Close observation of Lolita style reveals that its incorporation of European fashion aesthetics has not necessarily been concerned with historical or stylistic authenticity. The manner in which historical accuracy gives way to aesthetic preferences in Lolita style is representative of Walter Benjamin’s philosophy of fashion. As Ulrich Lehmann summarizes it, “a particular style or stylistic element is taken from costume history and brought into present fashion to create reference and friction simultaneously, along with new commodities”. Lolita incorporates the ideas of certain aesthetic elements from historical European dresses, but its actual style is considerably contemporary.
Moreover, the Europe apparently presented via this style might more precisely be described as a romanticized Europe that has never existed, which makes no attempt to offer a straightforward replication of dresses specific to certain periods. In this sense, it is a “transtexual” style, in which references to other texts or sources are deployed. This significantly highlights the agency of such a style. In addition to the aesthetic sensibilities conceptualized and romanticized by Lolita, we shall also see how Japanese understandings of historic European dresses have been influenced by Japanese popular culture.
The signature look of Yohji Yamamoto, which hung on all-black, body-engulfing designs, put a modern twist on tailoring and stood out from the cinnamon waists, shoulder pads and bright block colors that dominated the fashion scene of the 1980s. A dark color palette has had the shock factor in an age of rainbow brights.