Tag Archives: baby the stars shine bright

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!

Advertisements

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!

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.

Fall 08

So after perusing the 30th volume of the Gothic & Lolita Bible, out today, I started thinking about the fall season from the brands.

metaPeople seem to always polarize their opinions about everything– they either really really love it or absolutely hate it. I’m feeling this especially with Metamorphose this season– almost every lolita I know feels strongly one way or the other. Honestly though, I’m neither extremely impressed nor disappointed (except with the raschel lace Swan Border pieces, which I have a deep distaste for). The school series is playing it safe, in particular.

Angelic Pretty, recently the constant center of attention, really delivered with the Fancy Melody series. I wish I’d acted quick enough to snag the black jumperskirt! I’m really regretting it now that the series is in stores. It’s amazingly cute. The Royal Poodle line is on reserve now, and the blue x silver socks and jumper sold out withing the first two days, so it’s definitely going to be a hit. I like it a lot. If the skirt would fit me I’d be all over it!

babyI was mostly excited about the GLB because I was hoping for better pictures of the Rococo Accessories print (ロココ小物柄). It didn’t really deliver on that, unfortunately. And all I can share with you is an even blurrier, tinier picture of the magazine article! That’s kind of sad…
Anyway though, the print appears to have all sorts of delightful things in it: parasols, fans, perfume bottles. It’s just adorable in my opinion. And I love the violet-ish color with bright accents. It really does scream Marie Antoinette! It’s so decadent.
candlesPersonally I’d like something a little more elegant/adult this season (maybe I’m starting to feel my age… noooooo!), and Baby’s “Rose Candle” onepiece is all of that and then some. I saw the skirt during a sample exhibition at Passe, and fell in love instantly, but Baby’s skirts have much too small of waists for me. This OP will probably turn out too small, as well, because Baby’s sizes rarely end up being what they initially guess for magazines. I think that it looks perfect in this coordination though. Perfect shoes, perfect hair, perfect everything!

Recently I’ve been drawn to brands I don’t pay much attention to; for example the indie brand Chantilly. I’ve seen their bonnets and a few other pieces at the Angelic Pretty here in Nagoya before, and they always seem impeccably made, but I never much noticed anything else about them. In this month’s Kera, which has some photos from the fashion show in France last month, I spotted a darling jsk that I’m just dying to have, black with big lace roses.
I also really really love this upcoming skirt/blouse combination from Mille Fleurs. It’s so ridiculous and over the top! If only it would fit me, I’d.. probably not be able to afford it anyway! Oh well. It’s lovely to look at.
It seems that their site hasn’t been updated in quite a while, though. I really wish some brands would stay on the ball. But I guess if you have a very small business, just keeping your blog updated might be enough. I’m not sure how… but maybe it is.
mille

As for coats, I think everyone is performing brilliantly there. Baby’s are perhaps a bit safe, AP’s appliqués are kooky as ever (though their normal coats and the trench coat currently in reserve are all fabulous), Victorian Maiden’s are to die for… but then, I’m a coat person.

At any rate, that’s my few cents on the Autumn releases from the brands… well, some of them! While it’s on my mind, I’m not too pleased with IW, either. I think they’ve been trying pretty desperately lately to do something ultra cute, but somehow they always seem to miss their mark. They should stick to making elegant and regal pieces, and leave the teddy bear prints to AP. You can’t really pull off stuffed animals in a print using dusty, mature colors, in my opinion.
I was also interested to note that this issue of the GLB is kind of lacking in the over-the-top deco goodness of recent times. Is the wearing-a-parfait trend finally dying out? I hope not… because that will mean I’m fashion-backward!

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.

Ask not what you can do for your brand (4)

I didn’t realize that I had totally forgotten to talk about point cards! Which is funny, because they’re ever-present for a lolita shopper (or any shopper!) in Japan.

cards

Point cards are not only a way to earn incentives for spending money at a particular shop, they’re a sort of status symbol as well (they also have the unfortunate side effect of being a tangible gauge for how much you have spent on new merchandise). Generally you aren’t offered a point card until you have shopped at a particular brand several times, unless you buy a substantial amount the first time you go. I’ve never tried asking for a point card at a lolita brand shop, but I imagine they wouldn’t say no to you; I’ve asked in any number of other stores and been favourably received, though most places want you to get a point card the very first time you buy something.

You usually get one point per a specified amount of money spent at the store; for example, Angelic Pretty is 1 point per 3000 yen, and Baby is 1 point per 5250. Innocent World is the “most expensive”, so to speak, card that I have, with each point a steep 10,000 yen. The number of points required before you reach the goal also depends on the brand, usually between 15 and 20, sometimes as many as 30. The prize that you’re working toward is that the cards become coupons once they’re filled up– again, each brand is a little different, but for example AP’s cards are worth 3000 yen off of any amount, while Baby’s are worth 3000 off any purchase that costs more than 6000; Meta’s is a great deal: 5000 yen off any purchase plus a novelty item. In some cases, if you’re lucky enough to have a full or close-to-full card, brands will have novelty fairs wherein you can exchange your card for limited edition items instead of cash off.
Personally I think AP’s cards are the most customer-friendly– most brands give no credit for amounts that do not total up to a full point (several times I’ve been chagrined to discover that I am a few hundred yen short of another point at Baby), but AP simply writes the excess amount on the card and that’s added to your next visit’s total, so you never lose out. For once AP is on the customer’s side!

I also have to admit that point cards sometimes give me a bit of an elite feeling. My Baby card, for example, has a lovely number 4 written in a large block on the top of it, meaning that I’ve filled 3 full cards already. A card like that earns a little nicer treatment from the staff of any Baby shop when they see it. (Being a regular customer in Nagoya of course warrants a high level of customer care, but in stores where I’m not known, the little card says: I understand and love this style and am a loyal customer.)

Personally I think point cards are a great little benefit, especially for such an expensive fashion as lolita; but actually you can get point cards anywhere– from Tower Records to the discount cosmetics shops to the consignment shops! It’s fun to rack up points but for people like me, I tend to want to spend a little extra to make sure I always get the most points possible… it’s dangerous!

Ask not what you can do for your brand (3)

In this part I’m going to talk about fukubukuro (福袋), widely known as “lucky packs” in the Western world. Like novelty fairs and sales, fukubukuro sales occur for several occasions, and also like fairs and sales, they can depend on the specific shop or be nationwide.
Some brands release “special sets” along with their “lucky packs”– these aren’t really fukubukuro because you know the contents and the value of said contents before purchasing. Regardless, most people think of special sets as being a kind of lucky pack– maybe because they come in big bags too? I don’t know.

lucky!
Fukubukuro from lolita brands are usually available for the basic prices of 5,000 yen or 10,000 yen, plus tax, and of course content varies by price. Some brands will release cheaper accessory packs. Kera shops carry fukubukuro from a number of brands usually, from Suppurate System to Marble, depending on the brands that particular store stocks.

Of course the most famous time for fukubukuro is New Year’s day (or the days just after, if the store is closed on New Year’s. Just about every store in Japan is having a huge sale (many with fukubukuro) on this same day, so you usually have to choose which brand you want and forsake all the others. Because the Lolita brands release such limited numbers of fukubukuro, it’s unlikely that you’ll get one if you don’t line up early. Because the winter sales are a widespread event, fashion magazines usually devote at least the news section of their December/January issues to listing special events by stores, including specific lists of what day (and time) fukubukuro will be released, so the smart shopper can plan well in advance.
The second most popular time for fukubukuro is in mid-summer, along with the summer sales. It’s less likely that special sets will be released at this time, or that special fukubukuro-only items will be produced, so the packs are likely to be full of a selection of items from the previous season.

It’s important to note about fukubukuro that, while the contents are (usually) worth significantly more than the price of the bag, these contents are also often items that didn’t sell particularly well in the last season, hence the availability of these items to be sold so cheaply. One should be wary of lucky packs released immediately after long sales periods because the contents are almost assuredly things that didn’t sale in spite of ever-lower prices. The value of the pack is usually posted somewhere (in a magazine, or sometimes right on the pack) but this does not reflect the “sale” value, of course. You might have saved money had you bought the items on sale instead of getting a fukubukuro!
Along with this consideration, of course the buyer has to understand that the contents of the pack are random, though most brands attempt to put together a coordinate or at least a similar color, and there is no guarantee that the things are going to fit or be flattering if they do. You would *think* that putting things that fit a wide range of sizes into the bags would be the natural choice, but as I have known people who got something as specifically sized as shoes in a pack, that’s not the case. Buyer beware 🙂

Along with other promotions, brands will sometimes have fukubukuro to celebrate other occasions, and these are usually advertised only in blogs or on the brand’s website– less likely in magazines. For this reason it’s important to keep your eyes open!