Popular UK clothing chain John Lewis has yanked a child’s party dress from its website following outrage over the item’s provocative product name – “Lollita dress” – evoked the infamous Nabokov pedophilia novel by a similar name.
The “Chi Chi London Girls’ Lollita Party Dress” was marketed for children three to 11 years old for £50 ($66) on John Lewis’ website. It was described as “sure to become a partywear favorite” and said to feature “delicate metallic embroidery, scalloped edges and a chiffon skirt with tulle underlay that’s perfect for twirling on the dance floor.”
Parents of the young girls who’d theoretically be wearing the dress, however, weren’t moved by the description so much as by the name of the product itself, which is one letter off from ‘Lolita’, the classic Vladimir Nabokov novel detailing a forbidden pedophilic affair between an aging professor and his 12-year-old lust object Dolores Haze (“Lolita”), whom he grooms over the course of the narrative.
The name likely drew an even bigger reaction due to the ongoing sex-trafficking trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. She was allegedly the chief procurer for Jeffrey Epstein, the now-deceased convicted sex offender who infamously flew around in a private plane called the “Lolita Express” with a bevy of underage girls accompanying him to administer “erotic massages” and be lent out to his powerful friends.
Lolita also refers to a Japanese fashion subculture influenced by Victorian-era clothing, and sometimes referred to more specifically as “Elegant Gothic Lolita.”
TV presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell tweeted a photo of the listing (which has since been removed from John Lewis’ site) and asked her followers what the worst name for a children’s party dress could possibly be, showing the picture as if to answer the question.
The chain apologized “for the upset” through a spokesperson, noting it had removed the product from sale as soon as it was notified (though it’s not clear whether the notification came through social media coverage or direct contact).