Japanese Culture: Lolita fashion

Lolita fashion – (ロリータ・ファッション Rorīta fasshon)

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Probably, those who have a romantic vein suspended in an undefined past, would like to be like a beautiful porcelain doll. Maybe they would like to have lovely dresses that would rival those of Marie Antoinette ad go to a dreamy Tea Party.

All this things are possible thanks to the Lolita phenomenon, one of the most famous and sophisticated Japanese trends. As a mix between Baroque and Victorian style, it is really appreciated in its home-country but is also known all around the world.

The name refers to, although it doesn’t celebrate, Vladimir Vladimirovič Nabokov’s novel, but this trend is not a tribute to a young and provocative sensuality. In fact, it represents beauty that hides innocence, the elegance in hiding more than showing. Moreover, the name ‘Lolita’ is a Wasei-eigo, a word that includes all those anglophone words that in their original language have a completely different meaning or don’t even exist, but that are part of the Japanese vocabulary.

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It’s not certain when this type of clothing was created. Some think in late 70’s, although it is true that it become popular by the end of the 90’s. This trend was greatly influenced by the musical genre of Visual Kei. It is no coincidence that this type of music is really theatrical not only in its sound but also in band members’ dresses too.

Exemplary are MALICE MIZERE partly thanks to their co-founder and leader of the band Mana (also called Mana-sama by his fans). In particular Mana influenced the “Gothic Lolita” also signing his own brand Moi-même-Moitié.

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Gothic Lolita and Sweet Lolita

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The Lolita Style is divided into two distinctive trends (also divided into many sub-styles) : The Gothic Lolita, maybe the most famous one, and the Sweet Lolita.

The GothLoli (ゴスロリ gosu rori): The Gothic Lolita as we said is probably the most famous type but its name is erroneously attributed to the whole genre. Black is the dominant color celebrated in all its possible shades. But it doesn’t disdain other dark colors like burgundy, dark blue, violet, and emerald green. These colors are often used in both cloth and make-up with heavy and dramatic smokey eyes and lipstick that stand out on the white powder. In fact, this is the only exception to the Lolita style in which this type of powder is used because in all the other styles a more natural look is preferred. The dense embroideries of the clothes are inspired by grim stories with their skulls; or religious themes with crosses (gothic crosses) used in jewelry too. Coffins are used as small purses and small black lacy umbrellas refine the outfit.

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The Aristocrat Style is one of the many sub-genres of the Gothloli but is more mature and somber, as its name suggests, purposely more “aristocrat” and very elegant.

Since the Gothic Lolita style is based on the Victorian Style, that as we remember is emblematic of the Gothic and the refined, we have to take notice of the similarity with the western steam-punk.

Ama-loli (甘ロリ ama rori) : the Sweet Lolita on the other hand prefers pastel colors and especially pink. The same goes with make-up here less dramatic, almost more natural. Nevertheless, it still remains an elaborate style, especially emphatic on the eyes with light shades of pink and fake eyelashes for doll-like eyes, as well as light nuances for the lips. This style too is inspired by the Victorian Age but even more it is influenced by French Rococo. This is a more ‘child-like’ lolita style, were ribbons and bows are dominant. The embroidery are inspired by the world of fairy tales, unicorns and small miniature french sweets like Macaron. They are jewels to show off together with small rucksacks with the shape of small bears or rabbits and the inspiring heroine is “Alice in wonderland”.

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Sub-genres and the Prince

The world of lolitas is various and elaborated, there are genres to suit every taste. The Wa Lolita is a mix between lolita clothes and traditional kimonos, with a Obi around the waist and the classic Geta as shoes; The Qi Lolita, that comes back to the Chinese style where instead of kimonos it modifies Chinese qípáo; The Sailor Lolita is based on the classic sailor uniform with its more elaborated variation; or the Pirate Lolita.

And if you think that the Lolita style is all “Sugar and cinnamon” we also have the Guro Lolita. Here lolitas are inspired by the horror genre with fake blood standing out on pure-white dresses to give the idea of broken porcelain dolls.

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But there are really a great number of examples we could speak about.
A particular note must be given to the Ōji (王子 prince) Style for all those that think that the lolita style is only a girl’s trend. The Prince style is based on models of clothes used by young Victorian Dandies, so here we have short trousers and knee socks. But this doesn’t mean it is a men-only style. If a girl would like to get close to the lolita world and wanted to have a more androgynous style this is the right choice for her.

Must-have, various Brands, animes and influence outside Japan.

There are some cult objects that every Lolita with this name must have in her wardrobe: the Cutsew, blouse with big blows and puff sleeves or the Petticoat, the undergarment used to give a larger shape to skirts and dresses.
For those who would like to know how can lolitas have such beautiful and thick hair… well you must know that it is a wig.
Lolitas embellish them with big ribbons and Bonnets too, the typical small hats used in the past, and this goes together with iconic shoes in a Mary Jane like style. Even if these shoes for kids come from the past century they are the shoes that every Lolita wears.

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Aside from that of Mana-sama, other popular brands are Angelic Pretty, e Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, this last one with boutiques not only in Tokyo but in Paris and San Francisco too.
We must say that the lolita fashion is very expensive, but there are Indie brands
as beautiful as the most famous one that are certainly less expensive. And in Japan there’s the possibility to buy lolita clothes in department stores too, or there are dedicated web sites that sell second or third hand clothes. In other words it is a style open to everyone.

The Lolita phenomenon found its way to many successful animes too.
Some examples are Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa better known as the ‘mother’ of Nana; Princess Princess, where the lolita fashion is seen through the eyes of three boys; Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, female and Noir version of the Portrait of Dorian Gray; and Rozen Maiden too, where the protagonists are precisely beautiful dolls.

As we said, Lolitas are famous not only in Japan but we can meet a great number of small communities from America to Europe.
Lolitas gather together in refined Tea Houses to celebrate the 5 o’clock tea with the class and the style that distinguishes them from any other trend.