THE INTERWEAVING OF REALITY AND ROMANCE

It is not surprising that these precursors were themselves inspired by romanticized notions of Europe and princesses in the first place.

By Balthazar Malevolent

THE INTERWEAVING OF REALITY AND ROMANCE

The saturation of lace and frills seen in the aesthetics of shōjo manga (Japanese girls’ comic books) and pop idols in the 1970s and 1980s was a likely precursor to Lolita fashion. Matt Thorn points out that, especially in the 1970s, aesthetic expressions of the “otome-chikku” (maidenesque) in shōjo manga “were heavily infused with a dreamy, 1970s-style femininity characterized by frilly cotton dresses, straw sun bonnets, herbal tea, and Victorian houses”. Japanese clothing brands such as Hitomi Okawa’s Milk (est. 1970), Isao Kaneko’s Pink House (est. 1972), and Megumi Murano’s Jane Marple (est. 1985) were founded during this period. These brands are considered part of the so-called Japanese Designer and Character (DC) brands, which boomed during the bubble years in the 1980s. DC brands, such as Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons or Yohji Yamamoto have wider consumer appeal than Lolita style, and despite not identifying with the fashion, their somewhat romantic, girlish aesthetics are shared by later Lolita fashion brands such as Baby (est. 1988).

Japanese "Sweet Lolita Dress"

The link between shōjo manga and Lolita aesthetics is indicated by the long-lasting popularity of Riyoko Ikeda’s comic book series The Rose of Versailles, in which Marie Antoinette is portrayed as a tragic yet sympathetic princess adorned with lace and ribbons. The influence of shōjo manga on the individuals who dress in or create Lolita fashion is well noted. For instance, Fumiyo Isobe, a designer and cofounder of Baby, acknowledges the influences of Yumiko Ōshima’s shōjo manga on her designs. Similarly, Yukari Ōba, costume designer of Visual-kei band Malice Mizer (1992–2001), notes 1970s shōjo manga such as Berubara and the costumes of female pop idols in the 1980s as among her childhood inspirations. Moreover, it is not surprising that these precursors were themselves inspired by romanticized notions of Europe and princesses in the first place.

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