Lolita fashion

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Two Gothic Lolita girls in Harajuku, Tokyo

Lolita fashion (ロリータ・ファッション Rorīta fasshon?) is a fashion subculture originating in Japan that is based on Victorian-era clothing, but the style has expanded greatly beyond Japan.[1] The Lolita look began primarily as one of modesty with a focus on quality in both material and manufacture of garments. The original silhouette is of a knee length skirt or dress with a "cupcake" shape assisted by petticoats, but has expanded into various types of garments including corsets and floor length skirts. Blouses, knee high socks or stockings and headdresses are also worn.[2] Lolita fashion has evolved into several different sub-styles and has a subculture that is present in many parts of the world.

Although many people point to Japan as the creator of the "Lolita fashion" and the Lolita trend, the origin of its meaning is complex, and remains unclear.[3] It is likely the movement started in the late 1970s when famous labels including Pink House, Milk and Pretty (later known as 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 Princess Princess coming into popularity at the time. These bands wore intricate costumes, which fans began adopting as their own style.[4] The style soon spread and ultimately reached Tokyo where it became popularized throughout Japanese youth culture. Today, Lolita fashion has gained global popularity and can be found even in department stores in Japan.

The term Lolita and sexuality[edit]

Lolita fashion is thought to have been partly created to react against the growing exposure of the body and skin in modern society. Adherents fight this with modesty, presenting themselves as "cute" or "elegant" rather than "sexy".[5] One follower of the Gothic Lolita fashion explained:

We certainly do not do this for the attention of men. Frequently, female sexuality is portrayed in a way that is palatable and accessible to men, and anything outside of that is intimidating. Something so unabashedly female is ultimately kind of scary – in fact, I consider it to be pretty confrontational. Dressing this way takes a certain kind of ownership of one's own sexuality that wearing expected or regular things just does not. It doesn't take a lot of moxie to put on a pencil skirt and flats. It's not, as some commentators have suggested, some sort of appeal to men's expectation that women should be childlike, or an attempt to pander to pedophiles. Pedophiles like little girls. They don't like grown women who happen to like dresses with cakes on them. I've never been hit on by a pedophile while in Lolita. We don't get into it because it is some sort of misplaced pedo complex or anything, and the objective isn't simply to emulate little girls, despite the name Lolita.[6]

Influence and popularity[edit]

Lolita was partly popularized by the more feminine visual kei (or "visual style") artists. Visual kei is a fashion among Japanese musicians (usually males), featuring make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes. Mana, the cross-dressing guitarist of the bands Malice Mizer and Moi dix Mois, is widely credited for having helped popularize Gothic Lolita. He coined the terms "Elegant Gothic Lolita" (EGL)[7] and "Elegant Gothic Aristocrat" (EGA) to describe the style of his own fashion label Moi-même-Moitié, which was founded in 1999 and quickly established itself as one of the most coveted brands of the Lolita scene.

Style types[edit]

Gothic Lolita[edit]

Gothic lolita, sometimes shortened to GothLoli (ゴスロリ gosu rori?), is a combination of the Gothic and Lolita fashion.[citation needed] The fashion originated in the late 1990s in Harajuku.[8]

Gothic Lolita fashion is characterized by darker make-up and clothing.[9] Red lipstick and smokey or neatly defined eyes, created using black eyeliner, are typical styles, although as with all Lolita sub-styles the look remains fairly natural.[10] Though Gothic make-up has been associated with a white-powdered face, this is usually considered poor taste within Lolita fashion circles.[11]

Brands which exemplify the Gothic lolita style include Atelier-Pierrot, Atelier Boz, Black Peace Now, h. NAOTO Blood and Moi-même-Moitié.

Elegant Gothic Lolita (EGL) and its masculine equivalent elegant Gothic aristocrat (EGA) are sub-styles of gothic lolita and of aristocrat fashion, championed by the visual kei rock musician Mana with his fashion label Moi-même-Moitié,[12] and influenced by steampunk fashion.

Sweet Lolita[edit]

Sweet Lolitas

Sweet Lolita, also known as ama-loli (甘ロリ ama rori?) in Japanese, is heavily influenced by Victorian and Edwardian clothing. Focusing on the fantasy aspects of Lolita, the Sweet Lolita style adopts the basic Lolita format and uses lighter colors and childlike motifs in its design.

Make-up 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 flesh-pink lipstick, is commonly used as well.

Outfits consist of pastels, fruit themes (e.g., cherries or strawberries, or any type of sugary fruit), flowers (e.g., roses, jasmines, lilies, cherry blossoms) lace, bows, animal themes (e.g., kittens, bunnies, puppies, unicorns) and ribbons to emphasize the cuteness of the design. Popular themes in the sweet Lolita are references to Alice in Wonderland, candy, and classic fairy tales. Jewellery 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 fruits, crowns, hearts, stars and stuffed animals.

Examples of 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[edit]

A Classic Lolita and an Aristocrat

Classic Lolita is a more mature style of Lolita that focuses on Regency and Victorian styles. Colors and patterns used in classic Lolita can be seen as somewhere between the Gothic looking 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.[13]

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[edit]

Punk Lolita on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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.[14] 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.

Other styles and themes[edit]

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.[15] Listed below are just a few examples of the smaller subtypes of Lolita fashion.

Princess Lolita[edit]

Hime (?), or "Princess", Lolita is characterized by a princess-style look based upon the European aristocratic style.[16][17] This typically includes a tiara and a rococo style bustle back skirt. The style is often credited as being influenced by the Hime Gyaru trend that boomed in the late 2000s.

Shiro & Kuro Lolita[edit]

Shiro Lolita, or "White Lolita", is a Lolita outfit made entirely of white, cream, or off-white co-ordinates, while its counterpart Kuro Lolita, or "Black Lolita", is an outfit made-up of entirely black co-ordinates. Shiro Lolitas often pair themselves with Kuro Lolitas in twin outfits to create an interesting contrast.

Shiro and Kuro Lolita can be taken from any style of Lolita, whether it be Gothic, Sweet, or Classic. If the co-ordination is completely white, then it is accepted as Shiro Lolita, while if it is entirely black it is accepted as Kuro.[18]

Ōji Lolita (Boystyle)[edit]

Ōji (王子?) or Ōji-sama (王子様?), meaning "prince", is a Japanese fashion that is considered the male version of lolita fashion. Some though do not consider it as lolita because it does not follow the typical lolita silhouette but instead takes its influence from the Victorian era of young boys.[19]

Ōji Includes blouses and shirts, knickerbockers and other styles of short trousers, knee high socks, top hats, and newsboy caps. The colors usually used are black, white, blue and burgundy, though there are feminine versions of the fashion with a broader palette. Good examples would be some of the outfits sold through Baby, the Stars Shine Bright's line Alice and the Pirates.

Though in Japan this fashion is typically referred to as ouji, outside of Japan it is common to hear it referred to as "Kodona".

Guro Lolita[edit]

Guro Lolita (Gore Lolita) is 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.

Sailor Lolita[edit]

The Sailor Lolita style is Lolita fashion that incorporates the look of a sailor. This can include sailor collars and ties, sailor hats, and stripes.

Also popular is the related substyle "pirate lolita" with a similar nautical theme – this usually incorporates a more elaborate dress, styled with treasure chest bags, tricorns and eyepatches. Jewelry is heavily featured. "Alice & the Pirates" (a sub-label produced by "Baby the Stars Shine Bright") is a clothing brand which is well known for its pirate-like aesthetic.

Wa Lolita[edit]

An example of Wa Lolita

Wa rori (和ロリ?), or Wa Lolita combines traditional Japanese clothing styles with the Lolita fashion. The prefix Wa in Wa Lolita comes from the kanji Wa (?), which means Japanese. Wa Lolita usually consists of kimono or hakama modified to fit with common Lolita garments. The bottom half of the garment is altered to accommodate a petticoat, or a kimono-style blouse is used as a top to accompany a plain Lolita skirt. Outerwear can include haori or adult-sized hifu-vests. The shoes and accessories used in this style are typical of traditional Japanese garb including kanzashi flowers, and geta, zori, or Okobo.

Casual Lolita[edit]

Casual Lolita is less of a style in and of itself but is used to describe a "toned down" approach to the lolita fashion. While the basic lolita elements are still adhered to, the key element in the casual lolita co-ordination is simplicity. An example being a simple cut-sew with a motif of some sort paired with a lolita skirt and hair accessory. Casual Lolita styles can be compiled out of any colors, so long as one remembers to match styles, colors and prints appropriately. Casual Lolita can best be described as what a Lolita would wear when not "dressing up": Still modest and elegant, but not to the degree of most other Lolita styles.

Outside Japan[edit]

A Classic Lolita in Stockholm, Sweden

Outside Japan, Lolita fashion, along with other Japanese cultural phenomena like cosplay, can be seen at anime conventions throughout North America (see Anime North), Europe, South America, Australia, and Asia. The style is not mass-marketed outside of Japan, though small stores have emerged. Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Angelic Pretty have stores in Paris and San Francisco[20]

Major brands, such as Metamorphose temps de fille, Angelic Pretty, h. Naoto, Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, and Moi-même-Moitié have recently shipped goods to the international market. Angelic Pretty[21][22][23] and h. naoto[24] created "pop up" boutiques at several anime conventions in 2012 across the United States. Angelic Pretty hosted a sold out tea party at Anime Central[25] on 29 April 2012 as well as fashion shows at anime conventions such as Animegacon in Las Vegas, Anime Expo in Los Angeles, and Anime Central in Chicago. h.naoto was at conventions such as Anime Weekend Atlanta, DragonCon, GenCon, and Anime Central.[26] AP had hosted a tea party at Anime Central in 2013.

There is a growing group of dedicated western Lolita fans who wear Lolita clothing on a semi-regular or even a day-to-day basis. Celebrity author Novala Takemoto, an important figure in Lolita culture, traveled to America in 2006 and remarked at a panel on the resourcefulness of western Lolitas, who often make or adapt their own clothing.[27][28] Outside of Japan there are numerous Lolita groups that come together to have tea parties, talk and have fun. Lolita magazines are available on the internet and at Japanese bookstores which deal in anime and manga.

Gothic & Lolita Bible[edit]

One magazine, the seasonally published Gothic & Lolita Bible, has played an instrumental role in promoting and standardizing the style. First published in early 2001,[29] the 100+ page magazine includes fashion tips, photos, sewing patterns, catalog descriptions, decorating ideas, and recipes. Tokyopop released an English-language version of the magazine in February 2008, but discontinued it after it failed to garner many sales.[30] The American version featured translated content from the original magazine alongside content from a small but growing group of Lolita designers from around the world such as Fanplusfriend, Blasphemina's Closet, Sweet Rococo, Ick by Industrialkitty, and Megan Maude.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

These lists display stories which have either characters wearing some form of Lolita fashion or character designs influenced by the fashion.

Manga and anime[edit]


Video games[edit]




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