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About the Author
Alison Douglas is the owner of a Gothic clothing marketplace called The Velvet Garden. She is a world traveler and bargain-hunter.
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Photo | Alison Douglas

   

   

   

   


The Japanese Fashion Experience
Alison Douglas
I just got back from a 2 week vacation in Japan, and I thought I’d report back on the fashions over there at the moment. (I feel like such an anthropologist!)
Goth Fashions
The French Maid look is very very popular. Short full black skirt with white lace trim. Black blouse with puffed sleeves and more white lace trim.
I also saw some dressed in white Nurse’s uniforms, but these are much less popular than the maid-look. A sort of little-girl-look is also pretty common, it sometimes even includes carrying a teddy-bear.
LOTS of Malice Mizer look-a-likes. (Malice Mizer is the biggest Goth band in Japan–very popular). They especially like to copy what I like to call the Claudia-Look. Reminds me of Claudia from Interview with A Vampire. Blonde ringlet curls (they sell wigs like this in Goth stores in Tokyo), blue or green 18th-19th century French-looking dresses with lots of white lace.
The sad thing is that you can BUY one of these Malice Mizer type outfits right down the road from the place where all the Goths hang out (Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, on Sundays-near Harajuku subway station). They don’t even have to have any creativity at all, just enough money. Same with the Nurse and Maid outfits. Ready-made, for sale, right near Yoyogi.
There were some Gothic-Punk types who seem to have their own looks, their own individual style, and more creativity than the others
None of the Goth clothes are at all revealing or sexy.
No corsets, no cinchers, no bodices, no PVC bras, nothing at all low-cut.
LOTS of big platform boots here too. It was rare to see a female in Japan who was not in platforms.
Black dresses with white lace trim.
Little black caps or thick headbands. They look very period, usually black with white lace trim. They kind of look like something a French maid would wear on her head.
Black arm bands worn on one arm (usually left, I think), usually with the name of a Japanese Goth band on them. Mostly I saw ones that said “Japan X”
A lot of Japanese Goth females seem to be into the 18-19th century MALE look.
Bright blue lipstick
WHITE whiteface, heavy makeup
Lots of Nightmare Before Christmas accessories (pens, notebooks, little keychain-like-things to attach to your tiny cell phone)
I also saw a few military uniforms, and I think that the Japanese just have a taste for uniforms in general
Crosses used as accessories, both right side up and upside down.
A lot of girls trying to look younger, little frilly dresses, teddy bears, etc.
As far as the scene goes, I don’t think there’s very much in the way of Goth clubs. All the Goths in Tokyo seem to just get really really dressed up on Sundays, and hang out near Yoyogi Park all day. Then they mostly stand around, socialize and pose for photographs taken by very normal looking middle-aged Japanese men. There seem to be very distinct social cliques, all the Goths standing around seemed to form small groups, and there was not much traffic between groups.
Gunguro
This is the biggest fashion trend sweeping Japan. Imagine black-haired pale-skinned Japanese teenagers trying to look like blonde 1970’s Californian/Hawaiian surfer girls. That’s pretty much what the “Gunguro” thing is all about. I had read about this before going to Japan, but I had no idea this style was so widespread. I expected to see maybe a dozen girls dressed up this way, instead I saw THOUSANDS! This style is huge, and is having a big effect on the rest of Japanese fashion
Light brown or beige, leather or suede knee-high platform boots
Lots of orange, bright green, bright yellow, bright pink
Dark tans, these girls spend a lot of money on visiting tanning salons
Pale blue or white eye shadow to emphasize their tans
Pale lipstick
Bleached blonde hair, often worn in big wavy curls– very Barbie-like
Hawaiian-theme jewelry
Lots of very clumpy black mascara
False eyelashes
Stick-on glittery eyeliner-stickers
And you never see a Gunguro girl by herself. They always travel in pairs or small groups. Most of them are teenage girls or young women, but there are a growing number of male Gunguro. The males are never seen alone, always in a couple with their Gunguro girlfriend.
General Fashion Trends
Platform boots are EVERYWHERE! Really, it was rare to see someone NOT wearing them.
The platforms seem to average around 6-8 inches high, nearly all the ones I saw were that height. Very few were smaller, although there were some taller
Knee-high platform boots are the most popular
Incredibly small cell phones as accessories. Everyone in Japan has a cell phone, and they are all so very, very small. And there are entire stores devoted just to cell phone accessories. Every female with a cell phone has at least one small plastic cartoon figure dangling from the end of it.
The only things remotely revealing about Japanese fashion are the mini-skirts, and there aren’t even too many of those. For the upper body, they are not revealing at all
Prominent designer labels, the Japanese are very much into having visible designer identities
Clear plastic long-handled umbrellas
Lots of pigtails and braids, worn low on the back of the head
Small bells
Bobby pins, decorative and plain
T-Shirts with nonsensical English phrases (my favorite was “How Funny It Is To Be Design”!?)
Little old women with purple or blue hair!?! (I really do NOT understand this one, but I saw quite a few of them)
Pink and orange
LOTS of Hello Kitty
They sell hair extensions everywhere! Just about any jewelry/hair clip type store has them. They sell all kinds of falls, and elastics with hair on them, and various other hair pieces, but they are all in natural colors (browns, blondes, copper-reds, black), unnatural colors are harder to find.
Audrey Hepburn’s image is EVERYWHERE! I do not know why. No one tries to look like her, but she was in prominent advertisements for at least 7 or 8 different companies, and several large department stores had big banners with her face on the sides of buildings and gallery shows devoted to her. It was bizarre.
In general, people dress up a lot more than they do in the States. People look much more comfortable and casual here; there are a lot of loose jeans, sneakers, sweatshirts. People look much more fashionable and dressed-up in Japan. And the clothes look much more expensive.
Oh, and those little sticker-photo-booth things are everywhere! They are mostly frequented by schoolgirls and Gunguro girls. They carry notebooks with them that are full of little photo stickers of themselves and their friends. There are sooo many different kinds of these photo booths. I found a bunch near Yoyogi that would put your photo in a little frame with members from various Japanese Goth bands, so it looked like they were in the photo with you. I also found one that printed out your photo on Gothic trading cards!
Schoolgirl Fashions
Those baggy, baggy white socks are still very much in style. I saw them everywhere. They sell ones that are up to one meter long! White ribbed socks, pushed down to gather around the ankles, and held in place with sock glue (really!).
There is a wide variety of schoolgirl uniforms, from the British-schoolgirl-look (plaid skirt and blazer) to the sailor-suits. But the girls have no choice in the uniform, they are assigned by the schools.
Buying a schoolgirl uniform when you are NOT a schoolgirl is very very difficult and/or expensive (I found a place that sold black-market sailor-suits!)
They often roll up their skirts at the waist, to make them into mini-skirts
Those not wearing the baggy white socks, usually wear navy blue Ralph Lauren socks, with a visible polo horse logo stitched in red on the sides. These are not baggy or too long.
General 20-Something Women’s Fashions
There are a fair number of them NOT in platforms (this was a surprise–really!), the competing shoe-of-choice is very expensive-looking designer mules or sling-backs. They look like Manolo Blahnik’s or something.
Coppery reddish bleached hair
Shag-type hair cuts
Pink! Especially pale pink
Big long rectangular scarves worn as a wrap in the evenings, made of fine wool or pashmina or something else expensive, almost always in shades of pink
Expensive little designer handbags
Louis Vuitton handbags seem to be THE status symbol. They are everywhere. If I stood on a street corner for 5 minutes, I would see literally dozens of them.
Black knee-high stockings are ALL over the place. Very, very common.
Fishnets are more commonly seen than they are in the States, but definitely not as common as the black knee-high stockings
Skirts tend to be knee-length and straight-cut
Designer labels!
Dark blue denim jackets
Dark blue straight-cut jeans that are cuffed about 6 inches at the bottom (rolled just once) and worn with expensive little designer heels
Straight-cut long dark blue denim skirts
Fur or feather collars on wool sweaters
Lots of real fur used as an accessory
Anything made of Burberry’s signature plaid
Fake fabric roses worn as accessories, often a black fabric one worn as a brooch in the center of the chest, sometimes worn in the hair. I saw these ALL over the place.
Subculture
I spent two weeks in Japan, mostly in Tokyo and Kyoto...
I saw THOUSANDS of Gunguro females, and quite a few males (though not nearly as many as the girls)
Less than a dozen Goths on the street (I saw LOTS on Sunday near Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, but few elsewhere) All the Goth stores are near Yoyogi Park, there were about 5 or 6 small Goth/Punk stores.
Less than a dozen Punks. The Punk and Goth stores are almost always combined. They sell mostly bondage pants, spiked bracelets and collars, French maid dresses, and things with swastikas on them (this was rather alarming, and it was not being used in the ancient manner, it was supposed to look like a Nazi symbol).
Less than a dozen Hippies. I saw one or two Hippie stores
There is quite a growing Hip Hop population. I saw a lot of stores focused on this style, and quite a lot of them on the streets wearing baggy athletic wear, FUBU, Tommy Hilfiger. They get their hair put in dreads, braids or afros (looks VERY strange on Asians). Mostly a male trend, but there were quite a few females as well.
Where to Shop
For Goth and Punk clothes and used cd’s go to Takeshita Dori street, near Harajuku subway station in Tokyo.
For general trendy clothes go to Takeshita Dori, or go to the area around Shibuya subway station, especially a store called Shibuya 109 in Tokyo.
There are also a lot of Hip Hop stores in the Shibuya area.
Ginza is where all the very expensive department stores are located.
Shinjuku is where you find the fetish and sex shops.
Osaka (a few hours south of Tokyo) has a lot of rave-y, cyber, Euro kind of clothing.