Harajuku Poupées: Lolita
This is the first installment of Plastic Candy’s brand new fashion-dedicated segment, Harajuku Poupées! Since this week the blog is entirely dedicated to Japanese urban culture, the spotlight is turned to the beautiful boys and girls who work so hard to reach their fabulous looks and flaunt them around Japanese streets. Today the Lolita fashion movement takes the stage!
Lolita, or Rorīta (ロリータ), is one of my favorite fashion movements because it’s such a unique, time-defying style that modernizes looks of the past by adding a bit of 21st century flair and Japanese extravagance to them. This movement specifically is very complex because of its numerous subcategories and I love how it appeals to various age groups as well (sometimes it even varies in gender, as some men also like to dress up in Lolita attire).
Even though the movement was created in Japan, it has heavier influences from European culture, most specifically from the Rococo (time period recognized as ‘late Baroque’, where the emotion and sentimentality of the Baroque era were channeled into more graceful forms of art) and Victorian (time period where fashion was marked by extremely elegant yet conservative garments. The popularization of lace also caused an effect on female fashion) eras. Nowadays, however, the movement has stretched far beyond these time periods and currently receives influences from other sources as well, including Japanese culture itself.
The popularization of the style has been taking place over time ever since it debuted, in the 70s, as famous Japanese fashion stores like Pink House, Milk and Angelic Pretty (as seen below) began selling garments that would be seen as Lolita.
Lolita fashion reached more momentum with time, and some idols also adhered to the movement, which helped it even further. An example of this would be the extravagant looks of some J-Rock bands such as Versailles (a group where one of its members, HIZAKI, is dressed up in female Lolita attire). Fangirls wanted to achieve the highly elaborate look of their idols, so they adhered to the movement as well. Nowadays, the access to Lolita fashion is a lot easier and can be located even in department stores within Japan.
The message behind this fashion movement serves as a bit of a protest. Most Lolita adhere to the movement so they don’t have to expose much skin and be pursued as sexy, but as elegant or cute. By dressing up modestly, they automatically serve as somewhat of a counterculture against nowadays’ sexualized culture.
Initially, the Lolita look was achieved by wearing modest yet elegant dresses that featured knee-high, puffy skirts supported by petticoats. The fabric and aesthetic quality were very important too since the elegant, vintage look Lolitas aimed for were hardly ever reached if the fabric wasn’t of appropriate quality. With time, however, this classic Lolita look became more flexible, and girls who aimed to become Lolita had more wiggle room when adhering to the movement, longer skirts (that sometimes go down to the floor), for instance, were incorporated within the Lolita wardrobe. Now it’s also very common to associate Lolitas to extravagant hats and bows, knee-high socks or stockings and blouses. Lolita fashion has spread itself through the globe, though the greatest number of supporters is still in Japan.
Styles of Lolita
Gothic and Lolita clothing are a maiden’s armor, which even a knight’s armor cannot compare to. A maiden’s lace is her steel. Her ribbons are chains. Her dress hat is her helmet, and she surreptitiously changes the blood that flows from her wounds into true rose petals. Thus, the maiden fights. After all, to live is to fight, and to become beautiful is to become stronger.
- Arika Takarano
There are so many styles of Lolita because it’s such a richly dense subculture that I could go on for days about, but I selected a few styles I know of and would like to try my best in describing them!
Gothic Lolita or GothLoli (ゴスロリ)
One of the most popular subcategories of Lolita, the gothic Lolita, is all about achieving a porcelain doll-like look with a little bit of a goth twist. Not to be confused with the Punk Lolita, which is a lot heavier on the rock n’ roll elements of plaid, chains and etc., Gothic Lolita are a romantic, somehow more Baroque take on Lolita fashion, characterized by their darker, smokier make-up and lipstick that varies between purple, black and red hues. Motifs such as crosses, bats and other gothic elements are very common among adherents of this style. In terms of pallet, they tend to be a lot more modest, mostly relying on black and white.
Sweet Lolita or ama-loli (甘ロリ)
Sweet Lolita are the adorable princess-like dolls that grace the Lolita fashion scene with their pink, girly fashionable selves. They are one of my favorite subtypes of Lolita simply because they’re so adorable, I feel like I would break them if I attempted to touch them. They really love anything that’s cute, often mixing mascots like Hello Kitty with their outfits and accessories. Very often Sweet Lolita will be sporting wavy or curly hair to enhance their cute porcelain doll look and strut down the streets of Japan with their dangling cellphone accessories and extravagant looks. This branch of Lolita focuses mostly on child-like motifs (flowers, fruit, cute animals) and represent the phantasmagorical side of Lolitas!
This branch of Lolita is a little bit more serious than the others, in a way. The word ‘classic’ may indicate a number of things, but in this case it means a type of Lolita that is more focused on a formal take of the fashion movement. With dresses that are simpler and mostly stripped of the abundant ruffles and decoration of the other branches, Classic Lolita is all about dressing elegantly and being ready for your daily life while still keeping that Lolita class and poise. Its sophistication allows it to work more with a sober pallet, some plaid, brown, or black, keeping itself basic and elegant, yet stylish.
Wa Lolita (和ロリ)
Wa Lolitas are an adorable hybrid between your well-known and loved Lolitas with a bit of Japanese flavor. The European-style dresses are replaced with a Lolita-like kimono or hakama. Mostly, what is preserved from the original Lolita garment are the petticoats, since the usual platform shoes are also often replaced for traditional Japanese geta, okobo or zori sandals. To add a touch of Asian delicacy, some girls like to add kanzashi flowers to their hair as well. This is an adorable branch of Lolita that doesn’t look as foreign to Japan as some of the others… I really like it when the garment is covered in Japanese-style print rather than something cute, but Wa Lolita offers more freedom in this aspect.
Kodona / Prince
The Kodona is mostly for the girls who feel uncomfortable in Lolita wardrobe and prefer wearing something more masculine. It’s one of the most striking branches of Lolita because it has a lot of different elements. For example, the girls adhering to it wear pants instead of skirts and other boyish accessories (such as vests, ties or suspenders) that are still coherent with the same time periods that inspire the Lolita movement. It’s a unisex style of Lolita, but it’s mostly worn by women.
It’s definitely pretty difficult to sum up a fashion movement, especially one as special as Lolita, since everyone can experiment with a lot of things and come up with a style of Lolita that may not fit into a single category but is still Lolita, but I hope I did a good job in this overview of this fabulous fashion statement!
I hope you enjoyed the first installment of Harajuku Poupées, if you would like to request any more Japanese fashion movements, let me know!