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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11 responses to “Gyaru and Lolita

  1. I’ve been especially interested in the divide between gyaru and lolitas recently, I suppose is might have something to do with the simultaneous polarized personalities and subtle similarities (oh jesus alliteration). It’s actually fairly difficult to find a lot of concrete information on gyaru online, whereas lolitas have such a strict code there are several guides, all of them very similar in content. It’s also hard for me to keep a level head when doing research, because I feel as a lolita I have a bit of an elitist state of mind when it comes to their tastes XD

  2. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I love gyaru+lolita.

    I just made the mistake of looking t Himeka’s blog and all the photos of food have made me hungry XD

  3. I’m sorry, but I don’t really see your point… segregation of any kind — even in fashion — is discouraging because it prevents something wonderful from being created. “Opposites” more often than not compliment each other — peanut butter and jelly, salt and sugar, GOTHIC and LOLITA! Look at KERA or the bibles… you can see influences of both styles. Glancing through street snaps, you can see the shared inspirations. So long story short, I disagree with you.

  4. Just stumbled across your blog and subscribed to the RSS feed… it’s really great! It’s an unusually objective, almost “scholarly” look at Lolita in Japan and in “the West”. Awesome. ^o^

    I’ve also been rather curious about hime vs. lolita. I think there aren’t as many guidelines to hime-gal because it’s a relatively new style (I think), while lolita has its roots in the late 80’s and underground subculture. They probably look similar because they both have the concept of “looking like a princess” (or doll), but they go about it in entirely different ways. ^^ I see it like this: Lolita is the young, pure princess of long ago, and Hime-gal is the rich, spoiled princess of today (though that’s not necessarily a bad thing).

    “Japanese School Girl Inferno” by Patrick Macias looks at the two styles individually, and briefly compares the two at one point. I pretty much agree with him…

  5. Thank you, Thank you for saying that you are a (western) lolita who doesn’t like the himegyaru trend. Everyone in the Western Lolita community, it seems, loves the style of the gyaru. Personally, I don’t like it. It’s a little too tacky and flashy to be really considered “lolita”. I agree with kagitsune! I think that the lolita girls use thier fashion to help differenciate themselves from the rest of the world, and become a maiden. While himegyaru, on the other hand, is really just a scream for attention. Love your blog!

  6. “I 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.”

    -Amen to that! I feel the same way. To me fashion is art and art is unrestricted by labels and groups. Sure they might fit into some, but it’s a different mentality with fashion. The whole rules and regulations when it comes to fashion….are not my bag of chips. (I don’t even like chips. >o>) And why does Himeka have her face blotted out in a few pics with a heart? WE ALL KNOW ITS YOU SHIROSAKI. O_O Meh, I guess she made a ”less-than-glamorous face.” This was a very informative article btw!

  7. Interesting post.
    I wouldn’t say that gyaru girls dresses for boys though. Haven’t you heard that most girls dress for other girls, even outside the lolita-world?

  8. Saying that gyaru dress for boys is veeery generalizing. I know I dress in both gyaru and lolita, but I do both for myself and myself only (besides, I have a boyfriend – who prefered my vk days XD)

    • I agree with that– hence why I warned readers to take whatever I said about the topic with a grain of salt! I can only speak about the gyaru I met in Japan because I have never met one from anywhere else; and, to make one of those generalizations that people always make on the internet and/or when talking about niches, they all seemed to be more focused on getting attention from the boys than lolitas (which isn’t saying much, I suppose!)

  9. Hello! ^_^
    I was interested in your post about gyaru and lolita. I personally love both fashions >_<!
    I think the best though, is himelolita!!!! I think it is a perfect combination.
    Sometimes I tend to "clump" these styles together, but now that I think about it, they really are very different. I love the innocent, sweet, fresh vibe that comes with lolita clothing.
    Sometimes when I am feeling more daring I go for a himegyaru look, with more make up and less covering clothing. So I guess they really are very different, but it doesn't mean you have to hate one or the other. I tend to love them both for the girly-ness and pink, though!

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