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 and Edwardian 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 either a "cupcake" or "A-line" 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 origin of the term Lolita is uncertain, and not confirmed to be connected with Vladimir Nabokov's book Lolita. Wearers of Lolita argue that since the term originated in Japan, the unfortunate translation was lost by the creators, who wanted only to choose a cute name for a cute fashion. However, the pre-existing Japanese word "lolicon" (ロリコン), an abbreviation of the phrase "Lolita complex," explicitly derived from Nabokov's novel and denoting a sexual attraction to young girls by adult males, makes the connection highly likely. Nevertheless, Lolita fashion is claimed by some adherents 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". Although there are some Lolita inspired sub-fashions that are not considered modest, the focus of the fashion is meant to be, and Lolita itself is not meant to be confused with these sub-fashions.[5] One American 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.

Lolita styles[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, Alice and the pirates, 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 Lolitas photographed in 2005, wearing a style that as of 2016 would be considered old school

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, but accentuates the young, girly aspects not always found in darker, more mature styles like Gothic and Classic. Blush is often used, often more heavily than in other styles and in pink, peach shades. Eye makeup is bold and eyeshadow is often in pastels, commonly baby pink, mint, and lilac.

Outfits create a sweet image through the use of pastel colours, lace, bows and ribbons. Since the late 00s, dresses made of print fabric have become increasingly popular[13] and have been incorporated into OTT ("Over The Top") sweet Lolita outfits.[14] Popular print motifs include fruit such as cherries or strawberries, flowers, sugary desserts, and cute animals like kittens, bunnies and unicorns. References to Alice in Wonderland, candy, and classic fairy tales are also common, and 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 fruits, crowns, hearts, stars and stuffed animals.

Examples of Sweet Lolita brands are Angelic Pretty, Metamorphose temps de fille, and Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. 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 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 as more muted colors on the fabric and in the overall design.[15]

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.

Old school[edit]

Old school Lolita is the old (90’s, early 2000’s) version of any current sub-style of lolita fashion. (ex. sweet old school, Gothic old school). Old school lolita's Focus is more on lace, fabric and ruffle details rather than print details. Bows, chunky shoes, and lace-topped knee length socks are the most common. Most modern lolita regard this style as easy to mess up (poor quality lace, inappropriate hair etc.) so it is commonly discouraged amongst newcomers who may not have been involved in the fashion at the time of its popularity. Old school is visually very different to Modern lolita, so it is often referred to as a separate sub-style.

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

Kuro/Shiro Lolita[edit]

Kuro (?)/Shiro (?), meaning black and white is a type of Lolita fashion that is restricted by colors. Kuros will wear nothing but black clothing unlike Gothic which can have a mixture of gray, while shiros wear nothing but white. Shiro Lolita is hard to pull off as when it comes to eating food care must be at hand to avoid soiling.[citation needed] The two different styles of Lolitas often pair up in twin outfits.[17]

Hime Lolita[edit]

Hime (?), or "Princess", Lolita is characterized by a princess-style look based upon the European aristocratic style.[17][18] 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.

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 Japan it is common to hear it incorrectly referred to as "Kodona".


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.


This style stands out solely on the fact that men also wear female clothing Lolita, any style described above. It could be considered as a form of transvestism. The main exponents of this form are Novala Takemoto and Mana, also other artists like Hizaki and Kaya.

Outside Japan, there is controversy given the social perceptions that carries the dress according to the canon of the opposite gender, as prejudicially assume that such children are homosexuals. Needless to say, this form of Lolita is independent of any sexual orientation and gender identity can be, if so, ideologies or preferences you have are own unique style who use causes.

Clothing brands[edit]

Japanese brands that manufacture lolita clothing. Main brands are regarded as brands that have been around the longest and/or hold the highest value within the lolita community.

Main brands[edit]

Other brands/ Indie brands[edit]

  • Vierge Vampur
  • Chocochip Cookie
  • Enchantlic Enchantilly (intl. buying)
  • Heart E
  • Antique BeasT
  • Triple Fortune (abbr: 3F)
  • Atelier Boz / Lapin Agill (abbr: Boz)
  • Excentrique
  • Fanplusfriend / Neo-Ludwig (abbr: F+F)
  • Physical Drop
  • Millefleurs
  • Sheglit
  • Maxicimam
  • Miho Matsuda
  • Infanta
  • Pumpkin Cat
  • Classical Puppets
  • Dear Celine
  • Haenuli
  • Krad Lanrete
  • Lief

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. Many wearers of Lolita fashion, however, cannot stress enough that Lolita fashion is not cosplay. Although Lolita is perfectly acceptable to wear to conventions, it is not defined as cosplay. There are some characters that wear Lolita fashion, which would then be considered cosplay because they would be dressing like a specific character. However, Lolita itself is not cosplay. The style is not mass-marketed outside Japan, though small stores have emerged. Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Angelic Pretty both operate stores in Paris and San Francisco, and Baby, The Stars Shine Bright also has a shop in New York City.[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 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] They also have English volumes of the lolita bible.

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]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jimenez, Dabrali (26 September 2008). "A New Generation of Lolitas Makes a Fashion Statement". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Ishikawa, Katsuhiko, Gothic & Lolita, Phaidon, 2007, pp 13, 89, 93 et al.
  3. ^ Hardy Bernal, Kathryn Adele. "The Lolita Complex: a Japannese fashion subculture and its paradoxes". Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  4. ^ Ishikawa, Katsuhiko, Gothic & Lolita, Phaidon, 2007, p 1
  5. ^ "What Is Lolita". 
  6. ^ MacDonald, Heidi (1 October 2008). "A Gothic Lolita Speaks". The Beat. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
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  8. ^ [1] Archived 3 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Aoki, Deb. "Interview with the Editors of the Gothic and Lolita Bible". Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  10. ^ Anonymous (2002). "Gothic Lolita Hair and Make Up". Gothic & Lolita Bible. Nuuberuguu. 4: 79. 
  11. ^ Anonymous (2002). "Neo Gothic Style". Gothic & Lolita Bible. Nuuberuguu. 4: 81. 
  12. ^ Anonymous (2002). "Artist Brands: Part 1, Mana x Moi-mene-Moitie". Gothic & Lolita Bible. Nuuberguu. 4: 23. 
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  15. ^ Anonymous, "Neo Lolita Style", Gothic & Lolita Bible, vol 4, Nuuberuguu, 2002, pg 80
  16. ^ Saramaki, Rinna, "From Boring to Beautiful", La Vie en Rose, vol 2, pp. 21–24.
  17. ^ a b For Lolitas of All Styles. Lolita Fashion. Retrieved on 2010-03-24.
  18. ^ Kane, Yukari Itawari; Lisa Thomas (20 November 2008). "Japan's Latest Fashion Has Women Playing Princess for a Day". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  19. ^ Seagrave, Amber, "Style: Kodona", La Vie en rose, vol.2, p.18
  20. ^ "Shop List". Baby the Stars Shine Bright. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  21. ^ "Angelic Pretty Official Web Site". Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
  22. ^ "la_loligoth: Angelic Pretty at Anime Expo!!". 2012-06-28. Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
  23. ^ [2] Archived 25 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ "Events « h.NAOTO Official Web USA". Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
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  26. ^ "Events « h.NAOTO Official Web USA". Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
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  29. ^ ゴシック&ロリータバイブル (バウハウスMOOK): 本. Retrieved on 2010-03-24.
  30. ^ "Tokyopop to Ship Gothic & Lolita Bible in February". Anime News Network. 4 December 2007. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  31. ^ Martin, Theron (15 September 2005). "Petit Cossette DVD 1 – Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  32. ^ Bertschy, Zac (20 October 2005). "The Fall 2005 Anime Preview Guide". Anime News Network. Retrieved 10 March 2010. 
  33. ^ Brienza, Casey (15 January 2009). "Princess Princess DVD Complete Collection – Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  34. ^ Finnegan, Erin (19 July 2010). "Germ Theory – Shelf Life". Anime News Network. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  35. ^ Kimlinger, Carl (14 February 2007). "Moon Phase DVD 3". Anime News Network. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  36. ^ MArtin, Theron (5 October 2011). "Oreimo Complete Limited Edition DVD Box". Anime News Network. Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  37. ^ Martin, Theron (7 July 2011). "Gosick – Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
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  39. ^ a b Muray, Laurel (5 February 2008). "Lolita Culture: An Introduction". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  40. ^ Thompson, Jason (4 December 2009). "365 Days of Manga, Day 80: IC in a Sunflower". Suvudu. Retrieved 10 March 2010. 
  41. ^ Cha, Kai-Ming (27 September 2005). "Sweet and Sour in a Frilly Dress: Gothic Lolita Hits the U.S.". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  42. ^ "Takeshi Obata Production Note: Characters". Death Note: How to Read 13. VIZ Media. 127.
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