Assignment # 1
- Location: Harajuku District/Shrine & Train Station in Tokyo, Japan
Fashion: Lolita Fashion; Lolita Subculture
People of Interest: Young women ages ranging from 15 to 23 years of age.
Popular Fashion lines: Baby, The Stars Shine Bright; Angelic Pretty; Mary Magdalene,
Metamorphose temp defiles; etc.
Celebrate social/religious occasions?
Yes. Free days in Japan are Sundays. In the Harajuku district, well known for the 1960s Tokyo Olympics and the Harajuku Shrine, the Bridge and roadways are closed to street traffic, but left open for pedestrians to gather together. This spot has been well known, from the time of 1960s Tokyo Olympics, as a place to gather and hang out with friends, social groups, etc. It is in this region that Lolita Fashion and other street fashions have found a common place to be expressed. And since you have an urban area teaming with the cultural youths, groups have formed to express themselves in a multitude of fashions, subculture fashions in this one region.
Visibly identify themselves with a group?
Sure, the Lolita fashion is such a distinctive statement in itself that any young woman wearing it or many of the subgenre styles of the fashion, are easily noticeable even in a crowd. It's very distinct fashion began around the late 1970s as a reaction against the growing trend in Japanese counter-culture where skin and immodest clothing were becoming more popular as Japanese mainstream fashion culture looked more towards western apparel.
It is interesting to note that mainstream fashion in Japanese culture still tends to be more conservative in dress from business suits or pants and polo shirts for men to skirts and blouses or dresses for women. However, in spite of the Japanese conservative culture, it has produced a wide array of fashion trends and styles that Western Couture houses glean with envy over. Lolita fashion has been such a trend setter in itself that fashion houses in Japan are now selling their clothing lines in department stores and have been branching out into the western fashion market. Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, for example, have opened two stores outside of Japan, one in Paris, France and another located in San Francisco, CA. Its popularity has grown that the Fashion Institute of Technology put together a Fashion Show/Exhibit featuring well known Lolita clothing lines in their 2010 runway show.
Show status within their group?
Now that is a difficult question to answer, at least from an observational point-of-view. Since this fashion is shown as a means to represent oneself different from a larger group or culture, is there a substructure or hierarchy within this fashion culture? I don't know money, I guess. I mean, outside of someone being their own seamstress/tailor, who would wear this fashion if not for a statement? It's not like its opposite fashion cousin kogals, which is the Tokyo/Japanese equivalent to California's So Cal Valley Girl, where that style is to show off a disposable income. Lolita fashion itself is an expression of modesty, modernity from the old (since its patterns are based from three different western periods), and a whole embrace to femininity, like classic Southern Bells.
Attract persons of one's gender preference?
Lolita from a western culture perspective, means a young girl usually a prepubescent girl - that sexually attracts an older man. In Japanese culture, Lolita has become more a fashion statement towards refinement, establishing a distinction towards higher quality garments and accessories. It deals more about the issue of being modest in dress, yet embracing a wholly feminine persona. Since this style of Lolita isn't about dressing up to attract the attention of certain men, aka pedophiles it actually does the opposite. It actually creates what we have known in western culture, as an air of mystery regarding the female form. In terms of attraction, this style in its pure form is about "innocents," "sweetness," and "cute" rather than being "erotic," "sexual," and "risqué."
Express individual taste?
In Lolita Fashion there are several different subgenres that fulfill individual tastes, for example there are at least a dozen subgenre Lolita styles. There's Gothic Lolita, Sweet Lolita, Classic Lolita, Elegant Gothic Lolita/Aristocrat, Country Lolita, Punk Lolita, Black/White Lolita, Sailor Lolita, Guro Lolita (Broken Doll Lolita), Oji Lolita (Boy's Style Lolita), Wa Lolita (Half Kimono top with petticoats and Skirt), Qi Lolita (Chinese Style top with petticoats and skirt), and Casual Lolita.
Now, for the western wearer of these fashions, we have Cosplay Lolita that mimics more the costumes of favorite anima/manga heroines that is more commonly seen at comic/anime conventions. However, there is also another small but growing subgenre of Lolita fashion that mixes with Steampunk. (Steampunk is a newer Sci Fi/Fantasy genre that deals with a revisionist interpretation of the Late Victorian/early Edwardian period, using classic Science Fiction writers like Jules Vern and H G Wells and steam as its guiding inspirations.) Since Japanese Lolita fashion is based on Rococo, Victorian-era, and Edwardian fashions, and Steampunk is a Sci Fi/Fantasy genre that bases itself in the similar time periods the blend of the two genres makes more of a truer costume statement in the West. However, growing curiosity of the western wear, especially costuming from the 1800s in the West has been making appearances here are there in Lolita Subculture too. But I imagine it would be more Cosplay for them, as Lolita Cosplay is to us here.