When you think of Japanese street fashion, the first term that often pops up is the iconic gothic lolita style, a part of the fashion subculture that’s taken Victorian style and given it an entirely new look, that’s as kawaii as it is alternative.
Lolita fashion has been taking not just the streets of Japan by storm, but it’s become a worldwide phenomena, an alternative style that’s become a firm favourite, and with looks that combine memento mori mourning dresses with eyepatches, ruffled head dresses and platform mary jane shoes, it’s easy to see just how it’s become a much loved alternative subculture style.
To the majority of us, we’re familiar with this iconic alternative style through cult publications like “Fruits” and “Gothic & Lolita Bible”, which showcased this subcultural style in all it’s Victorian splendour. With each edition they would bring a different take on the look to their pages, lolita style isn’t just about the gothic or the sweet, there’s so many astounding variations of this look that you almost wouldn’t know where to start!
Lolita style can be traced back almost as far as the iconic punk look, with key labels that have helped to create this alternative look such as Milk and Pretty (now known as Angelic Pretty), who began to design their take on this unique style in the late 1970’s. Whilst the term may have taken much longer to become associated with this style, the type of clothing that each company was designing was very lolita in style, helping to pave the way for this look.
Lolita fashion was initially inspired by Victorian fashion, the look initially began as one of modesty, with a focus on quality in both the material and manufacture of the clothing. The look that we often associate with lolita style often comprises of a knee length skirt or dress with a empire line style, shaped with puffed sleeves and skirts, and plenty of lace detailing. Additional elements like corsets, knee high socks and head dresses finish off the look.
Beyond the base look though, there are many types of lolita style, and the one that we’re most familiar with is Gothic Lolita. This look is incredibly dark in style, one that naturally takes it’s inspiration from the classic gothic look, mixing it up with lolita style; think Victorian elegance and plenty of dark gothic lace.
The key to any gothic lolita look is a dark black base outfit, such as ruffled empire line dresses with a black lace trim, or a sweet Victorian blouse teamed up with an underbust corset, crinoline and knee length skirt – all in a dark palette of black and purple shades of course! Items like this gothic lolita jumper dress by KMK Designs are just perfect for this look.
The look is often completed with dark make up, such as smokey eyes, and black or purple lipsticks, although it is a little tamer than the gothic look, with white face powder left out, as this is often considered in poor taste with this elegant style. Finished off with accessories like lace head dresses, bags and eyepatches, pieces like this lace rose eyepatch by Necrosarium are just perfect to complete your look.
Not just a style that’s strictly kept to womenswear, the Elegant gothic lolita look (often referred to as EGL) is a more masculine take on the look, with a wardrobe of equally dark black clothing, often bringing in tailored suits, fitted shirts and ruffles with stylish gothic ties and cuffs.
On the lighter side of lolita fashion, is the Sweet lolita look, heavily influenced by Victorian fashion, it’s this look that you may be familiar with when you first think of lolita style. The sweet lolita look takes a paler palette of colours, bringing in pastel colours and sweet prints, often in a similar shaped style of dresses and skirts like the gothic lolita look, but these empire line dresses and skirts are much lighter, often covered in pretty floral prints, finished off with a lace trim. Items like this lace and silk haute couture skirt by Manuela Biocca are perfect to piece into any sweet lolita outfit.
No sweet lolita look is complete without a pretty headdress, head band or bonnet, these essential accessories are matched with the rest of the outfit, in similar shades or prints. This pretty flower head dress by Maison de Cantern for instance, would be perfect to complete your look. It’s certainly a more kawaii look when compared to gothic lolita, and one that’s certainly sweet in style.
Not to be confused with gothic lolita, there’s the Classic lolita look, one that’s more mature in style to it’s counterparts, taking it’s influence from Victorian and regency styles. It’s a look that sits between the two in terms of it’s palette of shades, not quite as dark as gothic lolita, but not as sugary sweet as sweet lolita either. Classic lolita is all about elegance, with a sophisticated look.
Empire line dresses still play a crucial part to the classic lolita outfit, with a-line style dresses and skirts worn to create a more mature look. The classic silhouette is still there, but with more an elegant, regal look. The accessories are what really sets this look apart, as they are much more functional than the items often worn in gothic and sweet lolita outfits, with items such as day bags used to complete the look, compared to the sweet mini bags often worn with sweet lolita outfits.
Of course, there’s far more to lolita style than just these three looks, each style takes a unique spin on the lolita look, from the tartan dresses and safety pinned jackets of Punk lolita, to the kanzashi hair flowers and kimono inspired dresses of the Wa Lolita look, each style is distinctly different, but still at the heart of lolita fashion.
Whatever lolita style you adore, you’ll find plenty of inspiring lolita clothing and accessories from our sellers here at the marketplace. From sweet lolita dresses, to embellished princess lolita crowns, you’ll find plenty to complete your lolita look.
Sweet Lolita photo by Mika Valentine at Deviantart.