Baby, The Stars Shine Bright
Not many Lolitas gather at the Meiji shrine bridge anymore, but I saw a couple there today. One of the things I love about the whole Lolita subculture is that it looks so Western on the surface but is so utterly Japanese beneath. Even though they dress like something out of an English nursery rhyme and are named after an American novel that glorified creepy old guys in love with little girls, being a Lolita has nothing to do with childishness or forbidden sex. It’s actually all about belonging.
The Lolitas are a perfect illustration of the balance between individual expression and group harmony that is so prized in Japan. As a group they are easily identified by their strict dress code, but within that code, each member puts together a completely unique look.
For those who have money to burn, outfits can be mixed and matched from famous Lolita readymades: Alice and the Pirates, Black Peace Now, Angelic Pretty, SexPot Revenge, Victorian Maiden, Hellcatpunks, Innocent World, and, of course, the ur-brands Baby the Stars Shine Bright and Moi-Meme-Moitié.
But many Lolitas dress one-of-a-kind, custom-made. You really feel like you’ve slipped into a parallel universe when you step into the 7-story craft mecca Yuzawaya and discover the entire department devoted to Goth-Lolita sewing patterns, skull-patterned fabric and spiderweb buttons.
Jonelle Patrick is the author of the Only In Tokyo mystery series, published by Penguin/Intermix. If you’d like to visit the Meiji Shrine the next time you’re in Tokyo, pictures and directions are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.