Friday, April 9, 2010

Harajuku's Lolitas

I was looking at my competition on Fabricville’s contest website when I came across an entry called “A Candy Pink Lolita”. This got me thinking (and researching) on the subject. I usually call this style Gothic Lolita, but I did not realise that Gothic is only one Lolita style. Apparently, there is a whole list of them!

Lolita fashion really became popular in 90’s with
Visual Kei (visual type) bands such as Malice Mizer with the performers wearing costumes similar to Lolita wear; when their fans began imitating their stage looks, the Lolita fashion went through a veritable boom.

You might have heard of Lolita fashion referred to as “
Harajuku Girls”: this name is not appropriate, but is due to Gwen Stefani’s song “Harajuku Girls”, to the line of cosmetics she created on the theme and to her four Japanese-American back-up dancers (Love, Baby, Angel and Music – named after the cosmetics, themselves named after the album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. – it’s a whole marketing concept!). Harajuku is in fact a Train Station in Tokyo near where adepts of Lolita Style meet on Sundays. The Harajuku Girls’ influence has led the way for Lolita fashion to become very popular in the western world; there are even commercial patterns for “Japanese Street Style costume” for girls (although I know this is probably seen as an insult by Lolitas everywhere).

In general, Lolita fashion is a form of rebellion against hyper sexualisation of young girls. The clothes they wear are meant to be reminiscent of Victorian children or porcelain doll; it is in a way, an attempt to return to innocence. Lolita look consists primarily of a knee length skirt or dress, headdress, blouse, petticoat, knee high socks or stockings and high heels, platform shoes or rocking horse (cork platforms). Adepts of Lolita fashion often frown upon people calling their clothes costumes, so I hope they forgive me for this post, but as I always say somebody’s clothes is another’s costume; it’s a question of context.

So let’s look at what makes each of these styles unique.

Gothic Lolita

Two Gothic Lolita girls in Harajuku, Tokyo

Gothic Lolita, or GothLoli is generally characterized by black clothes with dark colour accents such as purple, green, blue and red, although sometimes the accent can be white. Make-up is dark, with red lips and Smokey eye, but the face is kept its natural colour instead of the white tones usually associated with western gothics. As for accessories, they include the usual religious symbols in jewellery (crosses and crucifixes) and purses.

Basically, imagine everyone’s favourite Goth,
Abby Sciuto, in a frilly blouse and short poufy skirt!

Erotic Lolita

Okay, so Lolitas are not really supposed to be sexy, and yet one style of Lolita is called Erotic or Ero? That is because of their Fetishist inspiration; they use a lot of leather and pleather in their dresses, but they are as covered as your basic Lolita!

Sweet Lolita

Sweet Lolita or Ama-Loli is the opposite of GothLoli in terms of colour schemes and patterns. Highly influenced by Rococo, Victorian and Edwardian styles, it focuses on the childlike qualities of Lolita fashion with candy pastels and girly patterns. Think Alice in Wonderland, Fruits, Candy & Sweets, Fairy tales and Princesses, and wear Gingham, lace, bows, colourful prints and anything cute.

Country Lolita

Country Lolita

Derived from the Sweet Lolita, the Country Lolita resembles Dorothy more than Alice. Stick to gingham, fruit items such as strawberries and cherries, and don’t forget your straw hat and basket!

Classic Lolita

Classic Lolitas

The Classic Lolita is a more mature looking Lolita inspired by Baroque, Rococo and Regency styles. On the Lolita meter, they are between Gothic and Sweet: not too dark and not too colourful either. A more muted palette is aimed for here, as are A-line shapes and empire waists. Focus on intricate designs; this Lolita is less whimsical and more functional.

Casual Lolita

Casual Lolita

Same style but toned down; it is best described as “dressed-down Lolita”. Keep lines and accessories simple and not over the top and you should be okay.

Punk Lolita

Punk Lolita

Take your basic Lolita look and mix in typical punk style such as plaid (preferably a Royal Stewart Tartan), ties and chains: Voilà! You have a Punk Lolita. Oh, and as Punk fashion began in Britain, it is more than acceptable to throw in a Union Jack.

Wa Lolita

Wa Lolita

Wa Lolitas, or simply Wa Loli is a more “kimono-esque” look. The bell shaped petticoat is still there, but it is worn with a wrap-around top with long kimono sleeves and an obi. Fabrics and prints used here are inspired by traditional Japanese fashion, while hair accessories can include kanzashi flowers. Make-up wise, anything from natural to geisha works. Shoes can be modern platforms, or the more traditional geta, or even okobo or pokkuri.

Qi Lolita

Qi Lolita Outfit

Similar to the Wa Lolita style, Qi Loli finds it’s inspiration in traditional Chinese fashion. Chinese brocades, mandarin collar and frog closures are a must!

Hime Lolita

Hime Lolita

Hime is the Japanese word for Princess, and this Lolita style is all about European Fairy Tale princesses and Marie Antoinette. It is a very elegant look which is characterized by miniature crowns, tiaras, extravagant hair or large hair and dresses. Go for pearls and roses, and keep the make-up natural.

Sailor Lolita

Sailor Lolita

We’ve all seen Sailor Lolitas in Anime; just think of Sailor Moon! This Lolita style gets its inspiration in nautical wear: sailor collars, ties, sailor hats, and stripes, gold buttons, lots of navy and white with red accents, and of course, ships anchors and wheels patterns. As for make-up, natural is again the best way to go.

Shiro Lolita

Shiro Lolita

A Shiro Lolita or White Lolita can wear any Lolita style, as long as her entire outfit is white or cream (even shoes – black shoes on a Shiro Lolita is a terrible faux pas).

Kuro Lolita

Kuro Lolita

Kuro Lolitas or Black Lolitas are the colour spectrum opposite of Shiro Lolitas: they wear only black. But just as Shiro Lolitas, Kuro Lolitas can wear any Lolita style.

Cosplay Lolita

Cosplay Lolita

From what I’ve been reading, Lolitas don’t like Cosplay or Costume Lolitas (which is what I guess I would fit in).

Cosplay Lolita, or 'Costume Lolita,' is not a subset of Lolita fashion, but it is still important to know the difference between Cosplay Lolita and the actual fashion.

Cosplay Lolita is often looked-down upon because it's usually seen at Anime Conventions being worn by those who don't really understand Lolita fashion and are happy to throw-on a costume quality eBay dress for the weekend. A lot of the time Cosplay Lolitas believe that Lolita is a costume instead of a fashion movement.

Cosplay Lolita generally doesn't conform to the actual standards of Lolita fashion and usually includes very low quality materials, such as thin cottons or shiny fabric, synthetic Rachel lace, satin ribbon, square-dance petticoats, cat/costume-ish ears, and poorly done corset-style lacing, stompy goth boots, lace gloves, low-quality coloured wigs, leg warmers, stripper-esque high-heels, low-quality lace parasols, maid outfits, and short, un-modest skirts. Cosplay Lolita takes the lovable elements of Lolita fashion such as bows, lace, frills, and pushes them to the extreme, usually covering a dress with too many of these things, and entirely removing the classy image that most Lolita fashion tries to convey.

Make-up for this style can be anything from Mana-esque white-face, heavy eye-liner, thick Goth eye shadow and black lipstick.

(Excerpt from - Cosplay Lolita)

While I would argue that the Lolitas seen at Anime conventions are maybe emulating an anime character (and therefore not necessarily going for the proper Lolita look) and/or are perhaps on a tight budget (hence the cheap lace and accessories, and the readily available petticoats and Goth or stripper shoes), I can understand the frustration at seeing the classy image that Lolitas work so hard at portraying being perverted by neophytes, especially when it comes to skirt length and general modesty. I guess it’s like my reaction to "Halloween party quality" costumes at a Medieval fair or the use of a round crinoline under a supposed 18th century dress.

But fear not: has some suggestions to go from
Cosplay Lolita to Elegant Lolita in 7 steps.


Ōji or Kodona

Ōji, meaning “Prince”, or Kodona as is it is called in the western world, means “Boy style”. This is a dandier look which can be either laid back or extravagant.

Clothing includes pants, capris or knickerbockers with some detail to them (like lace at the hem), suspenders, ties or bowties, bowler caps and long socks (to cover the legs). The more extravagant styles can also include spats, canes, top hats, capes, etc., but it is important to keep the boyish look of the outfit.

This is the one of two “Unisex Lolita”; it is usually worn by women, but can also be used by men. Women can wear a few feminine touches in their accessories (such as high heals), but keep the make-up to a minimum (although black eyeliner is okay). Hair should be either short and boyish, or tucked away under the cap.


Aristocrat (a.k.a. Elegant Gothic Aristocrat or EGA)

Aristocrat or Elegant Gothic Aristocrat is the most mature of the Lolita looks and the other unisex (men can be Aristocrats too): there are no cutesy motifs, skits are generally worn long, but they can be short, and they are worn with high corseted ,corsets of all types, fitted jackets with tail coats, frilly shirts and cravats, top hats, veils, etc.

Hairdo should be more mature as well: buns and other up does, long, short, or even curly, though it is recommended to stay away from barrel curls. Make-up is mature and a little darker, but extreme make-up (and for that matter hair) are reserved to special occasions such as clubs, gatherings or fashion shows.

All in all, the Aristocrat has more in common with the western Goth (or Romantic Gothic to use the proper term) than with say, a Sweet Lolita.

Guro Lolita

The last Lolita style is the Guro or Gore Lolita (also known as Horror Lolita). Take your basic Lolita (although a Shiro Lolita base works best) and add bandages and blood spatter. (And now you know why I kept this for last and did not use a picture – and if you’re not a regular reader, it’s because I hate horror flicks and anything bloody and gruesome). Apparently it’s meant to look like a broken doll but… I don’t know about you but none of my dolls ever bleed when they were broken. I guess it’s a question of opinion (and mine is “Yuck!”).

Far from me to want to insult anyone by “costuming” myself as a Lolita for Otakuthon, but it would make for a great outfit. Oh! I know, I’ve wanted to make something out of sushi printed cotton for years, do you think it would work? In any case, you know that I would do my research right, keep with the knee length bell skirt and skip on the cat ears!



  1. This is a good evaluation of our style. Thank you for portraying it correctly, and I admire your writing! (:

    -A sweet lolita

  2. Thank you! I'm glad you approve.

  3. This is perfect! I've been searching for a website that explains the different styles of lolita and this is the best one! Thank you! ^^

  4. Thank you for the lovely comment! I'm glad you found my post helpful.

  5. Hi, I've been browsing through the net regarding lolita fashion and I stumbled onto yours! I'm glad to say that your post is well written, gathering information from wiki etc (which I'm too lazy to read through).

    I've read that you're a costume designer. So I have a question to ask: how to...make one of such costumes? Purchasing such costumes are pricey, I'd much rather them be hand-made. :)

  6. Cool! Thanks for the Loli info. And about Guro Lolita, in Japan, the Broken Doll can have numerous ideals. White for purity, black for evil, and bloody for sexuality and violence.

  7. Hi, your areticle is great for explaining the bare bones. It makes it much easier for me when I can direct someone to this article. I wear all the styles excluding cosloli. I don't feel insulted when I see someone enjoying cosplay, I get irritated when someone tells me "nice costume". Even when I buy my items third hand my outfitt is upwards of $500. Naomi Rori

  8. Glad to hear it!

    500$ I can spend on a costume. For everyday wear, I doubt my entire look including shoes costs more than 50 to 100$ (I am very cheap when it comes to street clothes).

  9. I think that you summed this topic of style up very nicely. You did a good job for the ignorant and not so ignorant. (Even people who dress like this for recreation can be ignorant. And for you to explain the context of words and the origin is thorough. And as much as people don't like for it to be called a costume that's what people in Japan call it too. And if you only wear it to a function with other people dressed up in costumes, then it's a costume. If you dress up in it and people look at you funny, then it's a costume because the society around you says it is. Not because you say it isn't.

    Some lolitas take themselves way too seriously

    1. Thing is, a costume is usually something you wear for a special party or event.

      Lolita, goth and other things, are styles because people use them when and because they want to. In that way, cosplay CAN also be a style. If people look at you funny, it's because they're society mindwashed dromes. It really doesn't take a fancy dress, just have a favorite colour and they look at you funny...

      "Some lolitas take themselves way too seriously"
      No doubt there...

  10. I now worship you. "Kodona as is it is called in the western world". That name was merely a misunderstanding of a model's words.

    ...Now if only half the lolitas out there would realize that...

    1. Thank you, and thanks for the information about the word "Kodona".