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About the Author
Kyshah Hell is an accomplished chameleon that dreams in color not black and white. This somewhat Celtic Yankee W.A.S.P. fancies herself a Gothic Glamour Punk. “I could never pigeon hole myself into a single category. I have too much fun playing dress-up across the board.”

Ms. Hell lives in Danbury, CT. with the love of her life, Steve, and her soul mate Glamour Puss, the pre-requisite black cat. Send accolades and anti-Goth slurs to her via e-mail.
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Photo | Luscious Dilattante

Elegant Gothic Lolita
Kyshah Hell
Editor’s Note: This article has been one of the most (if not the most) read article on Gothic Lolita on the Internet, and has been widely discussed and disputed. Please note, this was originally released at a time where there was no information online about this subculture (in English). Please refer to the article update.
An elegant Gothic Lolita, EGL or Gothic Lolita for short, is a Japanese teen or young adult who dresses in amazingly elaborate Gothic looking babydoll costumes. On the weekends these women walk the streets of Tokyo and Osaka and fill Yoyogi Park and Harajuku neighborhood where they pose for tourist’s pictures and sit around looking pretty. They are beautiful, glamorous, doll-like manifestations of their favorite Visual Rock stars.
This subculture’s physical look began around the fall of 1999 as a sort of French Maid meets Alice in Wonderland style and has expanded gradually to encompass many nuances in a Victorian Gothic look. Make no mistake – these women want nothing to do with our Western Gothic ways. They do not listen to our music and they are not Gothic in the American and European sense. (Don’t worry there are Japanese Goths but they are just not a prominent mainstream subculture.) The Lolita’s music of choice, for the visuals and sometimes the sounds, is a version of Heavy Metal with gothic hints. Visual Kei or Visual Rock is a form of Japanese pop rock music where the musicians dress in elaborate costumes. Anything from a twinge of glam to full blown female impersonation can be called Visual Rock. These artists feel they must dress up to act out their music. X Japan seems to be the band that started it all. Visual Rock is a blanket term that encompasses J-Rock or J-Pop. J-Rock is not usually the music Gothic Lolita’s listen to. J-Rock is very influenced by the American Heavy Metal Glam bands like Motley Crue. Gothic Lolitas want to emulate the Visual bands that dress the most feminine. There are male fans of all forms of V-Rock but men do not participate in the Gothic Lolita culture. Male fans are uninterested in looking feminine and it is the women who want to look like their idols. Dir en Grey and Malice Mizer are the most popular and authentic of the bands the Gothic Lolitas follow. Malice Mizer’s (pronounced Marisu Miseru) guitar player, Mana, is commonly given credit for starting the Gothic Lolita look. Sometimes he wears a kind of modern Victorian mourning style with large elaborate dresses, big hair, and dark make-up. The amount of time, energy, and money all these people put into their appearance is truly amazing and inspiring at the same time.
In recent years, Japan has bred a youth culture with a passion for costume and dressing up. This is referred to as Cosplay or Costume Play and it has already made its way all across the world. (Most people Cosplay Anime characters.) Perhaps harkening back to the historic days of Kabuki, Japanese youth want to continue the tradition of escape through dress and style. The Gothic Lolita look is an amazing contrast of innocence and sexuality. The child-like physical look of young Japanese women contributes to this alluring illusion. As we all know, the Japanese have some of the most interesting fetishes and sexual habits of any culture on Earth. Female youth have long been exciting to older Japanese males and the innocence of looking like a child may appeal to these women because of the powerful sexual allure but also because it presents a way for them to escape growing up at least for the moments they are dressed in the Gothic Lolita style. The attention these women get must validate them in some way; it must make them feel special. Or it could just be that they dress this way to be closer to their idols.
The uniqueness of a subculture like this is quickly eaten up by the Japanese mass-market mind. Many stores and magazines like the Gothic & Lolita Bible (Issues 1 through 4 can be purchased at, just click on “English” at the top center) cater to the women who want to dress in the Gothic Lolita style. A person can look at an EGL in Yoyogi Park and walk across the street to one of the many mall stores and purchase that look from head to toe. This is of course a curious and magnificent aspect of all mass marketed subcultures. Even though some costumes are partially or all homemade, the Gothic Lolita style is quite rigidly followed. All of the photographs I viewed for this article represent these women in the same style elements. Here is a basic rundown of the look:
Mini to knee length frilly poofy skirts, most likely with a crinoline that does not show under it.
Ruffled elegant Victorianesque blouses.
Mostly black blouses sometimes with white Peter Pan collars, cuffs and sleeves. White lace can be at the bottom of the capped sleeves and at the collar. Both plain or embellished blouses.
Babydoll dresses, sometimes below the knee but mostly mini to knee length.
Colors for these separates are mostly black or white or a combination of both. Sometimes red, pastel pink, and pastel blue. The later two colors worn only with white.
The French Maid look or Alice in Wonderland look of a white apron over a black babydoll dress was an original Gothic Lolita look. It is not seen as much now.
These dresses and skirts are worn with knee-high or thigh high stockings. Some times white with little bows and ruffles at the top or in black fishnet with holes and without. Mostly black opaque stocking material.
Headdresses are a must. Mostly in black or black and white. A small rectangular headband headdress made of ruffles, ribbons, and lace. Can be worn with a bow under the chin. It is worn at the crown of the head, just above where bangs are. Can be used to hold hairpieces in.
Sometimes the headpiece can extend over the forehead like a small bonnet, this happens most often in white.
A small top hat worn askew on the head is sometimes seen.
Shoes are Mary Jane type platform heels or large platform shoes. Very chunky and clog-like.
Women wear long or short large curls on either side of the head, or a full head of curls ala Shirley Temple. Long straight hair worn sometimes with bangs is a common look as well. Many wear wigs and hairpieces to achieve these looks. Hair is mostly black but can be any shade of brown.
Little to no make-up is worn. The look requires a pale complexion, which many Japanese women already have. Any shade of red lipstick is fine with black eyelashes and a small amount of black eyeliner. Fresh faced and young.
Large pocketbooks are carried. Some are huge container-like suitcases in a variety of forms from the carpetbag to the circular hatbox. Some women carry handbags in the shape of bats and coffins.
A parasol is a must on sunny days in the park.
On occasion lace gloves and lace opera length arm warmers complete this look.
When the look begins to lean towards Victorian mourning, with long dresses and ghouly make-up, it is Visual Kei or Gothic and not Gothic Lolita. But the elegant Victorian look with a long skirt is still Lolita.
The women who dress in the Gothic Lolita style do so only on weekends and for “Lives” or concerts. This is a form of escape for them; a way for them to look like their idols and to attract attention. Trying to look young and elegant all at once is a purely Japanese phenomenon. Can you imagine today’s American Teens emulating J-Lo and looking elegant doing it? I didn’t think so. Possibly this Lolita look holds the same allure for them as does the “Romantic Goth”, Victorian or Renaissance, style in the West. That allure of a more cordial and better dressed time in history. Or perhaps these young Japanese women are just following a trend to be a part of the conformity of a bigger crowd. Either way this style is a welcomed look in the American Gothic scene.
Online Resources:

J-Youth cultural connection

Live Journal group dedicated to EGL

Ebony Ocean, a Malice Mizer fan site with many images for your inspiration

Clothing Resources:

Metamorphose is an amazing Japanese clothing shop that now offers overseas shipping! Shop baby, shop!

Baby, Stars Shine So Bright is a Japanese site that will make you drool! If only you could order from North America!

Delirium also carries headpieces, satiny dresses and skirts.

Shadow Fae offers a short cotton dress as well as a long black two-piece outfit inspired by something Mana of Malice Mizer wore.

Blasphemina’s Closet offers a very cute collection, but could be presented better.

Candy Fruit is a Japanese online shop that has very cute maid outfits and Lolita wear.
Photos courtesy of Luscious Dilettante