Gothic Lolita or “GothLoli” (ゴスロリ, gosurori) is a fashion particularly popular among Japanese teenagers and young women. It emphasizes Victorian-style girl’s clothing and often aims to imitate the look of Victorian porcelain dolls.
Variations of the Gothic Lolita look include “Classic Lolita” (more traditional clothing) and “Elegant Gothic Lolita” (EGL, which is heavily influenced by gothic fashion). The male analog to this fashion is “Elegant Gothic Aristocrat” (EGA) which shares EGL’s emphasis on the Victorian era, though not on children’s clothing. Gothic Lolita is also influenced by the imagery of more feminine Visual Kei (or “visual rock”) bands. Visual Kei is a Japanese form of pop music where the musical style may vary but defined by bands featuring performers in elaborate costumes.
Mana, the crossdressing former leader and guitarist of the Visual Kei band Malice Mizer, is widely credited for popularizing the Gothic Lolita movement. In 1999, he founded his own fashion label, Moi-même-Moitié, for which he coined the terms Elegant Gothic Lolita and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat. Mana, a male, regularly appears in the Gothic & Lolita Bible, modelling his own Victorian-inspired designs with heavy gothic makeup and big hair. After the breakup of Malice Mizer, Mana founded his solo project, Moi Dix Mois.
Typically voluminous with ribbons, lace trims and frilly knee-length skirts. Usually a combination of black and white, often black with white lace, is worn. Skirts often have a concealed crinoline. In the past, some dresses were adorned by an “Alice in Wonderland”-style apron, but this is no longer common. Skirts are usually worn with knee-high stockings. Black fishnet stockings (often with intentional holes) and white or black tights are also common. Clunky shoes, typically boots or Mary-Janes, complete the look.
Frilly, ruffled or lace-trimmed Victorian blouses are also popular especially with “EGL” types. Typically black or white is worn but grey, red, blue and pastels are occasionally accenting colors. Designs are modest, sometimes with long lace-capped sleeves. A flat chest is preferred. Cleavage and breasts are de-emphasized to preserve a child-like look. Sometimes blouses have “Peter Pan” collars and sleeves.
Headpieces often complement the outfit. Mostly black or white, headgear might consist of a headband with ruffles, ribbons, lace or bows. Sometimes even bonnets or askew top hats (also seen in EGA) are worn. Hair may be curled to complete the porcelain doll look. The naturally dark Japanese hair color is often lightened but rarely to blonde.
Makeup is used sparingly and is seen more often with EGL styles than with other GothLoli styles. Black eyeliner is typical. A pale complexion is preferred, so white foundation might be used. Red or black lipstick is seen but lighter makeup is the rule.
Gothic Lolita outfits may be accessorized with other props like conspicuous pocketbooks, hatboxes, handbags and other bags, sometimes in the shape of bats, coffins, and crucifixes. Parasols are also common as are lace gloves.
Typically, this is not everyday clothing for adherents. Worn primarily in public for concerts and on weekends, the style is mostly for show and not a practical fashion.
Although “Lolita” is apparently a reference to Vladimir Nabokov’s famous novel, and GothLoli is often worn by teens, most followers of the style do not consider it overtly sexual. Adherents present themselves as Victorian children or baby dolls and prefer to look “cute” rather than “sexy”.
Goth Loli Culture
In Japan it is mass-marketed and has wide visibility particulary in the street in Tokyo, on television, in manga and computer games. Outside of Japan it is still a fringe fashion although it has slowly begun to spread to Europe and the United States. Gothic Lolita, along with Cosplay and other Japanese cultural phenomena, can be seen at concerts and anime conventions throughout Europe and the United States. The style has not yet been mass marketed outside of Japan and probably never will be. However, there are plenty of dedicated fans filling the gap. Gothic Lolita magazines are widely available for purchase on the internet and at Japanese bookstores, which also deal in anime and manga. Adherents in Europe and the United States often sew their own homemade Gothic Lolita outfits, sometimes offering them for sale to make up for the difficulty of acquiring them from Japan.