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 Victoria and Edwardian clothing, but the style has expanded greatly beyond Japan.
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. 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. It is likely the movement started in the late 1970's 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. 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
The term Lolita is generally accepted to not 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. 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". One follower of the Gothic Lolita fashion explained:
Influence and popularity
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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) 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.
Gothic lolita, sometimes shortened to GothLoli (ゴスロリ gosu rori?), is a combination of the Gothic and Lolita fashion. The fashion originated in the late 1990s in Harajuku.
Gothic Lolita fashion is characterized by darker make-up and clothing. 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. Though Gothic make-up has been associated with a white-powdered face, this is usually considered poor taste within Lolita fashion circles.
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, and influenced by steampunk fashion.
Sweet Lolita, also known as ama-loli (甘ロリ ama rori?) in Japanese, is heavily influenced by Victorian and Edwardian clothing, and is one of the most easily recognizable of all Lolita fashions. 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 then 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 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, dessert themes (e.g., cakes, ice cream, puddings), 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. 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, 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 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.
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 lolita
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. Old school lolita is still frequently worn in this day and age, much to the delight of nostalgic veterans.
Other styles and themes
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. Listed below are just a few examples of the smaller subtypes of Lolita fashion.
Hime (姫?), or "Princess", Lolita is characterized by a princess-style look based upon the European aristocratic style. 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)
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.
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 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.
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.
- Angelic Pretty (abbr: AP)
- Atelier Pierrot
- Baby, the Stars Shine Bright/Alice and the Pirates (usa site) (abbr: BtSSB/AatP)
- Innocent World (abbr: IW)
- Juliette et Justine (abbr. JetJ)
- Mary Magdalene (abbr: MM)
- Metamorphose temps de fille (abbr: Meta)
- Moi-Même-Moitié (intl. buying) (abbr: MMM or Moitié)
- Victorian Maiden/Beth (abbr: VM)
Other brands/ Indie brands
- Vierge Vampur
- Chocochip Cookie
- Enchantlic Enchantilly (intl. buying)
- Heart E
- Antique BeasT
- Triple Fortune (abbr: 3F)
- Atelier Boz / Lapin Agill (abbr: Boz)
- Fanplusfriend / Neo-Ludwig (abbr: F+F)
- Physical Drop
- Miho Matsuda
- Pumpkin Cat
- Classical Puppets
- Dear Celine
- Krad Lanrete
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 both operate stores in Paris and San Francisco, and Baby, The Stars Shine Bright also has a shop in New York City.
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 and h. naoto 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 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. 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. 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
One magazine, the seasonally published Gothic & Lolita Bible, has played an instrumental role in promoting and standardizing the style. First published in early 2001, 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. 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. They also have English volumes of the lolita bible
In popular culture
These lists display stories which have either characters wearing some form of Lolita fashion or character designs influenced by the fashion.
Manga and anime
- Le Portrait de Petit Cossette
- Paradise Kiss
- Princess Princess
- Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase
- Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (the character "Kuroneko" in particular)
- The Wallflower - The Goth-Loli Sisters are recurring characters in the anime adaptation.
- Rozen Maiden
- IC in a Sunflower
- The Embalmer
- Death Note - Misa Amane, using the gothic lolita design to convey "gothic imagery of the Shinigami and that world".
- Kamikaze Girls
- Touhou Project
- Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection
- Tekken 6
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
- Soulcalibur IV
- Soulcalibur V
- No More Heroes and its sequel No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
- Many games in the visual novel, dating sim and bishōjo game genres
- Style Savvy
- Rusty Hearts
- The World Ends With You, where a large component of the game is based on fashion in Japan
- Gothic & Lolita Psycho
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - The character Agitha wears butterfly themed Lolita clothing
- "Gothic Lolita Dress Up" by Hatsune Miku
- "Lolita Work Libretto" by Kanon Wakeshima
- "Kyomu Densen" by Ali Project
- "Michievous of Alice" by Yousei Teikoku
- "Suna no Oshiro" by Kanon Wakeshima
- "Still Doll" by Kanon Wakeshima
- "Gothic Lolita" by Emilie Autumn
- The Swedish trio and Melodifestivalen 2015 entrant Dolly Style wear lolita fashion-inspired outfits.