NEGOTIATION BETWEEN THE FASHION AESTHETICS OF EARLY MODERN EUROPE AND THE FUNCTIONALITY

The newness of this cute, infantile clothing style has also attracted a small yet firm number of followers outside Japan.

By Balthazar Malevolent

NEGOTIATION BETWEEN THE FASHION AESTHETICS OF EARLY MODERN EUROPE AND THE FUNCTIONALITY

The use of panniers can create a more opulent, aristocratic feel than plastic hoops. For aesthetic reasons, the layers of cotton tulle or nylon sheer bear a striking resemblance to a bell-shaped ballet skirt. Lolita style may therefore be a negotiation between the fashion aesthetics of early modern Europe and the kind of functionality appreciated at the turn of the twenty-first century. Rather than being unfamiliar with European sartorial history, Japanese designers have strategically referenced certain aspects of historical European dress, producing something new. Hence, transnational appropriation can be systematic and tactical rather than “chaotic”.

Global gothic Lolita

Another notable characteristic of Lolita style is its emphatic display of sweet, almost infantile, girlish aesthetics. Lolita adds a shade of girlish style favored in Japan— notably a kawaii (cute) aesthetic—to a frilly European aristocratic dress form. The projection of the kawaii aesthetic as embodied by the shortened length of skirts, exemplifies a conscious, creative adoption of foreign cultural forms.

The newness of this cute, infantile clothing style has also attracted a small yet firm number of followers outside Japan. Renowned Lolita brands such as Baby, metamorphose temps de fille, and Innocent World now accept online orders from international customers. This indicates the fashion’s potential to reach overseas markets, although, as in Japan, these may be niches on the fringes of urban life. Moreover, these focused or limited locations may correspond to places where Japanese pop culture has become familiar and accessible. Nonetheless, the increased visibility of Lolita fashion, especially in urban Euro-American societies, forces us to question the style’s relationship to a Euro-American “Lolita” look.

Although the fashion industry in the country started to gain international attention in the 1980s, with the arrival of higher-end fashion designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo in Paris, Japan's one-of-a-kind and trendy street fashions entered a whole new form of customer.

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