It’s hard to deny that Japan’s capital, Tokyo, is known for being one of the most influential cities on street fashion due to its distinct subcultures. Though Japan has been through some rough times lately due to the massive earthquake which has affected people’s clothing expenditures, street fashion is slowly coming back. Thanks to the internet, we don’t need to travel all the way to Japan to satisfy our desire for Japanese street fashion. Discover how Tokyo street fashion has its citizens express their love for colours, textures, and layers!
It may be hard to believe that Japan’s eccentric street fashion was ever influenced by other countries. But, if it weren’t for the introduction of Western clothing during the mid-19th century, Japanese street fashion may have never occurred. It wasn’t until the late 90s and early 2000s that we saw an influx of distinct Japanese styles that were almost nonexistent in other countries, such as Lolita (goth, dolly), Ganguro (blackface), Kogal (school girl uniform), Cosplay, and more.
Not only were people’s personalities defined by what group they belonged, it also defined their lifestyles. In other words, each group represented both one’s way of dressing and living. For example if you belonged to the Kogal group (school girl uniform), you probably liked pop music, but if you identified yourself as a Lolita, then you most likely would listen to light rock.
Like fashion in any country, styles come and go. It’s no different in Japan. Though we still see Ganguros and Kogals walking the streets of Tokyo, there has been a rise of other styles in the recent years. Though not as extreme as its predecessors, these styles still encompass the unique Japanese look: multiple layers and colours.
Lolita fashion can be easily mistakened for cosplay due to its caricature-like clothing, however when examined closely you will see the difference between both. Poufy knee-length laced dresses, curly wigs, hair bows, and umbrellas as props are recommended clothing. In fact, a guideline on how to dress the part can be found easily on the net with about 16 subtypes of Lolitas!
Examples: Style Icon FashionZen and Chictopian Dina123 have the qualities of a cute Lolita. Somehow, their patterned dresses, summer straw hats, and solid coloured stockings all fit the criteria of an appropriate and toned down “elegant Lolita.”
2. Gal Translation: Blake Lively with Dolly Eyes
Gal (or Gyaru) fashion can be seen in most of Japan’s fashion magazines (i.e., Scawaii, Egg) where feminine models are featured. The name, Gyaru (the Japanese pronunciation of the English word gal), actually came from a Japanese jeans brand. Like the Lolita style, the Gal style has many subcategories, however the “classy Gal” is the most popular in this category.
The classy Gal can be descirbed as Blake Lively (light coloured hair, fresh look) with huge doll-like eyes. The typical Gal will have wavy light-coloured hair and dark eyeliner but will go for a natural coloured lipstick and sans eyeshadow to emphasize the eyes. Most of these Gals strive for high heels (i.e., stilettos, pumps) and a formfitting, romantic appearance.
Examples: Lovely Style Icons Mayo_Wo and CamilleCo may not have the extreme hair and makeup like Japanese Gals, but they master the feminine image through pastel colours and their ladylike mannerism.
The Elegant style (or Otana) is considered the downplayed version of the Gal. Like the Lolita fashion, the Elegant style also started appearing in the 1980s. Japan is a conservative country and the Elegant style fits nicely with the country’s characteristic due to its modest yet classic way of dressing.
This reductive approach to dressing is the main characteristic of the Elegant girl. It’s a transition from the bright Gal look into the young, responsible persona. Unlike the Gal, the Elegant girl prefers refined minimalism rather than overt colours/patterns. In addition, natural makeup is usually adopted to match the practical, modest appearance.
Examples: Leave it to Japanese natives, Style Icon CandyDoll and Chictopian NanaHoshino to demonstrate younger portrayals of the Elegant look. Their likes for neutral colours and demure makeup define the timeless pare-down fab.
Literally defined as “forest girl” in Japanese, the Mori girl is quite eco-conscious and prefers flowy silhouettes. In touch with nature, the Mori girl is described to have a flair for nature-like fabrics and colours. Considered a new style, the term “Mori girl” was actually established in 2006 from a Japanese social networking site. Since then, the liking for natural-like wear has greatly increased.
Mori girls tend to wear loose clothes inspired by the environment and past. Like the Bohemian style, Mori girls usually prefer light colours over dark colours to accentuate the “forest feel.” Textures like cotton, chiffon, and lace also contribute to the relaxed look. The Mori girl also strives to live a simplistic lifestyle by adopting the holistic approach and doing diy projects.
Examples: We’ve seen the Mori portrayal a numerous of times thanks to Chictopian Airrad and Style Icon JeanGreige. Known for their vintage-esque photos and outfits, these girls are no doubt our versions of Mori girls.
Seen on Japanese street style blogs like Rid Snap and Style-Arena.JP, the Casual girl incorporates the laidback look with bursting summer colours all year long. Anything goes in this category as long as you’re mixing patterns with colours. This style is prominent and has even influenced American fashion (i.e., Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Lover and Pharell’s Billionaire Boys Club) too.
The Casual look is constituted as that everyday, individualized guise. There is no specific category here to describe Tokyo girls who like to dress casually, but it’s certain that bold colours, fine textures, and layers are desired. Animal prints and sequins are just a few patterns among the many represented in the Casual clothing.
Examples: Style Icon Iris of IrisandDaniel and Chictopian ModDolly are prime examples of how to wear these bright colours with ravishing red lipsticks. The combination of different colours and patterns together equates to a perfect, happy ensemble.
If you’ve never been to Japan, you can only rely on Japanese street blogs to tell the story. However, we know two insiders (who happen to be Chictopians as well) who can give us the real deal about Tokyo street fashion! Though I’ve described both Style Icon CandyDoll and NanaHoshino as Elegant girls earlier, let’s see how they view themselves and people’s fashion on the streets.
1. What part of Japan do you live in? What’s Tokyo street fashion like, and how do you think this differs from the rest of the world?
CD: I live in Kansai. I’ve been to Tokyo only a few times. The last time I went there was for a business trip. That was when I met Anais, Chictopian Mwa_Mwa, and she took me to Japan Fashion Week. We’ve been really good friends since then. I love her!
Tokyo fashion is diverse. In Shibuya, you can usually find gyaru(s) [Gal style] walking around. They are the girls who are trendy. In Harajuku, I believe that they have extreme personal styles. I admire them for their courage. Also, most cosplayers hangout near Meiji Jingu. In Ginza, they are mostly men and women who dress in a sophisticated manner [which can be described as] “classy and fabulous.” It is different and similar in some ways.
Japan, most of the time, no matter how odd you dress or how short your skirt could be, people will respect you. Improper staring would be very rare [unless] you’re a foreigner!
NH: I live in Aichi Prefecture. It is in the centre of Japan. There are many types of fashion in Tokyo, and it differs from the rest of the world. If I were to describe Tokyo street fashion, I would say it is unique.
2. Do you have any favourite styles? How would your style fit in Tokyo Street Fashion?
CD: I love looking at Lolita girls. They look like living dolls, same goes to Dolly Kei fashion lovers. I am inspired by them but I don’t really think I could dress in the same manner as they do. That would take much dedication and hard work!
My style is pretty much laid back compared to Tokyo fashion, believe me! I can feel complete without any make up on and accessories. My style is more “Otona” [Elegant]. Personally, I admire how grandmas and grandpas dress up here in Japan, too! Japan as a whole, has a collective belief, [where even] politics and religion carry through fashion. It is deeply rooted in our culture to not differ but to compromise.
NH: I don’t know the name of the style in English properly, [but] we call it the “Conservative Style”. It is a style for working girls who like clean-cut, femininity, and elegance. I love the style. The style I would be categorized is the Elegant style. It is less obtrusive than the Gal style.