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In our Japanese Fashion trends section, we provide you a glimpse at Japan’s cutting-edge fashion scene. Japan is one of the world’s leading centers for the latest global fashion trends, and many of the world’s top designers draw on Japanese street fashion found on the streets of Harajuku and Shibuya for inspiration in their designs.
Overview of Japanese Fashion
The Japanese fashion scene is intense and ever-changing. Over the years, a number of Japanese fashions have become known around the world for their outrageousness and utter uniqueness. Here we introduce you to a few classic Japanese fashions.
Japanese Fashion Trends – Gyaru Fashion
Perhaps the best-known Japanese fashion is gyaru fashion (also known as kogyaru or kogal fashion). What is kogyaru fashion?
It is a fashion that reached its height of popularity in the 1990s, but can still be seen today, most prominently in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. Kogal fashion began as a group of Japanese schoolgirls shortening their skirts to increasingly revealing levels, and accenting the look with loose socks (ruuzu sokkusu).
The after-school look evolved into (atsu-zoko) platform boots made popular by singer Amuro Namie, colorful clothing, a golden-brown suntan, blond-dyed hair, and a thick foundation of makeup.
Shibuya 109, Tokyo’s most popular and trendiest department store, located in Shibuya, has shops that still uphold the kogyaru fashion movement.
Ganguro literally means “black face,” and is an extreme version of kogyaru fashion. Ganguro takes the tanned kogal look to a new level with faces tanned until they are literally blackened like burnt toast.
The black face is then accented with outrageously contrasting white eye shadow and lipstick and hair dyed silver instead of blond. Add to this ensemble dangerously tall platform boots and neon clothing, and you have an imitable Japanese street fashion look.
The ganguro fashion style culminated in the Yamamba look, which married the blackened skin and white makeup against florescent clothing and silver hair streaked with colored dye, which quite literally stretched the limits of kogyaru fashion to the extreme.
Interestingly, perhaps as a reaction to the kokyaru/ganguro movement, the Japanese fashion trend that followed the kogaru look was the “bihaku” look, which literally means “white beauty.
Beginning in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Japanese woman began keeping their skin as light as possible in a welcome return to a more classic Japanese look.
Harajuku Fashion – Cosplay & Gothic Lolita
Harajuku Fashion is most commonly associated with gothic lolita, cosplay, and visual kei, which are most prominently on display on Sunday mornings just outside of Harajuku Station. However, Harajuku fashion is always evolving and always inspiring. Read more about the Harajuku fashion scene. Below are some of the most prominent Japanese street fashions associated with Harajuku.
Japanese Fashion Trends – Japanese Cosplay
Japanese cosplay (which literally means “costume play”), an important part of “otaku culture,” is the practice of dressing up in costumes, most often based on manga, anime, and video games. Cosplayers gather in places like Harajuku on Sunday mornings, cosplay cafes in Akihabara, and at impromptu and sometimes organized events in Tokyo or even overseas. One of the biggest overseas cosplay gatherings is the Comic-con International convention in San Diego.
Japanese Lolita Fashion
Japanese lolita fashion is a Victorian-influenced Japan street fashion look that consists of knee-length skirts or dresses, frilly blouses, stockings, high heel dress shoes, and often curled or permed hair.
There are a number of lolita fashions in Japan, including Gothic Lolita, Sweet Lolita, and Hime or princess lolita.
Gothic Lolita (Gosu Rori)
Inspired by the Visual Kei rock music movement, Gothic Lolita puts a dark, somewhat morbid spin on the basic lolita look through the use of black or dark clothing and eyeliner.
Sweet Lolita (Ama Rori)
The Sweet Lolita fashion style recalls Alice in Wonderland, with women dressing in ultra-cute, childlike pastel colors, lots of bows and ribbons, liberal use of pink, and cute stuffed-animal, fruit, and sweet motif accessories. The emphasis for Sweet Lolita is on childlike innocence.
Princess Lolita (Hime Lolita)
As the name suggests, in this style hime girls (hime gyaru) adopt the look and persona of a Victorian princess. The classic hime look features expensive, white or light-colored dresses, often with floral patterns, and perhaps most significantly, blond-dyed, elaborately fashioned hair styles.
Hime girls sometimes spend thousands of dollars on a single outfit, and adopt not only the look of a princess, but often, the attitude as well.
More examples of the hime look can be found on the Website of Jesus Diamonte, the most popular store for Hime clothing headquartered near Harajuku.
Visual Kei Fashion
Visual Kei is a fashion trend begun by popular Japanese rock groups like X Japan, Glay, Luna Sea, Malice Mizer, Dir en grey, and copied by their fans. Visual Kei also refers to a type of rock music that is sort of a cross between punk and 1980s hair metal.
The Visual Kei look is characterized by androgynous hair styles and clothing, colorfully dyed and styled hair, and glamorous, goth-inspired costumes.
Visual Kei fashion is alive and well and can best be seen on Sunday mornings in Harajuku.
Japanese Fashion Trends – Kawaii
Another Japanese fashion trend is Japanese “kawaii” fashion. Kawaii means “cute” or “lovely” in Japanese, and is the word most often used by one woman to complement another on her look. As the name suggests, kawaii fashion is an attempt to look as cute as possible. This fashion style features lots of pink, ruffles, bright colors, plenty of Hello Kitty and other characters, and similar accessories decorated with sweets and fruits for maximum kawaii-ness!
Decora is a version of kawaii fashion, and consists of the liberal use of multiple layers of colorful accessories, small stuffed animals, and most recently, accessories decorated with sweets like cookies, cakes, and ice cream and various fruits.
Japanese Fashion Trends – Shibuya Fashion
Gothic Lolita and other styles influenced by Harajuku fashion are considered counterculture, underground, Japanese street fashion subculture. Shibuya street fashion, in contrast is decidedly trendy and cool.
Shibuya fashion changes constantly. The best place to catch up on the latest Japanese youth fashion trends is in and around the Shibuya 109 department store. Check out what Japanese youth milling about Shibuya 109 are wearing, and you’ll have your finger on the pulse of what’s trendy among Japanese youth right now.
Shibuya fashion is still heavily influenced by the kogyaru look. Miniskirts, brighter colors, short shorts, and knee-high boots, and a tanned look appear to be constants.
Keep checking back as we continue to update our page with the lastest Japanese fashion trends!
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