Beginners Guide to Japanese Fashion: Gyaru Edition

Japanese fashion in the last decade has become something of a worldwide phenomenon attracting fans for it’s often unconventional and colourful styles (although there are always exceptions!). From Lolita to Mori, this series of posts will help reveal some of the history surrounding these fashions and help you tell your Gyaru from your Decora. As a general rule, people who participate in these fashions are usually known as a “Lolita” or a “Gyaru”, but again there are exceptions. You might be able to see a bit of a theme here.

Since my interest in Japanese culture began, I have steadily grown more & more interested in the various styles in Japanese fashion that are now practiced all over the world, with large communities existing to support this. This enthusiasm has led me to dabble in the various types of fashion and more specifically come to realise how many rules exist for these fashions if you are to partake.

My most recent style of choice has been Gyaru, a fashion which originated in the 1970s, and over the course of time has spawned many substyles which have come and gone, for example, Ganguro which was the most popular style during the 1980s but has now mostly died out. After Ganguro in the 2000s, the style branched out into many more variants all of which remain popular today.

The flashy and outrageous (for 1980s Japan) clothing and make worn by Gyaru drew a lot of negative attention from society, as many of the participants in the fashion lived a wild, rebellious lifestyle and used the fashion as a statement. Today, however, Gyaru is more focused on the fashion aspect rather than the lifestyle and despite its decline in popularity, it is still practiced in communities around the world.

Shibuya Gal by Danny Choo

The expected appearance for Gyaru is dyed hair (usually light brown or blonde), long nails with decorations, circle lenses with a large diameter (to make the eyes appear bigger), long false eyelashes and curled hair.However, Gyaru has evolved into many different variants. From the traditional Ganguro consisting of a deep tan, white eye makeup and bleached hair to Himegyaru which is a “princess” style with large blonde hair, and usually features the expensive Gyaru clothing.

One of the most recognised features of Gyaru are the two major brands; Liz Lisa and MA*RS. Both are highly popular and still release new items of clothing today, Liz Lisa focuses on a more casual style aimed at older Gyaru, whilst MA*RS clothes are usually in the Agejo style which is another variant of Gyaru featuring lace and babydoll influenced outfits. Many Gyaru focus on obtaining clothing from these brands and so there is a large secondhand market to accommodate this.

So, what are some important tips for starting Gyaru as a beginner?

1. Research. There are plenty of sources available that provide information on the various different variants of Gyaru, as well as tutorials into achieving the specific makeup styles and where to purchase clothing and other items regularly seen in Gyaru fashion. There are also many useful sources for achieving Gyaru fashion on a budget, as it can be pricey.

2. Decide on your style. Deciding which category you would like to venture into will make starting in Gyaru easier. Once you have found your feet within the fashion, it will be easier to experiment. That’s not to say you should force yourself to fit a label – it is important to feel comfortable first.

3. Join an online community. Although Gyaru is not as popular as it once was, communities still exist and these are a good place to discuss the latest releases or ask for advice. Some communities may even host meet ups that you could attend.

4. Have fun! This is the most important point. If you are joining the Gyaru fashion because you enjoy it, that’s great. Don’t feel too pressured, do what you feel comfortable with and if at any point you decide it’s not for you, that’s okay too.

Shibua Gal by Danny Choo, banner by MartaJobani

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