Beginners Guide to Japanese Fashion: Lolita Edition

Hello, and welcome back to my Japanese Fashion article series.

This time we branch away from the slightly rebellious Gyaru to the more conservative Lolita fashion.
Lolita fashion first came to popularity in the 1980s in Japan, beginning as something known as “doll fashion”. The fashion is inspired by women’s Victorian and Edwardian Clothing and prominently features large petticoats, modest clothing and abundant accessories.

Photo by Oliver Ayala, cover photo by Oliver Ayala


At this time, two designers from the pre-existing brand Milk started up their own their own brands known as Jane Marple and Emily Temple Cute. These brands featured Lolita like concepts, but this was not yet Lolita fashion. People who dressed in this style became known as “Olive Girls” named after their favourite magazine at the time, Olive. The clothes worn formed the basis for the Lolita fashion today.

At the start of the 90s, Lolita fashion was becoming more developed and fashion magazines began to feature Lolita clothing. This was aided by the rise of Visual Kei bands, fans would attend shows dressed in the style that became known as Gothic Lolita. Towards the end of the 90s, this was aided even further by the rise of the band Malice Mizer, in particular the member Mana who regularly dressed in Gothic Lolita, influencing many with his style.

Also around this time, the brand Gothic Lolita Moi-meme-Moitie was established, influencing the growth of the fashion in collaboration with Visual Kei even further. To this day, Lolita fashion and Visual Kei remain closely linked.

Photo by Oliver Ayala

From 2000 onwards, Lolita fashion has been pushed further into mainstream fashion and can also be seen popping up in popular media. This was assisted by the film Kamikaze Girls in which the main character dresses in what is known now as old school Lolita from the well-known brand Baby the Stars Shine Bright. The manga and anime series Nana also highlighted this with one of the main characters, Nana, dressing in a Loli-punk style.

So where is Lolita now? The fashion has changed and grown very much so since its beginning. There are now more sub-styles, some of the most popular being Sweet Lolita, Gothic Lolita and Classic Lolita. The two most popular brands, Angelic Pretty and Baby the Stars Shine Bright tend to cater towards Sweet Lolita however there are many other brands that cater for the various other sub-styles (such as Alice and the pirates for Gothic or Innocent World for Classic).

Lolita guidelines now exist to help those who would like to achieve the Lolita look. The guidelines vary from how to achieve the Lolita silhouette to the different hair/make up styles involved in Lolita.

Some basic guidelines of how to start out in Lolita fashion are below:

1. Decide on your sub-style. Starting out in Lolita will be much easier if you have an idea of the sub-style you are interested in. Once you have decided on this, you can start buying pieces to make a coordinate.

2. Buy a petticoat. One of the main aspects of Lolita fashion is the silhouette created by a petticoat. These come in different shapes to suit different dresses. The most common are A line and bell shaped. It is important to check your dress shape to see if it fits your petticoat. Petticoats do not need to be expensive –good quality, cheaper petticoats are available.

3. Plan your outfit. When putting together your first coordination with a dress, pick one of the colours from the dress and match accessories/shoes to it. This will make your coordinate match better.

4. Join a community. There are many Lolita communities around the world, join a community, make friends and ask for advice. There are many experienced Lolita’s who can help you along the way.

5. Don’t worry. Getting in to a new fashion can be daunting, especially one with so many rules, but practice, research and talking with others will help you feel more comfortable.

Photo by Oliver Ayala

Thank you for reading my small introduction to the Lolita fashion – I have barely scratched the surface on the many aspects of the fashion as it is so varied but I hope you enjoyed the read and found it useful.

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