Maid Cafe and Lolita styles mixed with black Gothic dress

Photos by Kathleen Gasperini

The mainstreaming of J-Pop culture is officially here, especially when it comes to Gothic and Lolita styles for back-to-school/Fall season this year. Once relegated as freakish Japanese mini subcultures made popular by Harajuku Girls, Shinjuku “maids,” and the various street tribes consisting of Victorian Goth and their several variants, including Gothic Lolita, Punk Loli, Sweet Lolita, Pirate Lolita, EGL’s or Elegant Gothic Lolitas, among others, the fashion styles influenced from Japan are in full-swing.

There are several stories about how the trends started but the influence stem from both the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and Belle Epoque time periods. Add to the mix strong influences from Russian author Vladimir Nabokov in 1955 and his book Lolita about a proper English man obsessed with a 12-year-old girl, and you can start to get the sexually charged picture here.

Books or “mooks” (as in magazine/book) such as the Gothic Lolita Bible are excellent guides to how the movements of Gothic and Lolita fashion, styles, and lifestyles have come together, plus top designs, brands, and even DIY cut-out patterns to make your own. They are among a growing educational media facet of the subculture. Blogs such as LaCarmina provide details of new trends in Goth-Loli lifestyles, while stores now, other than those in Tokyo such as 6% Doki Doki, Spank Girl!, and the new stores in MaruiOne Shinjuku such as Kera Shop Angel, are starting to pop up in the USA as well.

Fairy Kei girls with their crafty items include bows, pins, and everything pink and cute “kawaii”

One of the nails in the coffin (no pun intended) that this trend is here to stay is with the opening of San Francisco’s new store called New People on August 15th. Actually, it’s more than a store but an entire world of Gothic-Lolita-ness including a media center, retail stores, theater, urban vinyl toy store, and a location to host various “summits.”

New People was launched by manga kingpin Seiji Horbuchi, owner of Viz, the first licensee to bring Pokemon from Japan to the United States. He hopes to make it THE Otaku tourist destination on the West Coast, and if all goes well, open up another in New York and London in the next few years.

Despite a down economy, influences from Otaku (Japanese anime) culture abound not only with the high volume of traffic at Anime Expo and Comi-Con, but the growing number of readers of manga in youth culture, and the influences of visual kei bands from Japan that also influence fashion.

Top brands in this scene cover all aspects of Gothic with corsets, black, red, Victorian lace, and platform shoes, to Fairey Kei styles including dress-up maid caf? styles, Alice in Wonderland-esque outfits including Little Bo Peep influences. Kawaii or cuteness is also an important element -at least on the Lolita side of things, which is often achieved with key accessories such as fairy princess crowns, stuffed animal bags, head pieces, and pearl jewelry.

Beaded crowns are a part of Lolita culture

On the Goth side, accessories such as Victorian cameos, pins, large metal necklaces, lace, corsets, and tiny tophats are key elements.

Top brands include Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Starry Petals, Angelic Pretty, Miho Matsuda, Putumayo, Moi-Meme-Moitie, Metamorphose, and Takemoto Novala. Most offer online retail for American and European audiences, and a fair number can be found at locations such as Anime Expo where we were able to snap images of the real Japanese brands for this street photo report.

To find out more about J-Rock, Visual Kei, manga, Anime, Tokyo, Gothic, and Lolita, do a key word search on Label Networks. Label Networks TV also covers several video clips on the subject including key interviews with visual kei bands:

Gothic mini skirts are a part of Goth-Loli influence

In Goth looks, lace and corsets are key as well as black, red, and purple.

Goth and especially EGL (Elegant Gothic Lolitas) and Victorian Goths are into cameo pins and choker necklaces.

Loli shoppers at Anime Expo with Angelic Pretty bags and charms.

Black Goth dress that is also a crossover to the Maid Cafe influences.

Light blue pony dress is typical of extreme Lolita including the bow. This dress was highly admired by true Lolis. (Yes, Alice in Wonderland was a Lolita.)

More progressive maid cafe Lolita outfit.

Gothic Japanese with Kimono aesthetics in the corset/cape.

Bunny headbands are super Lolita or also Bo-Peep Loli. (Cute as in Kawaii)

Cameo chokers of Victorian eras are part of the Gothic look but Loli crossover fans also were these.

More chokers. Very Goth. Maid Cafe. Loli. Here’s a crossover element.

Graphic angel metal necklaces are Angelic Lolita with Goth influences and also influenced from visual kei bands and fans.

Corsets (worn on the outside) are key to Gothic looks, and now brighter neon are in like nu rave and pop-punk.

Diamond crowns–the bling of Princess Fairy Lolitas.

Cool aspects about this dress are that it’s a Lolita-Goth mash-up with style, colors, and tiny tophat.

Pink corset over black satin Goth dress combines both Loli and Goth elements for an incredible look.

Highly coveted pink lace frilly Lolita dress that is no longer consider “costume” as presented by Starry Petals.

Red Maid Cafe dress with platform Goth boots and lace Loli umbrella. Here’s the complete ensemble.

Strawberry glitter purses will be trendy sooo soon. Especially as necklaces.

Strawberry Lolita girl in full regalia.