Lolita is a fashion subculture originating in Japan that is primarily influenced by Victorian clothing as well as costumes from the Rococo period. Lolita has made this into a unique fashion by adding Gothic and original design elements to the look. From this, Lolita fashion has evolved into several different sub styles and has created a devoted subculture in Japan. The Lolita look consists primarily of a knee length skirt or dress, headdress, blouse, petticoat, knee high socks or stockings and rocking horse or high heel/platform shoes. Although the origin of Lolita fashion is unclear, it is likely the movement started in the late 1970s when famous labels including Pink House, Milk and Angelic Pretty began selling clothes that would be considered “Lolita” by today’s standards. Shortly after that came Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, and Metamorphose temps de fille. In the 1990s, Lolita fashion became better recognized, with bands like Malice Mizer and other Visual Kei (or visual type) bands coming into popularity. These bands wore intricate costumes, which fans began adopting as their own style. The style soon spread from its origins in the Kansai region, and ultimately reached Tokyo where it became popularized throughout Japanese youth culture. Today, Lolita fashion has grown so much in popularity that it can be found even in department stores in Japan.
Gothic lolita, sometimes shortened to GothLoli (ゴスロリ, gosu rori), is a
combination of the Gothic and Lolita fashion. The fashion originated in
the late 1990s in Harajuku and was promoted by Visual Kei bands such as
Malice Mizer, which brought it to greater popularity amongst fans of
alternative street fashion and followers of the musical style. Gothic Lolita
fashion is characterized by a darker make-up and clothing. Red lipstick
and smokey or neatly defined eyes, created using black eyeliner, are
typical styles, although as with all Lolita substyles the look remains fairly
natural. Though Gothic make-up is associated with a white powdered
face, this is usually considered bad taste within the Lolita fashion. Gothic
Lolita usually uses dark color schemes including black, dark blues and
purples, although black and white remains popular. As with some Western
Gothic styles, cross jewelry and other religious symbols are also used
to accessorize the Gothic Lolita look. Other accessories in the Gothic Lolita
style include bags and purses which are often in shapes like bats, coffins, and crucifixes.
Mana, a Visual Kei artist known for dressing in the fashion, created a style of the
Gothic Lolita fashion which he calls “Elegant Gothic Lolita”, most connected
with the fashion label Moi-même-Moitié, which has grown to be very successful.
To describe the designs of his new label, he encouraged the use of the aforementioned
term Elegant Gothic Lolita (EGL) and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat (EGA).
Sweet Lolita, also known as ama-loli (甘ロリ, ama rori) in Japanese, is heavily
influenced by Rococo styles as well as Victorian and Edwardian clothing. Focusing on the
child and fantasy aspects of Lolita, the Sweet Lolita style adopts the basic Lolita
format and uses lighter colors and childlike motifs in its design. Makeup used in
sweet Lolita is common throughout most Lolita styles. Pink, Peach, or Pearl make
up styles are highly ‘sweet’ and used by many Sweet Lolitas. This look, paired with
a shade of bright pink, red or sometimes nude-pink lipstick, is commonly used as
well. Outfits consist of pastels, fruit themes (cherries or strawberries, or any type
of sugary fruit), flowers (roses, jasmines, lily, cherry blossoms) lace, bows, animal
themes (cats, bunnies, puppies) and ribbons to emphasize the cuteness of the
design. Popular themes in the sweet Lolita are references to Alice in Wonderland,
sweets, and classic fairy tales. Jewelry often reflects this fantasy theme.
Headdresses, bonnets and bows are a popular hair accessory to the sweet Lolita
look. Bags and purses usually have a princess-like design and often take the shape
of strawberries, crowns, hearts, and stuffed animals. Examples for Sweet Lolita brands
are Angelic Pretty, Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Metamorphose temps de fille. Emily Temple
cute (sister brand of Shirley Temple, a Japanese boutique), Jane Marple, and
MILK are brands that carry more clothing that would be considered more
casual, and are available to purchase at department
stores in Japan.
Classic Lolita is a more mature style of Lolita that focuses on
Baroque, Regency, and Rococo styles. Colors and patterns used
in classic Lolita can be seen as somewhere between the Gothic and
sweet styles; it is not as dark as Gothic Lolita, but not as cutesy as
sweet Lolita. This look can be seen as the more sophisticated, mature
Lolita style because of its use of small, intricate patterns, as well more
muted colors on the fabric and in the overall design. Designs containing a-lines,
as well as Empire waists are also used to add to the more mature look of
the classic style. Most classic Lolita outfits, however, still stick to the basic
Lolita silhouette. Shoes and accessories are less whimsical and more functional.
Jewelry with intricate designs is also common. The makeup used in classic Lolita
is often a more muted version of the sweet Lolita makeup, with an emphasis placed
on natural coloring. Classical Lolita brands include
Juliette et Justine, Innocent World,
Victorian Maiden, Triple Fortune,
and Mary Magdalene.
Punk Lolita (or Lolita Punk) adds punk fashion elements to Lolita fashion. Motifs that
are usually found in punk clothing, such as tattered fabric, ties, safety pins and
chains, screen-printed fabrics, plaids, and short, androgynous hairstyles
are incorporated into the Lolita look. The most popular garments are
blouses or cutsews and skirts, although dresses and jumper skirts
are also worn. Common footwear includes boots, Mary Janes
or oxfords with platforms. Common Punk Lolita brands are A+Lidel,
Putumayo, h. NAOTO and Na+H. Many of the Japanese punk Lolita
fashion brands take influence from London’s famous Camden Town Markets.
Vivienne Westwood, who, though not a Lolita designer, has items
and collections that reflect Lolita sensibilities, especially in her
Japanese collections, is popular in the punk Lolita scene.
Males have known to take up Punk Lolita fashion, and
as well as Victorian style Lolita fashion.
Because of the ‘do-it-yourself’ nature of Lolita fashion, many other themes have come out of the basic Lolita frame. These styles are often not as well known as the ones mentioned above, but they do showcase the creative nature of the Lolita fashion, and illustrate how people make the fashion their own. Listed below are just a few examples of the smaller subtypes of Lolita fashion:
- Wa Lolita or Wa rori (和ロリ), traditional Japanese clothing styles with the Lolita fashion.
- Qi Lolita , a similar style but uses Chinese clothing and accessories in place of Japanese.
- Ōji (王子) or Ōji-sama (王子様), meaning “prince”, is a Japanese fashion that is considered the male version of Lolita fashion. Worn by both sexes.
- Hime (姫), or “Princess,” Lolita is characterized by a princess-style look which typically includes a tiara and a bustle back skirt.
- Guro Lolita (Gore Lolita), the portrayal of a ‘broken doll’ or “Innocent Gore” by using items such as fake blood, make-up, and bandages to give the appearance of injury.
- and many many more.
Well this was the last part in our “Japanese Street Fashion” series, I thoroughly emjoyed doing the research & sharing this tiny obsession of my mine & my sisters. If you like this please comment & I will keep doing three part history series on international fashion. Give us feedback so we know what you like.