Category Archives: life

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….

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!

Not-so-pro tips

While this isn’t specifically lolita-related, it is in response to a previous article, so I thought some people might be interested.
After my post about makeup and personal grooming a few people asked for ideas about what specifically they could do. I’m neither a beauty queen nor a makeup expert so I don’t know how qualified I am to reply to that, but I do have a couple basic tricks up my sleeve that I’d like to share! Please remember, though, that I live in Japan, so the products I use generally have a Japan-bias.

tsubakiOne thing I can’t recommend enough is Camellia oil, called Tsubaki in Japan. It has been a staple of Japanese grooming for hundreds of years– it’s what kept the elaborate hairstyles of the Geisha in place (and might still do so, if they haven’t moved on to more modern chemical compounds)– and it has a multitude of uses, including treating dry skin. Personally I just use it for my hair. A friend of mine, after listening to me whine about my coarse, unruly hair not being able to hold a curl for more than 2 seconds in the Nagoya humidity, suggested I try it– and now I am suggesting it to you! The variety I usually use is pictured to the left: “Oshima Tsubaki tsuyatsuya water” — and I’ll admit that I did choose this kind because it has “Camellia oil in water” printed directly on the label! I think that pretty much all “camellia oil in water” solutions should be about the same (or you can buy the oil concentrated and dilute it yourself). The oil not only helps create the perfect curl, it also gives your hair a really healthy shine and, best of all, it’s all-natural. I recommend using wax to hold the curl in place.
If you live in Japan, you can get this particular product for about 1000 yen. Camellia oil products are a bit more expensive overseas, as the Western market hasn’t really caught on to how great they are yet, but still quite affordable. You can buy the Oshima Tsubaki variety on Amazon for US$10.75!

pore puttyI also find that, especially in an extremely humid climate like the one in which I live, makeup base is just about the most important kind of makeup I put on. For the longest time I didn’t think it was necessary, and even after I finally broke down and tried a few kinds, I was put off by the sticky or greasy feel they left me with and less than impressed with their results. And then, the clouds parted and Pore Putty Clear appeared. As disgusting as the name sounds, I absolutely love this stuff. The finish is smooth and powdery to the touch, and it is seriously weapons grade– put it on in the morning and you’ll need to scrub with makeup remover twice to get it off. Which means, it doesn’t go anywhere, even if you sweat or get caught in the rain. Even better? In Japan it retails for about 1050yen including tax, and you can buy it online (for example at Sasa.com, where it is only US$9.70).

You can get it for slightly cheaper at discount cosmetics chains– if you’re around Nagoya I recommend Base Girl, which, while having a rather hilarious mistake of a name, has some great deals on not only cosmetics but also clothing, as well as boasting a huge collection of bargain-basement-priced perfumes.

perfume
Speaking of perfume, I LOVE the stuff, and I think it’s a lolita staple. If you’re going to be really really girly, you need to smell that way too, right? (Right!)
My current favourites are Juicy Couture and Aquolina Pink Sugar — the former I usually spritz on when I’m going for a cooler look, the latter is of course perfect when my goal is to look like a cupcake. Other great scents are the obvious Lolita by Lolita Lempicka (which managed to migrate to another part of my room before I snapped this photo), which has a deeper, headier scent that I think makes it lovely for more mature lolita looks or nighttime outings. Another one that I like is Geparlys Temptation, which is a fruitier scent than I usually choose and therefore I tend to use it when wearing colors or styles that are a little out of the norm.
Perfume is an extremely personal thing, so you should choose your scents carefully and make sure they suit not only your style but your own natural scent. Smell is the sense which is most strongly linked to memory– and who doesn’t want to be remembered beautifully?

Not exactly inconspicuous

me
I think I ended up on TV yesterday… maybe, and definitely only in my region. And if so, only for about 2 seconds during a live show that will never be rerun. Thank goodness!

Why? Because I looked like that! Probably the biggest fund-raiser in Japan took place on Sunday– called 24 Hour TV, just about every city in Japan has some sort of event that culminates with a big celebration at the end of the day, all with the goal of getting donations to support disaster relief and other important causes. I stopped to get information about donating and was singled out by the host of the show here in my city, solely because of the way I was dressed– there were indeed other foreigners around.

This post isn’t very informative… but I thought it was a cute anecdote about the reception of lolitas in Japan… or at least, this particular lolita in Japan.

By the way, right now I’m working on an entry about a topic that someone asked me about. If there are any specific things that people who read this blog are interested in learning more about (that is, about Japan and/or lolita fashion), ask and I’ll do my best to answer. If I have enough to say I’ll make a new entry about it, so we both win.

Lifestyle?

There’s always a lot of discussion about whether lolita is just a fashion, or a lifestyle. As ever, people tend to be polarized on the subject. As ever, I find myself walking the line up the middle between the two ideas and taking the safe agnostic approach– to each her own.

Personally I don’t think wearing lolita means you can’t, or shouldn’t, swear or make dirty jokes or drink– if that’s what you normally do, at least. I do think you might want to curb that a little, if you are the kind of person who normally cusses like a sailor or something like that– it just seems weird otherwise. Unless you’re wearing sailor loli! (Cymbal crash here, please.) But that’s just my opinion.

In my experience, the Japanese sort of fall into the same categories as non-Japanese as far as lolita etiquette: some believe your personality should match your clothes, while others act as they probably do on a normal basis. In the end I think its a matter of whether these people consider themselves “girls who wear lolita fashion” and “girls who consider themselves lolitas”. The ones who have created a lifestyle around being a lolita extend that cuteness or loveliness to their whole persona; but then, who is to say whether they were just that cute to begin with? I think you have to have a pretty cute core to become a lolita, anyway. I will admit though, when I see a lolita acting in an especially “unloli” manner I tend to think, “Did she just grab that dress cheap at a resale shop because she wanted to ‘be a lolita’ for a day?”
I think it’s pretty interesting to watch the reactions of non-lolitas in those situations though. For example, I went to a live where there were a few other lolis in the audience, including one wearing Baby’s cutsew OP from a few seasons ago. In order to jump and dive more freely, she yanked off her petticoat gracelessly (though without exposing anything). This earned a few raised brows. Later she sat down to have a smoke and sip a plastic cup of beer. If she’d been wearing a t-shirt, or a punk outfit– or even a gyaru getup, let’s be honest– that would have been almost expected, but she earned the scorn of everyone around her just by being normal when people weren’t expecting it.

momokoSometimes I see lolitas being a little… ridiculous, really. For example there have been several occasions when I’ve seen a girl in lolita clinging to a friend or boyfriend, sometimes a parent, like a small child– like she’s afraid to let go. This might be because he shoes are too hard to walk in, but I think most of the time its because she wants to look completely helpless. From my perspective as a modern American girl, I would never want to be completely helpless, nor appear completely helpless, regardless of my clothing choices. Perhaps I even think of lolita in sort of a feminist light– I certainly don’t dress like this to get the attention of men. And I never considered being ladylike to being on par with being weak– regardless of what Momoko might say! People seem to forget that she ends up being an ass-kicker in the end, anyway (pardon the French… and if you are French, pardon my sense of humour!).
rollsAt the same time though, I have seen a lolita being chauffeured about in an old Rolls Royce like the one pictured to the left (sadly I didn’t take a picture at the time, as I’d forgotten my camera– naturally!). Talk about living the lolita lifestyle! I found that endearing and adorable. So I guess, to each her own.

Honestly though, I think the so-called “brolitas” (I hate that term, by the way), really have it down. I’ve never seen a boy in lolita behave as anything other than adorable. I’ve occasionally been annoyed by a falsetto here and there, but otherwise I think it’s quite cute.
On that topic, I’ve been asked if male lolitas are very common in Japan. I don’t think so, really, at least not compared to their female counterparts. But you do find them every now and then, at events or having tea with a group of female friends. Oddly I’ve noticed that they’re generally the best-dressed in a group as well. Go figure.

As for me… I’m not sure I’d consider myself a “lifestyle loli”, as I observe the disaster area that is my very non-Victorian apartment, the floor scattered with band flyers and the sink stacked with dishes that my own not-so-delicate hands need to wash. But I do feel that, while wearing lolita, I tend to stand a little straighter– maybe a little prouder– and maybe smile a little more often. That feeling is so profound that I actually add a little lolita to every outfit I wear, even at work where I have a strict dress code, whether I sneak a pair of Baby the Stars Shine Bright socks by or just pin my hair back with an Innocent World trump-themed hair clip.
But, to each her own. Everything always is.

Lolita in the Media

I just saw a tv special about the making of an upcoming drama that made me think about the portrayal of lolita fashion on Japanese tv, because a lot of people ask about it. Of course, I don’t watch tv 24/7, and I don’t speak Japanese brilliantly, so I don’t know everything there is to know, but I do keep an eye out for lolita characters or even cameos– and I do have a fondness for dramas! Anyway there are a couple of dramas this season that make me think of the way tv dramas look at this fashion I love so much.

cat street
First is NHK’s upcoming キャットストリート (“Cat Street”), which is based on a manga by the artist of Hana Yori Dango (which, aside from being immensely popular in that form, also spawned a media frenzy around it’s multiple drama recreations; in fact, there’s a Hana Yori Dango movie in theaters right now!), which prominently features a lolita character. I haven’t read the comic, but through a little research I see that the lolita is a girl named “Momiji” who makes her own clothes and finds herself generally shunned because of her fashion. From the special, I see that she is portrayed at least in the drama as the usual uber-energetic best friend of the main character, and her style is primarily sweet lolita (though in the interview the actress refers to her own character as “Gothic Lolita”).
This program starts on Thursday and I look forward to seeing it, although I’ll have to stream it online because it comes on pretty early 😦

Also currently on air is the Teppei-starring Shibatora, which features a character who works at a maid cafe. Episode 5 most prominently features the maid cafe, in which all the “maids” wear clothing from Baby the Stars Shine Bright. The clothes are never referenced as lolita clothes and are just considered normal costumes for waitresses in maid cafes to wear. This is a fallacy though, actually– I’ve never seen maid cafe staff in anything but maid cosplay; I have, however, seen some Alice- or otherwise-themed cafes uniform their employees in some brand items. For example, the staff of the Alice cafe in Nagoya all wear uniforms by Milky Ange. Anyway, another theme of that particular episode is pedophilia, which is upsetting in the way it is related to lolita.

I think the two completely different portrayals of lolita fashion provided by these shows gives us a little insight into the mindsets in Japan about lolitas. The first girl is lolita ALL the time. It’s who she is. I guess she’s what would be called a “lifestyle loli” in the west. The other girls happen to wear lolita as part of their jobs, which is directly connected to otaku/moe culture and attracts some creepy characters. Of course I feel more comfortable with the first version, but in the general media the latter is much more common. If not something that is related to maid cafes, lolita characters are usually portrayed as gloomy or downright psychotic. You never really see just a normal girl who happens to dress like a little doll… but then, maybe normal girls don’t 😛

possibleI’m not really worried about whether this particular media attention is going to change the face of lolita or anything; it actually happens all the time– don’t forget there was recently a Hello Project group that performed in lolita (called, for some reason, The Possible). A few months back there was also a hime lolita featured on 恋のから騒ぎ(“Much Ado About Love”), a show that is based around a gravelly-voiced host– a very famous tv personality in Japan– asking “weird” girls (mostly gyaru) about their relationships. Just a couple weeks ago a sweet lolita appeared as well, though her fashion sense was a little dubious in my humble opinion.

I don’t really think the presence of lolita characters on tv (or in comics or wherever else) has really made the fashion more understandable to outsiders, though. Most of the appearances just reinforce the stereotypes they already have, so nothing ever really changes. If Cat Street becomes extremely popular, the lolita character might be thought about a little more seriously… but its still not really an accurate portrayal– after all, the lolita is just the sidekick. And the series is only 6 episodes long! I don’t predict too much ground being broken there.
I’ll watch anyway, though. Just to make sure.

Makeup? Or make down?

I believe that lolita fashion isn’t just about putting on a really cute dress– there’s an entire aesthetic that needs to be considered, and you can be wearing the rarest, cutest, most amazing Moitie-and-Angelic-Pretty-collaboration-radioactive-macarons-on-a-cross print ever, and you won’t look like a lolita if you don’t put effort into your all-around appearance.

In keeping with a theme I unintentionally developed of saying very non-PC things here in my blog, I’m going to say that, yes, I think all lolitas should do their hair and wear some kind of makeup, unless their hair and skin is naturally perfect (and even though I know a lot of beautiful people, I’ve yet to see anyone who fits that description). Yes, natural beauty is great. And yes, all people should feel proud to be who they are and to have their own unique personal attributes. However, I for one can’t see the point in going through all the effort of putting on really cute clothes if you’re not going to wash your hair.

Baby JaneI think a lot of lolitas, especially those just starting out, run into big problems when it comes to makeup. I think it’s important to consider that the makeup you wear in your everyday life might not be appropriate for the days when you dress like a cupcake (or, depending on your style, a vampire). Wearing extremely heavy makeup while wearing a bright, cute frock is going to make you look like Baby Jane, and you certainly don’t want that!

The kind of makeup you wear is largely dependent upon your personal style; that said, it is usually more appropriate to save your thick black eyeliner for your gothic looks and go for a more natural look with sweet and classic lolita. Mana-samaaaaaThe age-old adage “What Would Mana Do” doesn’t really apply to things that Mana wouldn’t be caught dead in. And anyway, just imagine what all that eyeliner and mascara would look like on a girl in a frilly yellow dress! Ghastly!
I think Gothic Lolita in its true form is extremely striking; it’s also more mature than it’s sweeter counterparts. Makeup that is too neutral will make the wearer’s face seem incongruous with the overall look. However, white makeup is almost NEVER a good idea unless you’re going to be in some kind of play, or you happen to BE Mana. Your foundation should never been too different a shade from your natural skintone, if for no other reason than you will invariably end up exposing your natural skin color at some point and everyone will find out anyway.

Angelic PrettyThat doesn’t mean it has to be boring, though. After all, sweet lolita is rather over-the-top to begin with so you might as well have some fun with your makeup. I think it’s especially fun to experiment with eyeshadows– colors are the way to go! Recently the trend I’ve seen on a lot of Japanese lolitas is to wear one shade of eyeshadow and a different color eyeliner and yet another hue of mascara. This gives the entire face a really playful, fairy-like look and adds to the fantasy of the outfit. Just make sure to not go overboard, and coordinate your makeup! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met people who insist that they should wear blue eye shadow with every single outfit.
Also, experts will tell you that you should choose between a strong eye and a strong lip when doing your makeup. With gothic you might be able to get away with having dark lipstick and deep eye makeup, but with sweet I think it’s safer to stick with a colorful eye and a natural, if very shiny, lip.

As with any kind of fashion, what you’re really looking for is makeup that compliments your overall look. If the makeup is too flashy it will overpower the outfit; too plain and your beautiful face will take a backseat to the clothes you’re wearing.

I recommend carrying oil-reducing sheets with you. Flash cameras tend to bring out the worst in people’s faces, so a little dab before the flash goes off might save you the trouble of photoshopping later. This is especially useful for people who cannot wear foundation due to allergies.
If you do have various skin conditions that prevents you from wearing the usual layers of concealer, foundation, blush, etc, adding a touch of lipgloss and some mascara will give you a more finished look. You might be surprised at how far just a little bit goes.

Remember, when you’re wearing lolita, the dress shouldn’t be the only pretty thing! Your bound to feel a lot more confident, as well, if you have the whole package.