I love Lolita fashion and subculture. And before you ask, it has nothing to do with the book. It’s a street fashion that started in Japan in the mid 90s (or arguably as early as the late 70s, early 80s) with the rise in popularity of Western Goth fashion and music in Japan. The style didn’t have a name until Japanese designers started to notice and emulate the clothes that teenagers were wearing, like many subcultures that started organically and then were packaged and resold. At the same time, rock stars and and bands started wearing frilly dresses and fancy clothes, and the style spread even more. No one knows who first started calling it “Lolita” but it’s one of those English words that the Japanese adopted to describe the growing fashion without understanding its context. They thought it sounded “cute” and appropriate to describe the look. The term was further popularized by the rock star, Mana, who started his own clothing brand in the late 90s and coined the terms “Elegant Gothic Lolita” and “Elegant Gothic Aristocrat” to describe his brand’s style, further popularizing “Lolita” to describe the look. Since then, the style has spread worldwide and Lolita fashion enthusiasts can be found almost anywhere, even outside of Japan.
For references and more information, here are some links: