Monthly Archives: October 2008

Gyaru and Lolita

himekaI have never been able to understand why people like to lump different things together into somehow-related groups. I am personally a big fan of just letting things stay unique unto themselves. But, that said, people still do tend to want to consider things as parts of larger groups, much to the chagrin of the actual human members of those groups.

The case in point: gyaru, especially himegyaru, and lolita (I supposed himeloli specifically). Ever since Ageha model Himeka Shirosaki (right; check out her blog) decided to flaunt her love for lolita (well, before that, I’m sure– but that line has a nice ring to it), lolitas all over the world have been at war about whether these two fashion genres are related, and if so, how much.

First, let me outline my own personal bias.
I do not like gyaru, particularly Nagoya’s brand, uncreatively called “Nagoya girls”. It is unfair to make a blanket judgment about any group of people based on their fashion, race, creed, or whatever; I agree with this entirely. But nevertheless I find myself forming a little sneer whenever I see a mass of overly-teased, ozone-murdering hair saunter by. Once bitten, twice shy, I suppose. I have met a LOT of gyaru in my time in Japan, as the fashion is definitely on the rise, and have only ever liked one or two. So. Take whatever I may say about them with a grain of salt, because even if I try to be objective, I will undoubtedly fail.

gyaruAnyway, I think one would have to admit that there are some definite similarities between sweet lolita/hime lolita and himegyaru– at least in the aesthetics. Frills and pastels work well for girls of both persuasions, and big hair and wildly decorated nails are common additions to both looks. The main goal of any kind of fashion with the word “hime” attached to it is naturally to look like a princess, and in the case of Japan that generally means either a Disney character or Marie Antoinette (to be clever I’d wager that himegyaru leans toward the former and himeloli toward the latter).
A major, and noticable, difference is often the choice of materials: while lolitas take (an absurd amount of) pride in cotton cluny and brand-original tulle lace, gyaru clothing tends toward the (generally more noticeable) wide raschel laces. Lolita tends to shun shiny satin ribbons and gyaru bypasses grosgrain. That’s not to say that both fashions don’t occasionally borrow a page from one another’s books, and actually I think it happens fairly often.

la pafaitLast summer I saw a few fabrics used both by Angelic Pretty and La Pafait, a himegyaru brand indigenous to Nagoya, and even what appeared to be a knockoff of AP’s Sweet Ribbon Strawberry print. Additionally, lower tier lolita brands like A+lidel regularly use the same fabrics as gyaru brands, such as the strawberry check fabric seen in the La Pafait skirt to the left.

I have seen gyaru carrying or wearing lolita brand bags, parasols, and other small items more times than I can count, and they often shop in lolita stores. However, I have very rarely spotted a lolita sporting an accessory from a gyaru brand. I think the reason behind this could be that gyaru is more flexible and open to interpretation; also, lolita brands are more apt to make items that target gyaru (AP is especially adept at this) than gyaru brands are to target lolitas. apI think lolitas in the West might be a little surprised to learn about that first note: lolitas in Japan tend not to go for the casual, mix-and-match looks that are so often seen on forums like Daily Lolita. For the most part, they either go all-out, or go for something that many Western lolitas wouldn’t classify as lolita at all (that style is usually labeled as “fruits” in the Western world). While this makes for more serious lolita eye candy, it also provides a fairly fixed box within which to coordinate. However, when a lolita brand does produce something that has an especially gyaru look to it, it is generally accepted by lolitas. Perhaps we’re all just brandwhores at heart, after all…

At any rate, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a girl in lolita hanging out with a girl in himegyaru, or anything like that. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen or that the same girls wouldn’t be together in different clothing, but there does seem to be a divide. Once, walking with a Japanese lolita friend of mine past a string of gyaru shops, she teasingly tried to push me into them, saying “you want to go in there??” — just as you might shove a shy girl into a fetish clothing store. She made a barfing noise and we walked away giggling.
A friend once summed the two fashions’ ideas of one another pretty concisely: Lolitas think of gyaru as easy, gyaru think of lolitas as prudes. And really, there are obvious differences in the fashion (gyaru features low-cut tops and ultra short skirts, versus lolita’s high necklines and knee-length skirts) that would suggest such. But I agree more aptly, probably because it’s less offensive, with the idea that gyaru dress for boys, while lolitas dress for other girls. That sounds about right. Well, personally I don’t really care what other people think. Or, I say I don’t as I post my outfit coordinates online, at least….

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Visual Kei and Lolita

Recently there has been some talk about wearing lolita to concerts, mainly due, I think, to the increase of Japanese visual-style bands playing in the West and Dir en grey’s upcoming American tour. It seems again to be a really polarized topic, though those people who are against it seem to feel more strongly about the topic than those for it.

livePersonally, I have gone to over 40 indies lives in Japan (over the course of my two stays in Japan), and I’ve worn lolita to quite a few. That said, I’ve seen Dir en grey 10 times in Japan, and I’ve never worn lolita (though I’ve wanted to!) My personal reasons behind this are quite simple: I don’t wear lolita when I want to be really really active at a show, because I will be too self conscious and I won’t be able to have fun, and because I’d be upset if something got damaged. Even when I do wear lolita to lives, I tend to opt for something more casual, usually cutsew/skirt combinations and often things that I picked up used/on sale or from cheaper brands (this is where Bodyline really comes in handy!) My coordinate to the right is one of my typical sweet-style live outfits: Anna House blouse (very cheap!), offbrand headband from a kid’s shop, and a Meta skirt purchased in the final days of the summer sale for 60% off. That’s just my own personal preference though, and I do occasionally end up going to lives in intricate outfits.

There are almost always lolitas at visual kei lives. In fact I can only think of a few indies shows that I have atteneded where there was not at least one lolita in attendance. They run the gamut from very rare prints to lace monstrosities that would immediately be ripped apart on some less friendly forums in the English-speaking world (and which are ripped apart on the less friendly Japanese forums as well). Going back to a previous entry I wrote about lifestyle, the divide is naturally between girls who wear lolita and just happen to go to lives, versus girls who go to lives and choose to wear lolita. There are just as many itas in Japan as anywhere else. With the increase in quality from Bodyline recently, I’ve noticed an overall improvement in one-time or live-only lolitas: they can now get better items for their money, plus the higher quality in the items means that even if they don’t intend to, they’re getting closer to actual lolita than costume (usually!).

versailles Of course bands that have a very visual appeal, especially ones with a member that dresses in a lolita or pseudo-lolita style, attract more lolitas (and more wildly attired people in general). The trend in recent times is that people are dressing down more for lives, but you won’t find any slobs waiting for bands like Versailles, which features style icon Hizaki (pictured to the left). Many fans also tend to tailor their live style to the style of the band they’re seeing; Decola Hopping, featuring a female vocalist bedecked in AP and rainbow colored petticoats, has a lot of deco-loli fans, while the aforementioned Versailles has a lot of gothic and classic lolitas.

As for Dir en grey, they are a bit infamous for supposedly giving lolita fashion a verbal thrashing (which was actually just guitarist Die making fun of it, as he is apt to do of many things, and vocalist Kyo stating the VERY true fact that it just doesn’t suit some people). Honestly though, I think that these statements should be taken in stride, as the band has been working hard to shuck its visual label for a number of years– it’s just not cool any more, and it doesn’t suit the music that they’re trying to make. Dir en grey is my favourite band and has been for years, though, so I might be a little more lenient with them. At any rate, there are always lolitas at Dir en grey concerts in Japan, in spite of what a lot of Westerners think (there seems to be some idea that a lolita at a Dir show would be lynched or shunned)– furthermore, these lolitas tend to go all out. It’s not uncommon to see extremely rare prints (AP’s Twinkle Mermaid, Baby’s Snow White) on show, as well as those things just released. While I think these girls are brave for risking their precious pieces at a violent show, I don’t think they’re doing anything too scandalous. Dir en grey’s visual past basically guarantees them a lolita fanbase, that’s all there is to it.
That said, I don’t think one can draw too many comparisons between the Western and Japanese Dir en grey fanbases. I personally would be more scared of being lynched for wearing lolita at an American show than at a Japanese one. But I will never know because I value freedom of movement more than fashion — at least, in this one situation!

Aldila: Lolita Exhibition

parfaitOn October 5th I visited the 10th Lolita Exhibition by Aldila in Osaka.  Aldila also holds indies brand events in Tokyo and even in Nagoya occasionally (though I missed the only Nagoya one that has happened since I moved here). It was the perfect opportunity to “twin” with a friend of mine who has the same print by Baby, only in skirt form, so we took our Twin Foreigner Cuteness Attack to the masses. We were a bit late for the event, but when we got there it was still in full swing. There were a lot of really creatively dressed people in attendance as well as selling their wares– perhaps my favourite were the man in the monocle and tophat and the girl who was working an AP-style decololi outfit with her Meta biscuit print JSK.
Though the brands present covered the range from Gothic to Country and were all mixed together, and attendees were decked out in their finest Classic to their most cavity-inducing sweet, there was a sort of obvious divide between the different styles. The staff of gothic brands were a little wary of girls bedecked in ice cream, and likewise the tables selling charms with various foodstuffs attached seemed to not know what to say to the Victorian ladies among them. It was a divide I haven’t ever noticed before, and was kind of disconcerting– especially once my friend suggest that other lolitas might be “thinking of sweet lolitas as the himegyaru of lolita now”. Considering the tension between lolitas and gyaru, that is NOT a good thing!

Anyway. There were a lot of brands in attendance– somewhere around 40 are listed on Aldila’s website, and though I don’t think there were really that many when we arrived (I’m sure some left early), there were quite a few.  It was set up much in the same fashion as any small sales exhibition (maybe a lot of people can conjure up an image of the sales room at an anime convention), with each brand purchasing a table or two to display their wares.  Most of the sellers stocked accessories, quite a few had racks of clothing, and there was even some artwork for sale– all of it handmade.  You could really feel the sense of pride that most sellers had in their work, as well.

One of the standout brands in my mind were キラキラスタァ (KirakiraStar), who have a blog and webshop listed, though nothing is currently for sale there. At first glance they appeared to be peddling just the usual sweets jewelry, though I thought it was especially attractive because of the pearlized, colored creams they used for decorating. But when I picked up a piece and looked at it, I knew I was in love!
apple seeds
An apple-shaped macaron brooch– what more could any girl ever want? Especially when it comes complete with little gems for seeds. At 1200yen (~US12), it wasn’t a bad price, either.

headdress As for other purchases, I also picked up a new headdress from armeria maritima, who also make cute jumperskirts for affordable prices. Their site is located here, and there are a few items in the shop for you to peruse. For the prices (around 8000yen for a jsk on the site, though they were 500-1500 yen cheaper at the event), I would say that the quality is not bad. The katyusha I purchased is to the right. It’s simple, but it matches an IW dress I have really well, so I can’t wait to wear it (I hate to admit also that I’m starting to lean more and more toward smaller and more adult head accessories… no!!!), and for only 1000yen (~US10), a good deal. Also, the girl who was working the table was SO adorable and talkative– and her English was pretty good– I just had to support her brand!

Other brands worth mentioning were Chantilly, mentioned in a previous post. I love their use of so-huge-its-crazy rose lace! Unfortunately they didn’t have the JSK I’ve been pining for (actually, Chantilly was presented by Atelier Pierrot, and most of the actual clothing on display was by the latter; Chantilly was providing their usual assortment of amazing bonnets and headwear, plus a few darling blouses). Lyra’s Cute Tone was there to provide options for adorable false nails (Oh how I would love to try those!!). YUki provided cute, ETC-style cutsews, which unfortunately had ETC-style prices as well.
butterflyQuiet Darkness featured gothic and aristocrat style jewelry and small items, like the butterfly corsages on the left. Their headdresses are also to die for, but are also as expensive as established brand prices (in my opinion, though, they are quite worth it– if you’re a gothic lolita, which I’m not!).

One disappointment of the event was that my friend and I found the ultimate in ridiculous lolita accessories– cupcake scepters! And for only 800yen, of course we wanted them. Actually, the entire table they were at was stocked with cheap but adorable sweet-deco goods. Why was this disappointing? Because the entire time we were there, there was never a single person working at the table to sell us anything! How annoying. That scepter will haunt my dreams. Or maybe I’ll just email them and see if they can ship them… Anyway, the brand was Barahime, and you can see the scepters in question on their blog.

Anyway! I have rambled on long enough. The event was fun, if brief for me, and it was great to see some of the up-and-comers in the lolita world. I’m a fan of indies brands, and I think we should all support the good ones. All of the major brands in lolita fashion today started as small independant labels, and with the support of fans have managed to keep going. Good luck, little brands!