2014 J-fashion adventures

Resolving to allow myself to wear whatever I want, even if it meant abandoning the pursuit of different J-fashion styles, was probably the best decision I could have made.  It freed me from anything that limited my creativity and willingness to experiment.  As a result, I wound up knocking a few looks off my fashion bucket list and had several fun adventures worth sharing.

Despite this new energy, I didn’t see many new trends really catch my eyes.  My friends over at Kali’s Hourglass took to shironuri, which cropped up in 2012 but started to get more attention overseas in the past year.  While I think it’s gorgeous, it’s not something I will ever try (too much make-up and white for my tastes).
2014 CCAD fashion show6

Even the style tribes reported in Style-Arena seemed to rehash things that already existed.  I was amused at the concept of “Neo Bowling Style” since it’s something that has cropped here in the U.S. (with kids going bowling in prom dresses and burlesque dancers bowling for charity).  Also I inadvertently had a bowling lolita outfit when the shoes I rented wound up matching what I had worn to a meet-up prior to bowling.

At the Crow Collection fashion show, where Ramon and Radha did shironuri, I decided to attempt ora ora kei.  I’d been wanting to give it a shot, and there wasn’t a big gyaru contingent so I gave it shot with the clothes I had in my closet.  My make-up could probably use some work, but I enjoyed it.  I’m not sure it’s something I would wear regularly because of the make-up and accessories that are needed to properly represent the style.
2014 CCAD fashion show7

Another bucket list style was ero lolita.  Last year I pretty much gave up on lolita, but I still hang out with members of the local group and a murder mystery type of event at the art museum was too fun to pass up.  It was the middle of summer so I decided that it was the perfect time to try ero lolitaor as I called my look, burlesque ero lolita.  Again, not a style that is exactly me, but it was fun to try it out.

Something that was more up my alley was my new steampunk look.  I’d been wanting to do an Asian steampunk look that didn’t involve throwing a corset over a traditional Asian outfit.  I reused pieces from older ensembles and came up with a Rurouni Kenshin-inspired persona of a former assassin who wears to chimes so that she doesn’t frighten people with her stealth.  It’s still a work in progress, but that was definitely one of my favorites.
2014 fashion2 photo SIS Poe Day1_zpsmbkdx00j_1.jpg
From Steampunk Illumination Society

My favorite J-fashion look for 2014 was the ouji ensemble for my birthday photo safari, which was one of the highlights of the year.
The colors and make-up were inspired by Loki from The Avengers.  He’s one of my favorite characters so of course I enjoyed that bit of inspiration, and I think the androgyny is just something that is more my thing.

Thus my style resolution for 2015 is just to continue to do what works for me but don’t be afraid to explore.  I’d love to step up my ouji game and have fancier clothes, but I like being a bit rough too.  Maybe I can amp up the androgyny. We’ll see what happens.

Listening to: “9lives” by Shoko Nakagawa


2012 J-Fashion Adventures

I don’t keep up with the latest trends in Japanese fashion anymore, but I still look out for new style tribes and hang around local J-fashion enthusiasts. Therefore, I’m changing my recap to reflect the various activities I’ve done relating to Japanese fashion (and alternative fashion in general). There will be more photos, more personal style and opinions, and a glimpse of the fashion conversation between Japan and America.

Let’s start with two style tribes that are garnering attention on both sides of the Pacific. The first is cult party kei. Named after the store Cult Party, which has now become Virgin Mary, it is a lighter version of dolly kei. Most of outfits are white or pastel (though red is alos featured), and the prints are usually limited to gingham and patchwork. The layers are often sheer, and a common motif is the American Red Cross. The style originated in 2010, but it took a couple of years for overseas audiences to take to it.
2012recap8 photo cultparty_zps668c7b12.jpg
cult party style icon, Manapyon (from kinji-collection.tumblr.com)

The second style tribe is not something new: steampunk. We’ve seen traces of it in anime and neo-Victorian styles, but 2012 is when it has become a buzzword. The cool thing is that Japanese steampunks have put their own twist (inspired by traditional Japanese clothing as well as visual kei and lolita) to outfits. I’ve also noticed that while Westerners have avoided the Victorian maid, the Japanese have embraced the look.

Japanese steampunk band, Strange Artifact

Now onto some of my favorite outfits and fashion-related events of 2012. The local lolita group decided to have a post-Valentine’s Day meet-up. It was fun hanging out with old friends and meeting new people.
Post V-day meet12-07

Anime Matsuri definitely takes the cake for best event. The fashion show was stunning, and Kareshi wound up buying his first brand piece from Alice and the Pirates. I had been eyeing the vest for myself, but if he can wear it with his steampunk ensemble and let me borrow it occasionally, I’m game. To top everyone off, I interviewed Tomomi Nakamura and Masumi Kano, designers for Alice and the Pirates and Baby the Stars Shine Bright respectively.
AM12 fashion show5 AM12 fashion show19

My military punk lolita outfit remains one of my favorites. I wore most of the pieces to see American Idiot the musical and got complimented on my boots. It amused me to realize that this would probably be on the few times I’d get away with stompy boots at the opera house.

My top new look was this steampunk ouji number. I definitely want to wear it again because it’s cool and comfortable.
4/15/12 meeting2

For the annual cosplay/fashion show, I attempted fairy kei. That was no easy task since I tend to avoid pastels. Somehow I made it work though I’m not quite sure the audience got what I was going for. My favorite outfit in the show belonged to my friend Radha who looked like a vampire princess, having been inspired by Hizaki and Jasmine You of Versailles.
2012 fashion show4

Amidst the fun times, there was a lot of frustration. I had to abandon my attempts at steampunking a yukata because they were just not working. I’ll leave the task to the Japanese.

I got some unpleasant messages about how my outfits are “not lolita at all”. Although I’ve never been one to care about fashion rules and there will always be people who think they can police a subculture, it was discouraging. I had already been losing inspiration for dressing up in both lolita and steampunk because I kept feeling like my efforts were never enough. At some point, I realized that I wasn’t dressing for myself anymore. If I had been, there would be more ouji, more hard and edgy elements. Instead, I conformed to the feminine ideals certain people (who opinions do matter more than random internet haters) had for me. My revelation led me to cease all plans for cosplay, lolita, and steampunk and focused on dressing how I wanted, which, for the time being, was mainly casual skater/tomboy.

With a new year comes a fresh perspective. At the end of December, I had discovered that ora ora kei might be something worth trying out, especially since a couple of the examples shown in Style Arena resembled my casual style. I do want to explore the sexier side though. My friend Risa created a facebook group for local gyaru enthusiasts (and potentials) so I decided that part of my style resolution would be to try out ora ora kei. Mostly I just want to get back to creating outfits with shorts and pants since I’m actually not a skirt person at all and to dressing however the hell I want.

Listening to: “Deeper Deeper” by ONE OK ROCK

2011 in Fashion, part 2

In to continuation of my recap of 2011’s fashion trends, I’ll provide some of my thoughts on what should stick around this year. Check out the first part here.

What should stay
Androgyny – While 2010 saw more crossdressing guys, 2011 was about girls embracing their inner tomboy. I wonder if inspiration came from having three gender-bending J-dramas and Lady Gaga’s male alter-ego Jo Calderone, who debuted in the 2010 Autumn/Winter issue of Vogue Hommes Japan. Regardless of the origins, I hope the lines of gender continue to be blurred.

Berets – It has been brought to my attention that berets haven’t taken off on the Tokyo streets yet; the magazines appear to be promoting the trend. I’d like to see what becomes of it.

Ora ora kei – Although I dislike the heavy tans (skin cancer risk!), I think this is a cool subset of gyaru fashion. It seems to not be so expensive, and I like the extra bit of edge with the tattoos and tough attitudes.  Also, I think it’s really cool that the ora ora kei girls ride motorcycles.

2011 fashion5
I wouldn’t recommend riding in the outfits they have, but check out their modded bikes (also, note that they didn’t settle for the typical 250; these girls are badass).  From Soul Sister vol. 1 via aramatheydidn’t

What needs to go
Fur – I love the feel of faux fur, but it rarely looks good. It looks especially bad with the ear hoodies and beanies that have also taken off around the world (who wants to look like stuffed animal?).

Hairbows – Okay, bows are cute, especially on lolitas. However, I feel like they’re getting ridiculous large now, and they don’t work well if you’re trying for a more mature look.

Marine – I find the marine style to be very limited. Sailor collars make a blouse more interesting, but you can only have so many versions of a sailor lolita. Also, the only person who can pull off marine stripes is Jean Paul Gaultier himself.

What remains to be determined
Denim – I hate skinny jeans with a passion, but I love wide-leg and boot-cut. Jackets are okay; dresses are hard to pull off. Designers can’t go too crazy with denim or people will start looking like bad cowboy imitations.

Red – We become saturated with a color that is “in”, and because red isn’t for everyone (I love it), I’m not sure it has staying power. It’s also easy to overdo red.
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Ayumi Hamasaki takes the red look a touch too far with her super bright lipstick and shows exactly how big hairbows can be.  From S Cawaii Feb. 2011

Retro – Traveling back in time via clothes is fun, but I want a bit more original reinvention of past trends. While some looks are classic and should be revived, we have to be careful to not to repeat the fashion mistakes of our predecessors.

Sensei’s Style in 2011
Biggest hot mess – I don’t even know what look I was going for, but I had a long maroon skirt, a black tank top, my Black Peace Now ruffled top, and Mary Jane-like shoes. That just looked like a failed attempt at Mori Girl, but I decided to throw on my vinyl jacket. It was bad.

Best outfit – J-rock Bishounen Anti-hero
2011 fashion show entry
Although the original look, which consisted mainly of a Deoart vest and Sixh pants, came from 2010, I felt like I took it to another level at the 2011 Crow Collection J-fashion show. I became inspired by the mysterious bishounen of Uraboku and decided to put add an anime element to the outfit with a wig. Just wearing the clothes made me feel cool.

Most influential style – androgyny
2011 was mostly a continuation of steampunk, but I rediscovered androgyny late in the summer. For the past couple of years, my appearance became more feminine, and it felt odd so I am really embracing the masculine look. So far I’ve incorporated it into J-rock, steampunk, and casual. I also got back into ouji.

What do you think about 2011’s fashion trends? What was your personal style of the past year?

Listening to: “Graffiti” – Gackt

2011 in Fashion, part 1

2011 was an interesting year for J-fashion.  On one hand, the earthquake aftermath brought an interest in minimalism and practicality.  Fashion was frivolous and even hazardous, as the Tokyo office ladies who had to walk miles home in high heels would tell you.  On other hand, alternative fashion hung onto a quirkiness that could be found in style icons like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Even with tightened purse strings and grave matters on their minds, the truly devoted lovers of clothing found a way to express themselves.

What was left behind in 2010
Headbands – By headbands, I mean the ones worn across the forehead (hippie style). The ones worn on top of your head were still common.

Mountains of accessories – With the decline of decora, hime kei, and the economy, less became more. Although street fashion remains outrageous for some, most individuals seemed to limit their accessorizing.

Nordic fashion – Nordic prints didn’t last too long, as plaid and animal print came back in style (not that they ever really left).

Yama Girl – After Yama Girl became popular, there were attempts to make other outdoor activities trendy with chic running gear and the Tsuri Girl (Fishing Girl). Neither really took off, and the Yama Girl became more obscure. Either practicality won out style or the fashionistas decided to stay indoors.

What carried over into 2011
Bows and berets – Headwear has been growing in popularity. However, hair bows and berets became the must-have accessories, whether you were a gyaru, lolita, or punk.
2011 fashion3 from Kera, Nov. 2011

Fur – Fur went away for a couple years, and then it came back with a vengeance. The animal ear hats were bigger and fuzzier than ever (and they invaded the U.S.), and stoles became a hot winter item.

Marine – Army style gave way to the navy in 2010, and marine stripes and sailor outfits became popular with both the Shibuya 109 and LaForet crowds.
2011 fashion1

What sprouted up in 2011
Androgyny – While no stranger to alternative fashion, more masculine looks made their way into the trendier magazines with Zipper having a “boy vs. girl” feature and Soup giving their models a tomboy makeover.

Denim – Jeans aren’t a staple in Japan, as they are in the U.S. However, they became more popular in 2011. There was also denim jackets, Not only have jeans become more popular, but there were jackets, dresses,

Ora ora kei – Ora ora kei is a mishmash of gyaruo and yanki. Key points include black track suits, tank tops, tanned skin, tattoos, gold accessories, and sunglasses. Its popularity in the past year probably resulted from a need for a manlier style and for the gyaru, a tougher and sexier style. Ora Ora kei for the ladies really took off with the birth of Soul Sister.
2011 fashion4
Exile’s Atsushi is a style icon for ora ora kei guys.

Red – Perhaps in reaction to the neutral garments, red accents were seen all over the place: shoes, berets, and lips to name a few. Lolita also seemed to embrace the vibrant hue, as even the pastel-dominated brand Angel Pretty had a few red dresses.

Retro – 2011 fashion trends traveled through the decades. We had pleated skirts from the 1950s, maxi dresses from the 60s, wide-leg jeans form the 70s, and baggy shirts from the 80s. Rockabilly and old school punk influence the mainstream a bit, and Lumine paid tribute to the 60s and 80s at the Tokyo Girls Award fashion show.
2011 fashion2
Aya Omasa, who played the frilly fashion student Miwako in Paradise Kiss, shows off a simple 70s-inspired look.  From non-no Aug. 2011

Fashion seemed to change drastically in the past year, and yet there were many things we had seen before: black glasses, plaid, and fur. 2011 also saw a dichotomy of hard versus soft with the rise of ora ora kei juxtaposed with the softer vintage looks. Neutral tones and bright 60s-inspired palettes also provided an interesting contrast. It will be interesting to see where things go next year.

Listening to: “Wonder Woman” by Namie Amuro feat. AI and Anna Tsuchiya

2010 in Fashion, part 2

You can read Part 1 here.

Before I get into my thoughts on this past year’s trends in J-fashion, I would like to mention how Japan and America are influencing each other more and more each year. Lady Gaga and Lil’ Mama have worn Angelic Pretty while Hayley Williams of Paramore has been spotted in Bodyline. Japanese brands are trying to make themselves more available by selling merchandise at anime cons and putting on overseas fashion shows. American stores like Abercrombie and Fitch and Forever 21 have already experienced success in Japan, and we’re seeing our fashion icons in their magazines a lot more (there was even a Gossip Girl-inspired editorial a couple years back).

It seems like Japan is having to play catch-up, but Lolita and gyaru have had supporters in the U.S. for a while. Not to mention the mainstream exposure provided by Gwen Stefani (good or bad, it put Harajuku on the map). Although this may be coincidence, the military-inspired look was popular both in the U.S. and in Japan. Are the two aesthetics converging? I never thought it would happen, but maybe that’s what you get after you start influencing one another long enough.

Anyway, that was just something to think about. Another thing to think about are the J-fashion trends of 2010 – should they stay or should they go? Here’s my two cents.

What should stay

Card print – Anything channeling Alice in Wonderland works for Lolita, and now it can ride on the mainstream popularity of the Tim Burton film. This print offers some versatility, as it can be tailored for both whimsical and more mature looks. Also, Alice and the Pirates deserves some props for not following the crowd completely and using Tarot cards as inspiration.

Dolly Kei – Even though Dolly Kei is its own subculture, I like to think of it as an alternative for Lolis that don’t want to freeze in winter. I appreciate the thinking that it’s okay if your clothes are faded or torn as long as they fit the antique aesthetic. Why throw out something just because it’s old?

Military – Not only do I like fatigues and camo, I enjoy the dichotomy of the masculine military garments with more feminine pieces. Hopefully the military inspiration will venture beyond the gyaru scene. (The Dec. 2010 issue of Kera is trying to make this happen.)
military look

What needs to go
Native American-inspired designs – Let’s not commit cultural appropriation. It might be okay if your turquoise jewelry and Navajo prints came from actual Native Americans, but chances are they didn’t get imported to Japan. Designers are taking things too far with the Pocahontas looks.

Nordic fashion – I have a hard time wrapping my brain around this trend because Nordic print makes me think Scandinavia or Aspen. The little knit dresses look like over-sized sweaters and become more ridiculous when paired with the furry leg warmers.

What remains to be determined
Hair bows, head scarves, and headbands – I like headwear. However, it seems like the bows are getting bigger and the patterns bolder, which is fine IF you know how to pull it off. The problem is that many don’t.

School girl chic – While I love blazers and plaid skirts, there comes a point where you can’t pretend you’re a high school girl anymore (thankfully we Asians can milk this for several years). Also, I find that this is promoting drab looks. We’re stuck with uniforms and dress codes on the weekdays; why not experiment with other looks on the weekends?

Yama Girl – When I’m doing outdoorsy stuff, the last thing I’m thinking about is how I look. More power to those who combine fashion and function. I spotted some hiking stilettos, and I am now wary of where this trend will go.

Hibari-sensei’s Style in 2010
Biggest hot mess – I did this weird experiment with steampunk, Lolita, and goth pieces one night. It truly was a hot mess. There was no blending, and it didn’t help that I had thrown on my vinyl jacket over it because of the cold weather. Thankfully there were no pictures.

Best outfit – Military punk Lolita v.2
J-pop night2
Now I hate repeating outfits, but who was wearing military-inspired items before the style took off? Yep, me. It looked so much better with the adjustments—more poofy skirt and less gaudy stockings, plus camouflage-inspired make-up—and I even won the Crow Collection Next Top Model contest with it (though that probably had more to do with getting all my friends to vote).

Most influential style – steampunk
The second half of 2010 saw me getting heavily into steampunk because I had found a community. Steampunk was the perfect way for me to combine my literary and scientific interests with fashion. Being rooted in the Victorian Era, I managed to utilize several Lolita, goth, and ouji pieces for steampunk outfits. I’m not giving up J-fashion any time soon though, and it’s not like steampunk doesn’t exist in Japan.

What was your personal style like in 2010?

Listening to: “Dearest” by Ayumi Hamasaki