers outside.

Here are a few more pictures from that night in Den Haag.




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