In Japan, Lolita fashion emerged in the mid- to late 1990s. There is no clear definition of Lolita style; rather, it functions as a general term for a number of subtly different trends. These include Kuro-Loli (Gothic/Black Lolita); Ama-Loli (Sweet Lolita), which uses predominantly pastel shades; the slightly less elaborate Kurashikku-Lolita (Classical Lolita); and Panku-Loli (Punk Lolita), which could consist of a punk T-shirt with a frilly, tutu-like mini skirt. Lolita style sometimes includes characteristics from traditional East Asian dress, such as the Chinese cheongsam or Japanese kimono, while other minor variations include Guro-Loli (Grotesque Lolita) and even Ero-Loli (Erotic or Sexy Lolita).
Orthodox Lolita fashion combines Black, Sweet, and Classical styles. It consists of a highly elaborate Victorian calf-length “little girl” dress hooped with layers of pannier, frilly knee-length socks, and Mary Jane or strap shoes—typified by Vivienne Westwood’s “Rockin’ horse ballerina.” The look is completed with intricate headdresses or bonnets. The relatively little-known status of this fashion changed when the film Shimotsuma Monogatari (known in English as Kamikaze Girls), an adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same title by cult novelist Novala Takemoto, became a Japanese box office hit after its release in 2004. The narrator and protagonist of the story is a seventeen-year-old Lolita girl, for whom the style represents a highly romanticized notion of the Rococo nobility, its fashion, and life philosophy.
While Japanese street fashion is known for its mix of various styles and ideas, and there is no label that can consistently appeal to all fashion classes, Japan's vibrant fashion industry feeds on and supports the huge demand generated by the fashion-conscious population. Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons are frequently cited as Japanese fashion's three cornerstone brands.