Tag Archives: fashion

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!

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?

Event: Grand Trianon

Grand Trianon
Tonight was an event touted as a girl-exclusive, Marie Antoinette-themed party, Grand Trianon. While not specifically a lolita event, it certainly had lolita potential. I received an online invitation to this event from one of the staff last week as a result of my being a member of the Nagoya lolita community on mixi (a Japanese networking site not unlike Facebook).
The website mentioned several cute items of interest: tea time, performances, and a “meeting system” that was divided into two categories– you could send message cards to other attendees and the color of the card you sent suggested your intent (blue for “friendship” and pink for “interest”, and keep in mind this is a girl-only event).

Anyway, the theme was flowers and if you had flowers as part of your outfit, you got 500 yen off the entry. Flowers aren’t exactly the hardest thing to work into a lolita outfit so of course that wasn’t a problem!
el dorado
I couldn’t resist wearing my new jsk, but I wore a flower corsage so it was ok!

Despite all the promises of being cute and unique though, it unfortunately wasn’t. Neither of the two themes (or gimmicks) were held to– the Rococo inspiration was tossed in favour of a normal club atmosphere and the girl-only idea was traded… well, for boys, lots of them. Not that I don’t like boys, I just think that if you make rules you shouldn’t go changing them at the end.
I think MOST of the attendees were pretty confused though, actually, and it was a pretty awkward situation. The event was hosted by… um, hosts. Or hostesses, if you will, as they are crossdressing girls (they are SO cute though, I really want to go to their cafe now!), and they were very active and friendly– one even forced me to dance, which was pitiful T_T. Outside of the gogo dancers (whose outfits were ridiculously adorable to make up for the fact that they weren’t such great dancers) and hosts though, most people were like me– too shy to do anything. There were some really adorable people though, so they were fun: the shy crossdresser that was a salaryman by day, the guy with the metal light-up suit. Entertaining at least.

About halfway through, after the “tea time” that involved no tea (but a lot of alcohol, if just around my table), we saw a few acts. The first was a creepy stop-motion animation video with dolls, which was weird (I hate stop-motion animation), but the dolls were cool and were handmade by one of the night’s attendees. A dancer performed and was quite good. After that I was forced to dance again, we sat through a HORRIFIC performance of an American song that I can’t remember (thank god) and another dance, and then decided to call it a night before we risked missing the last subway. Another performance was starting then but I really was about to fall asleep so I guess it was time to go.

All in all, it wasn’t a BAD event, just not what it should have been. I think if they had stayed with their themes, it would have been more fun, or if they’d abandoned the themes altogether it would have been more coherent. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone was really sure what the main idea was, so it was kind of a waste of a good idea. Hopefully they’ll get more organized as they go. This was just the first time, after all 🙂