Curious Trends


Harajuku style and gothic Lolita fashion

At the end of World War II, US soldiers and their families began to occupy the Harajuku area of Tokyo and it became the place where, according to Wikipedia, ‘curious young people flocked to experience a different culture.’ The Harajuku district is now home to a wide variety of small and unique shops and is frequented by fashion designers, models and photographers. It’s also home to some distinct ‘fashion tribes’, which are chiefly represented by the following styles:

Lolita fashion (nothing to do with the novel of the same name) first emerged in the 1980s in response to the music of the time, in particular British new wave and Japanese Visual Kei (visual style music).

Gothic Lolita or Goth Loli, popular amongst teenagers and young women, emerged in the 1990s. Gothic Lolita fashion is characterized by Edwardian-influenced elegant, monochromatic apparel and curiosity accessories - perhaps the occasional bat or crucifix shaped purse. The 'covered up' style is also a reaction against more skimpy and overtly sexualized Western fashions.

The Elegant Gothic Lolita (EGL) wears frilly, ruffled knee-length dresses with petticoats and head-bands.
Elegant Gothic Aristocrat (EGA) refers to a more subtle and refined dressing consisting of longer dresses and coats.
Top Japanese fashion designers have also adopted the neo-Victorian style and the bustle has been a regular feature on Tokyo catwalks - as seen in this photograph of a Yohji Yamamoto dress by Nick Knight.

 Well known current gothic Lolita designers include H Naoto, whose designs are based on the style of Victorian mourning wear.

Kawaii (cute) – the sweet Lolita look. Often featuring milk-maid style hats, parasols, frills and pastel or bright colours, this generally relates to someone wearing clothing that appears to be made for young children. Accessories include oversized toys or bags featuring anime characters.

Associated with this is Decora (Decoration), a Japanese style adopted mainly by young Japanese girls that incorporates bright colors and hair clips with bows. Lots of layering and colorful accessories are used in Decora. The accessories include plastic and furry toys and jewellery, clumped together as charms that make a noise as the wearer moves.

Probably the most curious sub-group of all is Guro Lolita, where young girls cover themselves in fake blood and accessorize with medical paraphernalia including masks, bandages and eye patches.

Ganguro and Kogal date from the early 1990s and became very popular amongst girls in their 20s around the turn of the millennium. The style consists of a deep tan combined with dyed hair that can be either bleached grey, silver or various shades of orange. Ganguro girls also wear white lipstick and eye shadow. Black ink is often used as an eyeliner along with false eyelashes, plastic face jewels and pearl powder. Ganguro girls wear brightly coloured clothes including miniskirts, tie-dyed sarongs and lots of jewellery. The most famous Ganguro girl was known as Buriteri - after the name of a black soy sauce.

Kodona or Ouji (Prince) is a more masculine style of dressing, even for girls.

Finally, Cosplay, or Costume Play is a form of dressing up in the manner of characters from manga, anime and video games that has become a hobby for many young people in Japan. This is a sub-culture rather like ‘steampunk’ with dedicated events, shops and there are even Cosplay cafes.

Whether you think they're weird or wonderful, the various types of Harajuku style and Cosplay are set to be big outside Japan and likely to arrive in a city near you very soon...

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