Tokyo’s Harajuku fashion styles – I am a Lolita, Geisha, Mori Girl…
Japanese live fashion. Japan’s fashion styles are as complex as its culinary pleasures and simply a delight to look at.
I love fashion, I love girlie stuff and I am going to give you some insights about the various fashion styles you can expect to see, where to find dressed up Tokyoites and where to buy Harajuku style.
I imagine you have watched the Harajuku background girls perform in Gwen Stefani‘s music videos and you like ‘wicked Harajuku fashion‘.
Now is the time to step up.
Here are 10 Tokyo’s fashion styles in a nutshell:
1. HARAJUKU. This is not one particular style but mainly Tokyo’s garish district where independent individuals find a space of freedom of self-expression in what is known to be a rather conservative Japanese society with overall stiff jobs, attitudes and work outfits. Harajuku is Tokyo’s playground for fashion fanatics and shopaholics. You will find dressed up individuals usually in groups or pairs.
Harajuku style is all about displaying alternative styles and ground-breaking fashion. Mixing and matching for cute, bright, fun, humorous, contrasting, shocking and extravagant looks. Dressing up has originated as a way to rebel against social expectations in Japan but truthfully, nowadays no one will blink an eye if you will wear… well, let’s just say for the sake of a ridiculous example… bunny ears.
I did some personal purikura and I might have just invented a new style: candy usagi decora.
2. DECORA. Child like over-cute fashion for grown up girls. Multiple layers of pink, baby rouge and colours. That applies to an overload of knee high socks in all patterns, ribbons, hair clips, plastic jewellery. Decora like to wear furry and fuzzy accessories or toys with Hello Kitty, My Melody, all the Sanrio characters. Under the eye stickers, glitter and pigtails are also common characteristics.
3. BOSOZOKU. Mixing soldier and rocker looks to create futuristic looking military or biker gang images.
4. GYARU. The total opposite to Japan’s conventional beauty standard of elegant paleness. There is a vast variety of Gyaru styles ranging from rasta to princess but Ganguro is probably one of the most extreme. Think fake tanned girls, dressed American Californian surfer girl with the most striking feature being reversed panda eyes, white lips and platinum blond, brightly coloured hair, stickers and glimmer under the eyes. This sensational style is unfortunately dying out.
5. VISUAL KEI. Inspired by J-music with a badass rocker-punk attitude. Eccentric looks adorned with metal and punk accessories, punk hairstyles, dark smokey eyes, piercings, ragged clothes, striped arm warmers, goggles, studded bracelets and neckbands. Everything affiliated with J-pop subcultures, rock bands, punk and electro music.
6. DOLLY KEI. This is a fairly new style that has emerged due to the infatuation with Europe’s folklore. Think matrioshka-dolls sewing dresses, German Oktoberfest-Trachten-look, combined with intricate Slavic folk and flower patterns. It is becoming my favourite look due to its back to the roots and natural beauty tendency. No fake eye pupils, nor make up overkill.
7. MORI GIRL. More means ‘forest’ in Japanese and the style proclaims a delicate feminine look, very popular in Tokyo. I consider myself to lately be pretty on the mori side. My favourite Japanese labels (like Music Earth&Ecology) sell Mori Girl style. The key is little make up, long straight, slightly wavy, braided or put up hair to create a romantic-natural look. Decent layering with each garment coming through subtly. Colours in ivory, old rose, peach, cream, beige, combined with shades of the forest – overall more of an earthy-toned colour palette. A Mori Girl reads Spoon Magazine, likes to wander around, travel the world and drink tea. That’s me.
Mori girl inspired fashion.
Mori inspired Me. Harajuku in Athens.
8. LOLITA. The name is derived from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita which portrays highly sexualised under-age girl Dolores. However, Harajuku outfits have nothing to do with the look of precocious twelve year old western girls. There are of course many different types of Lolita styles but the most popular is the Goth Lolita with the look of Victorian porcelain dolls. Black dresses with white blouses, Goth inspired accessories, white or black (commonly fishnet) stockings or over-knees. Elegant and girly with a Gothic spin.
And because I enjoy watching Tokyo styles as much as dressing up myself this is me becoming a western Loli. I am probably past the age-appropriateness for Lolita but…
The must accessories that transformed me into a Goth Lolita are: the black and white combination dress, the tiny top-hat worn to the side (which I chose over a lace trimmed hairband), a pale face and black hair (got that), the black ribbon, the petticoat I was wearing underneath and over-knee socks.
Entering the world of Harajuku catwalk and Alice in Lolita-Land. It is a group thing.
Japanese girls love accessories. Jewellery, hats, beanies, bows, belts, vests, bags, ribbons, hair clips, tassels and all kinds of adorable extras piled onto their bodies without looking ridiculous.
The selection of foot gear is kind of cool, too.
9. ROCKABILLY. A mix of rock and roll and hill-billy. Think Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe as fashion designers. American 50s soda shop colours and design on garments. Polka dot, pencil skirts, sailor motifs, tattoo art, pin-up girl make up and hairstyles. Lads in shirts showing off chests, belts, black jeans, leather pants. Outfits for the female heavily accentuating on assents of the womanly figure, mainly showing off a lot of cleavage which I suspect is the reason this fashion style is not the most popular of them all in Japan.
10. YUKATA STYLE is more common with the older generation but in Kyoto you will see many Japanese and gajin girls wearing Yukata, a sort of easy version of the Kimono. It is cheaper than dressing up in a real kimono in one of Kyoto’s expensive Geisha-make-belive places and still tricky to wrap around your body the right way.
There are plenty of Yukatas to chose from at OIO ONE (address further down) in Shinjuku and Yukata places in Harajuku.
This is how to wear a Yukata – Harajuku style – and pose for the obligatory couple picture.
Okay, so let me tell you where to find all that fashion awesomeness, before I will give you a few more thoughts on what you should know about cleavage when coming to Japan.
*** Where to FIND dressed up Harajuku individuals ***
You can treat yourself to Tokyo’s craziest fashion styles in the Harajuku area, most hang out on the bridge, across the railway tracks from Harajuku station to Yoyogi Park. The Harajuku Bridge (原宿の橋) is also called JinguBashi or Cosplay bridge.
Most Harajuku fashionistas wear regular school/work apparel during the week and dress up on weekends to make their fashion statement. Saturday is best and Yoyogi park will give you the incredible Rockabilly dancers, if the weather is right.
Surrounded by Sweet Lolis. To the right the Goth Loli.
*** Where to BUY Harajuku fashion and one awesome outlet ***
This magic place is not surprisingly Tokyo’s Harajuku area itself. For an unforgettable all-you-can-buy experience you gotta conquer the bastion of Harajuku fashion LAFORET located on 1-11-6 Jingumae. Takeshita Dori is the main shopping street in Harajuku.
For more fashion stores and fun have a look at my tour of 23 awesome Harajuku locations.
Additionally, I would absolutely recommend OIOI ONE (pronounced Mariu One) located at 3-1-20 Shinjuku in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. It even has a section with reduced clothes which end up here if not sold from their huge collections. I found a kawaii Alice and the Pirates top for only 3,500 YEN (the original price was at 11,000 YEN).
Enjoy eight floors of Harajuku fashion each themed for specific styles and brands:
1F Tokyo pop fashion accessories
2F Shoes and fashion accessories
3F Princess and romantic fashion
4F Modern kimono, dolls and princess fashion
5F Lolita Gothic fashion
6F Japanese punk rock fashion
7F Girly dreamy Lolita wear
8F Visual Kei influenced concert-goer fashion
Lolita style. 5F.
Sweet Lolita dresses. 7F.
*** Thoughts on CLEAVEAGE in Japan ***
Generally Japanese girls are lacking in the upper department or a better way to put it is that they are blessed with gorgeous teenage bodies.
Exposing your cleavage is not a good idea. It is a highly sexualized area in Japan and unless you would like to portray a certain image of yourself showing off a décolleté neckline European-American style is a no go. Anything below your armpits is too low cut. Deep V-neck shirts and low cut tops are not cool.
However, you can reveal as much leg as you want.
Japanese couple and family.
Japanese girls wear some shockingly short skirts. Most school girl’s uniforms are veeeery short and worn with knee high socks, which has been picked up by teens and transformed into a trend – worn outside school time.
This seem to have advanced to a sexualized fashion style often found in Japanese erotic Manga and anime.
Showing off what kind of panties you are wearing is part of popular nerdy sexism in Japan.
The leg-in-overknee-obsession is also a guarantee for not getting fat.
Or so I thought.
Anyhow. The basic fashion rule in Japan is wear whatever you want. Pikachu head, fuzzy bunny slippers and rainbow leggings – no worries – you will be surprised how easily you will blend in at Tokyo’s top fashion district.
You can’t go wrong with the monster-hunter cats Airou and Merarou or Pikachu hats on your head. I think.
Here is a picture of a trend becoming more and more popular – taken at one of Tokyo’s fashion stores: the shockingly cute WIG.
Wearing wig is just as an accepted fashion accessory as coloured contact lenses. I recently got an advertising booklet selling wigs for all ages and styles, saying: ‘No wig – no life!’
And a final appeal for a great fashion idea.
Dear fashion industry and Japanese designers,
I am currently waiting for 18th century fashion to awake and would embrace a come-back of corsets and Marie Antoinette infused dresses. Baroque opulence framed into wearable 21st century outfits.
For inspiration please contact me and I will gladly share my fashion utopia. Thank you.
If you would like to share YOUR fashion world – be welcome!