First things first: nothing on this page is a hard and fast rule. Nothing you’ve heard elsewhere is either. Japanese street fashion is heavy on the DIY, and many of the current trends came about because somebody somewhere tried something new and other people liked it. Experiment – that’s the whole point of street fashion.
Still, if you’re new to all this, you probably need at least a basic primer. Read on!
What We Sell
Our logo says it: rock, punk, gothic and lolita, mostly from the major Japanese brands. These are very different styles, although there is some crossover. Why do we sell Japanese brands and not American or western clothes? Because Japanese street wear is unique, cute, edgy and sometimes really over the top. It’s fun! And that’s something that’s often missing from western fashion.
One thing: while both guys and girls wear most of this stuff, there’s just a lot more out there for girls. So that’s mostly what you’ll find here too. We’ll sell more guys’ and unisex stuff in the future.
Let’s take a look at each style:
Rock & Punk
Japanese “Rock” fashion is kind of a catch-all, and it has no real specific definition. It would include heavy metal, hard rock and “Visual Kei” styles, the last of which borrows a bit from both gothic, metal and punk. Lots of leather, lots of denim, lots of black, lots of studs and chains, but not quite as dark or frilly as the true gothic style and neither as colorful as punk.
In the US, visual kei styles are a lot more associated with underground rock fashion than punk. But in Japan, the reverse is true.
Most punk fashion in Japan is heavily based on UK bands of the 1970’s – not American styles. Tartan (plaid) rules Japanese punk. Vivienne Westwood and the Sex Pistols are the big inspirations, but the Japanese have amped it up with bright colors and extra decorative garments and accessories that the original punks could probably not have afforded. Also, while the original punks wore their clothes ripped and torn because it was old and fell apart, the Japanese actually make stuff that way. You’re not losing street cred in Japan by wearing a brand new pair of ripped jeans.
Like in America and the UK, there’s a more hardcore punk style in Japan too (they call it “hard punk”), which is a lot blacker and closer to gothic. But still, there is nothing sacred about it, no need to stick to only one color or style. It’s all about what you like.
In most ways, punk fashion is the easiest to get right because there are very few rules. A graphic t-shirt, some studs and some tartan somewhere and you’re a punk. Mix and match as you please.
Both SEX POT ReVeNGe and Algonquins produce rock and punk clothes, and we carry both of these brands.
The most elegant of Japanese street fashions (depending on style) and kind of a curiosity to the western mainstream, this is a tough style to pull off – especially outside of Japan. It’s probably easiest to define what lolita is by telling you what it isn’t. Here are some western myths about lolita fashion:
- Myth: Lolita is supposed to be “sexy”. It isn’t! At least not most lolita styles. Most lolitas aspire to be “elegant”, not sexy. In fact, true lolitas use their fashion to actively hide their sexuality – in its purest form, no skin is visible below the neck.
- Myth: Lolita is just for cosplay. In Japan, lolita is an actual fashion style. Most lolitas don’t dress that way on a daily basis – you need to wear the standard work “uniform” during daily life – but lolita fashion is treated like any other formal wear. And the real Japanese brands make clothes with that level of quality in mind – for the most part, they are intended as high-end fashion, not costumes.
- Myth: Lolita girls are trying to look underage, or always actually are underage. This misconception probably comes from Vladimir Nabokov book “Lolita”, which is now part of western pop culture. In it, a 12 year old girl is lusted after by an older man – this is where the western conception of the word “Lolita” comes from.
But Japan is a different country. The book never had the same impact in Japan as it did here, so while the term “Lolita complex” is well-known in Japan, the name “Lolita” by itself does not instantly conjure up images of underage girls. There’s kind of a disconnect there, but the book is not widely read, nor is it part of their culture.
- Myth: All lolitas are “gothic lolitas”. In fact, there are many different lolita styles, including gothic lolita (“goth loli”) – but gothic lolita and plain old “gothic” are completely different fashion genres.
Other lolita styles include classic (or classical) lolita, sweet lolita, and punk lolita, all of which we either sell now or will sell in the near future. Check out the informative lolitafashion.org for info on these styles and others.
The most common lolita outfit starts out with a jumper skirt, which in Japan is just a sleeveless dress. A blouse usually (not always) goes underneath. A popular alternative is a one-piece dress (which doesn’t require a blouse) or a regular skirt and blouse for a more “casual lolita” look. One of the mistakes westerners sometimes make is forgetting the under-garments, which provide body for the dress. The Japanese typically wear what they call a “pannier” but which is more correctly called a petticoat. (A real pannier is a frightening metal contraption – trust us, you wouldn’t want to wear one even if you could buy it!) The pannier provides lift for the bell of the dress – without it, the dress will be flat and lifeless.
Panniers/petticoats can be scratchy so some girls wear a regular slip underneath, and if you want to go for full historical accuracy, there are bloomers/knickers too. Not every lolita in Japan wears these – they’re optional. A full outfit can be very hot in summer, so going without the bloomers is common.
Thigh-high white stockings or socks (“over knee”) are often worn, although full-length stockings are common too. The footwear is usually simple Mary Jane type shoes, although platform boots can give a more updated look. Lolitas are known for walking around with matching parasols for sun protection, and wearing hair accessories like large bows, headdresses or flowers. The hair color itself usually matches the dress, and can be natural, dyed or a wig.
If you are looking to do the gothic lolita thing (as opposed to straight gothic, as described below), the base outfit is the same, only the colors and accessories differ.
One funny thing about lolita fashion is that Americans are often a lot stricter about adherence to style “code” than the Japanese are. Japanese lolitas will often mix and match, as will the manufacturers there, and new styles are created on a monthly basis (and featured in fashion magazines). This is what drives the genre forward. American lolitas, on the other hand, are often very traditional, sticking closely to one of the “big” lolita styles and demanding the same from others. Don’t be bound by lolita fashion traditions – once you’ve developed your sense of taste and style, feel free to experiment!
We carry Victorian maiden (Classic Lolita) and Atelier-Pierrot (Gothic Lolita), and also have several other brands in our used section. We will have more brands in different Lolita styles shortly after our store opens.
While lolita (including gothic lolita) styles are mostly based on 18th century formal-wear, a modern gothic style also emerged in 1980’s Japan at around the same time as it did in the US and UK. This was a completely separate movement, and like punk and rock fashions it was originally based around music. This is still true in the US and UK, where goths still listen to bands like The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cranes, but Japanese goths today seem to just view it as a visual style that’s no longer tied to any particular musical movement. That’s one thing it does now have in common with Lolita style.
Modern Japanese gothic fashion is similar to the same style in the USA, but like everything else in Japan, it’s turned up to 11. Famed Japanese designers like h.Naoto have elevated the style to haute couture, producing many limited edition coordinated outfits, as well as one-offs for celebrities like Amy Lee of Evanescence. Japanese gothic fashion is almost exclusively black or white but often includes one colored garment to break up the visuals. Hair color is also used to break the monotony, and hair accessories are common.
The style has some elements in common with punk: chains, studs and leather are common, although the DIY elements are gone, as are most of the graphics. (Lots of Japanese goths do DIY their own outfits, but the goal is to make it look like they didn’t.) The most common gothic look is a coordinated layered black skirt and button top, although the devil’s in the details – fishnet stockings, heavy black boots, black fingernails, the stark white makeup and heavily styled hair. The skirts are often asymmetrical, and corsets are popular. Gothic fashion requires a lot of full-body effort – it’s not just about the right clothes.
Still confused about the difference between gothic and gothic lolita? Here’s an easy illustration – a two page ad spread for h.Naoto Frill and h.Naoto Blood. Two brands from the same maker, one gothic lolita and the other “pure” gothic.
Some of the popular brands making gothic fashion are Black Peace Now (a separate line from Peace Now), Deorart, and h.NAOTO (especially the h.NAOTO Blood line, as seen above).
If you have any questions about anything we’ve written here, don’t hesitate to contact us for more info.