Wednesday, July 06, 2005

JAPANESE FASHION-THE ULTIMATE STREET FASHION

Note:
This article seems rather ill-informed in my opinion. It is not exactly cited as factual in every sense of the word and should be taken lightly. It is simply an opinion piece.

JAPANESE FASHION – THE ULTIMATE STREET FASHION

Part I - Youth

One of the most interesting things about fashion in Japan is its street fashion.

Okay, dummy, street fashion is what individuals or groups of people wear, well, on the street. Lots of fashion designers say that they gain their inspiration from the street wear -- what ends up on a catwalk may just be based on something that an unknown seventeen-year old wore on his way to the mall.

Most of these looks can actually be ”bought” in some of the Goths stores – complete with accessories and shoes and wigs. Some Japanese kids are really creative when it comes to fashion, but if they have enough money they can just buy the style that they’re after. Here are some popular street fashion trends in Japan:

The Gothic French Maid look is immensely popular. This is usually means a short full black skirt with white lace trim combined with black blouse with puffed sleeves and more white lace trim. White socks or stockings with mary-janes. Some girls (and boys) who wear this type of outfit will combined with black, white lace-trimmed caps or other old-fashioned accessories. This look is sometimes referred to as ”Gothic Lolita”

The Nurse - There are lots of girls in Japan who are dressed in white Nurse’s uniforms although these are not as popular as ”Gothic Lolita”.

The Little girl. This sort of look is basically anything that makes a girl look like she’s about five-years old – pink skirts, bows, colorful socks… Accessories include dolls, teddy-bears and pacifiers.

Schoolgirl. This is plaid skirt and blazer with sailor-suit. The girls have no choice in the uniform if they get it from school. Buying a schoolgirl uniform when you are not a schoolgirl is really difficult and expensive.

Malice Mizer look-a-likes. Malice Mizer is the biggest Goth band in Japan that is currently topping the country’s music chart lists. Often the singers sometimes look like characters straight out of the Interview with the Vampire movie. They are beautiful boys often dressed up as beautiful girls. The kids love to copy the Victorian look of blonde ringlet curls (wings are sold in Goth stores in Tokyo) combined with blue or green 18th-19th century French-looking dresses with lots of white lace.

Uniforms (military or school uniforms) . These are sometimes combined with the Goth look. Military style seems to surface in Japan as one of the most recent trends. Sailors are popular. As are British schoolboys.

Hip Hop. Surprisingly hip hop style is making room for itself in Japan and is more and more visible (they have a few hippies too) Apparently you can see a number of kids wearing baggy athletic wear, FUBU, Tommy Hilfiger. They get their hair put in dreads, braids and even Afros. This is much more popular among boy than girls.

Gothic male look Interestingly lots of Japanese Goth females seem to be into the 18-19th century male look with beautiful, tailored jackets, pirate shirts and top hats.

Other Gothic Lolita – similar to ”Gothic Lolitas” but you’ll often find the clothes are actually made by the owner or an owner’s friend and therefore are subtly different looking than the store-bought stuff. These Gothic Lolitas are also different from the generated GLs because they seem to have more guts when it comes to applying make – they will often draw black tears, blood stains around their mouths. Sometimes they carry toys that are dressed and made-up to look just like them.

The individual dressers are much more interesting. One of the most interesting groups are Goth-Punks who cherish their individual style and invest in creativity to the point of obsession.

Usually they do give up on corsets or cinchers or bodices. You will probably not see any PVC bras or anything that reeks of cheap S&M bar amongst this group. But there are some interesting things that seem to be popular in this circle such as:

Big platform boots – very popular and it’s rare to actually see a Japanese Punk-Goth or a Goth without these. Girls love them and boys are into the superhero boots just as much.

Little black caps or thick headbands. – these look very Victorian and also are very similar to ”Gothic Lolita” caps, black with white lace trim.

Black arm bands worn on one arm -- these are popular among boys and usually come with the name of a Japanese Goth band on them. There are lots that have words ”Japan X” printed on them.

Make-up – make-up is huge in the street fashion. It could be a bright blue lipstick, very whiteface, heavy makeup with black tears or red hearts painted right on the faces. Silver stickers of stars glued onto cheeks, eye patches and gigantic fake eyelashes are common too.

Nightmare Before Christmas accessories such as pens, notebooks, little keychain-like-things that kids can attach to their miniature cellphones.

Religious paraphernalia are also used as accessories, for example Catholic crosses are worn both right side up and upside down.

According to the tourists, the biggest population are the Goths and they seem to be in their full gear usually on Sunday, usually near Yoyogi Park (Tokyo) where they mostly stand around, socialize and pose for photographs taken by tourists or other ”normal” looking middle-aged Japanese men. Different fashion groups seem to hang out in their own circles with little socializing in between the groups.

Part II - The Newest trend (youth)

Gunguro A newest fashion trend that seems to be infiltrating Japanese streets. Here it goes: A pale-skinned Japanese teenager with dyed blonde hair looking like some sort of a beach girl California circa 1970. Apparently, right now, this is the most popular fashiontrend amongst Japanese girls and there are literally thousands and thousands of them looking sort of like Barbie-gone-wrong. Though perhaps you want to be a Gunguro girl? Here’s what you need:

Pale lipstick is an absolute must.
Lots of orange, also bright green, bright yellow, bright pink… bright anything!
Light brown or beige, leather or suede knee-high platform boots.
Tans are very popular, especially really dark tans. Tanning saloons are blossoming all over Tokyo thanks to Gunguro chickies.
Pale blue or white eye shadow to emphasize their ultra tans are also absolutely essential.
Hair has to be bleached blonde (alternatively bleached pale blue or bleached orange) and has to be worn in big wavy curls.
Hawaiian-theme jewelry as well Hawaiian-theme shirts or backpacks are a bonus.
Mascara is BIG. Lots of it. Lots. And more. More! More. Fake eyelashes. More mascara!
Fake hair extensions. Silver, electric blue, electric pink.
Stripper shoes with knee high socks.
Plucked eyebrows
Stick-on glittery eyeliner-stickers are huge too so are stick-on stars and sparkly flowers.
Fake flowers in hair. Bright fake flowers in bright yellow hair.
Most importantly though: If you want to be a true Gunguro girl you have to have Gunguro girlfriends. Gunguro girls travel in packs. Recently, Gunguro males have been spotted as well and these have to be accompanied by Gunguro girls.

Part III – General Street Trends (In no particular order. C’mon this is Japanese fashion we’re talking about. Order. Bah!)

Platform boots. The platforms seem to average around 6-8 inches high, no less. Sometimes you may see a 10-incher but never smaller than 6.
Plastic rain coats in different colors.
Lollipops.
Little sticker-photo-booth things are everywhere. You can find specialized ones where you 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.
Ironic geisha look has made a (sort of) appearance. Traditional mixed with current, for example a silk printed shirt mixed with jean skirt and knee high socks
Hats are popular – cowboy hats, trucker hats with ironic messages on them (”I’m a Jerk”)
Did I say platform boots? Forgot to tell you how long. Knee-high long.
Miniature, tiny, tiny cell phones are used as accessories. There are stores in Japan that are devoted entirely to cell phones and accessories that come with them such as key chains with cartoon characters or furry cell phone cases.
Prominent designer labels. Even Japanese kids are very much into having visible designer identities – Louis Vuitton is huge. It does make one wonder what’s going on with Louis Vuitton stores posting signs saying that each customer has a limit of five bags… only. The bags range from $3000 U.S. and up.
Pillows with pictures of friends, boyfriends or girlfriends silk-printed on them.
Clear plastic long-handled umbrellas are big. Sometimes with cute things painted on them.
Curled bleached hair or pigtails and braids, worn low on the back of the head.
Small bells worn as jewelry.
Bobby pins, decorative and plain attached to coats.
T-Shirts with nonsensical English phrases such as: ”I am a record” or ”Today fruit is melon”
Little old women with purple or blue hair. Seriously. These are super trendy. You’re super lucky if you can actually get a hold of one and keep her as an accessory.
Dominating nail polish colors are black, pink and orange.
Those baggy, baggy white socks are still very much in style. They sell ones that are sometimes up to one meter long and you get that ribbed sock look by pushing them down to gather around the ankle and actually gluing them to your leg with a sock glue (no joke)
Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty. Hello (you stupid, ugly, mouthless, usueless, stupid, stupid) Kitty. Hello Kitty.
Hair extensions are big. They are sold everywhere from jewelry stores to clothes stores. The extensions usually come in natural colors and it’s harder to find flaming pink or blue fake tresses but their styles vary from curls, straight, iron-flattened to braids, dreadlocks and frizzy.
According to one source Audrey Hepburn is really big in Japan. She is all over advertisements and banners; her face appears on buildings, there are lots of art shows devoted to her. Nobody knows why her, exactly.
In comparison with the U.S. Japanese kids are much better and careful dressers even if they’re in their casual mode. The clothes look and are much more expensive. It would be very difficult to find someone in stained shirt, shoeless, drunk, dressed in track pants with ass hanging out of pants (think Britney Spears). Japan’s young fashionistas are much more elegant and pleasant to look at.

Part IV – 20-somethings

No more platform shoes but instead expensive-looking designer mules or sling-backs, lots of high heels.
Coppery reddish bleached hair are popular.
Shaggy-type hair cuts with different layers are sexy.
Pink is still in but it’s more toned-down, pale pink is in.
Scarves worn as wraps. Pashmina shawls are popular. Also sweater-poncho wraps are a big hit in Japan. These are worn in the evenings. Lots of them come in different shades of pink.
With 20-somethings, little designer handbags are even more essential than they are with the younger women.
Louis Vuitton handbags become a necessity. No Louis Vuitton no leaving the house. Period.
Instead of white, black knee-high stockings are common and fishnets are also quite popular. This is called ”maturity”.
Skirts get longer and tend to be knee-length and straight-cut.
Labels, labels, labels. LABELS!
Did I mention labels? No? LABELS.
Jean is in – the most popular is dark denim. Dark denim jackets are it.
Dark blue straight-cut jeans that are cuffed about 6 inches at the bottom and worn with sexy high heeled boots.
Long, straight, ruler-sharp skirts are popular.
Fur and feather collars are very popular. Especially in pink. Especially if they have LABELS on them.
Used fur is popular as well and it is worn around shoulders or as a sort of a collar.
Anything made of Burberry’s signature plaid is in.
Flowers are in. Fake flowers, for example fake fabric roses worn as accessories, often a black fabric one worn as a brooch in the center of the chest, sometimes a fake flower is worn in the hair.
Um. LABELS.
Part V -- Where to Shop (in Tokyo)

Goth and Punk clothes and used cd’s can be found on Takeshita Dori street, near Harajuku subway station in Tokyo.
Trendy designer clothes are sold at a store called Takeshita Dori.
There is also a fantastic store, near Shibuya subway station called Shibuya 109 in Tokyo.
There are also a lot of Hip Hop stores in the Shibuya area.
All the very expensive department stores are located in Tokyo region, Ginza.
Fetish and sex shops can be found in Shinjuku area.
Osaka – which is a few hours South of Tokyo has lots of cyber, Eurotechno-style type of clothing.
Par Avion is where you can find some fantastic ”recycled” clothes. This one is special though because the clothes are hand picked and then remodeled into individual design.



Why are Fruits so fruity?

Two years ago I came across a wonderful book. It was a book of photographs of Japanese teenagers dressed up as… it is actually impossible to say exactly but a typical – although there’s no such thing as ”typical” with Fruits really – outfit could involve platform boots with teeth and fur, pink thighs, ruffled skirt with another ruffled skirt underneath it, a shirt with Victorian-period collar, hair in braids, a Victorian-period maid hat complete with a bow, a teddy bear as an accessory and a boyfriend in a skirt with a cowboy hat. It would be wrong to compare too too-closely this particular street fashion, to what club kids used to do more than a decade ago in New York, but there are some similarities as both styles were/ are simply out of this world. Fruits are dressed much more carefully than club kids with everything matching – even if particular items seem as if they should never be matched – often wearing vintage, design as well as their own creations.

The inspirations for the Fruit outfits are many. The idea behind this street fashion it is that through clothes you get to become someone else or be a parody someone that you are definitely not. This somebody else could be an Oxford school boy, a carefully adorned and painted imitation of a punk rocker, a cowboy-Buddist monk or a weirdly sexual school girl-gothic-French maid that itself is such a popular style within Fruits style that it has gained a separate title: Gothic Lolita.

Many people say that anyone who visits Tokyo should walk around Harajuku that has become an unofficial center of Japanese teenage fashion scene. The place is buzzing with self-expression and Fruits are ruling the place. These kids are very happy to pose for tourist’s pictures and they do pose beautifully with most of them pigeon-toeing their feet, opening their eyes wide and displaying their unique look in all its glory. Often they pose with a friend or a partner who is, always, another outrageously dressed Fruit. They are frequently dressed according to the same concept so you’ll get a girl Squaw and a boy cowboy or two girls in mary-janes, sucking on lollipops dressed in high fashion Gothic Lolita outfits (each wears a different version of it, of course). These kids are immeasurably beautiful and it makes one happy to see so much thought put into an outfit that balances on the line that divides fashion and art.

Fruits is not a new phenomenon and it’s been around long enough to actually develop into different forms, such as Cosplay where the kids (okay, you do get an occasional thirty-something year old, but rarely) dress in superhero outfits or create outfits that make them look like superheros complete with colorful wigs (blue, pink, orange, yello…), wings, fake elf ears, tails, etc. Fruits seems to be more playful than Cosplay which in some instances has evolved into a kink and has inspired a creation of adult communities that indulge in Cosplay as more of a fetish and not necessarily a fashion statement.

A friend who lived in Japan told me once that the kids that visit Harajuku center usually don’t walk around anywhere else dressed in the Fruits fashion. They are very often typical Japanese teenagers with lots of homework, long school hours and chores that would make an American teenager throw a temper tantrum on dr.Phil. But like the American teenagers that do end up on dr.Phil, because they dress provocatively, sneak out mini skirts, make-up, piercings and high heels in their school bags and change into their ”real” persona once leaving home, the Japanese Fruits seem to have identical reason for their dress-up. They too fight for so-called freedom of expression and they too get a little relief from not being what their parents and the society expects them to be all the time.

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