Gothic Lolita or GothLoli (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. Gothloli’s name and origin is a combination of lolita fashion – appearing deliberately cute to the point of looking childish – and certain styles found within gothic fashion. The style started as a youth subculture sometime around 1997/1998 and became a well-established genre available in department stores by around 2001.

Variations of the Gothic Lolita look include “Classic Lolita” (more traditional, light-coloured and “girlish” clothing) and “Elegant Gothic Lolita” (EGL, which focuses upon the pastiche of upper class victorian fashion found in old horror films.). The male analog to this fashion is called “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 rock music defined by bands featuring performers in elaborate costumes but whose musical style varies.

Mana, the crossdressing former leader and guitarist of the Visual Kei band Malice Mizer, is widely credited for having popularised Gothic Lolita. He coined the terms Elegant Gothic Lolita (EGL) and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat (EGA) to describe the style of his own fashion label, Moi-meme-Moitie, which was founded in 1999 and quickly established itself as one of the most coveted brands of the Gothic Lolita scene.

The style
Usually a combination of black and white, often black with white lace. Typically decorated with ribbons and lace trims. Skirts are knee length and may have a crinoline to add volume. As in mainstram Japanese fashion, over-knee socks or stockings are extremely popular. Black fishnet stockings and white or black tights are also common. Shoes or boots with high heels- though not usually stiletto heels- such as Mary Janes, complete the look. Frilly, ruffled or lace-trimmed Victorian blouses are also popular especially with “EGL” types, who may also favour long skirts and jackets rather than the overtly “childish” designs of typical gothloli’s. Apart from the occasional shortness of skirts, designs are usually modest, sometimes with long lace-capped sleeves.

Some additions may include an “Alice in Wonderland”-style apron, tiny top hats, parasols, lace gloves, and lace headpieces. Mostly black or white, headgear might consist of a headband with ruffles, ribbons, lace or bows. Sometimes even bonnets 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. Teddy bears and other stuffed animals are also common, and some brands make special “gothic” teddybears out of black leather or PVC.

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”. Many Japanese women place a high value upon extremely youthful appearance and behaviour, and it is not uncommon for adult women to buy products aimed at children such as Hello Kitty goods. Gothloli is perhaps a more visible extension of this behaviour.

Goth Loli Culture
In Japan it is mass-marketed and has wide visibility particulary in the street in Tokyo, on television, in manga (see Paradise Kiss – Ai Yazawa for an example of gothloli inspired manga) and computer games. Outside of Japan it is still a fringe fashion although it has slowly begun to spread to other countries. Gothic Lolita, along with Cosplay and other Japanese cultural phenomena, can sometimes be seen at concerts and anime conventions throughout Europe and the United States. The style has not yet been mass marketed outside of Japan. 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.

Gothic & Lolita Bible
One magazine in particular, the irregularly published Gothic & Lolita Bible has played an instrumental role in promoting and standardizing the style. The 100+ page magazine includes fashion tips, photos, sewing patterns, catalog descriptions, decorating ideas and even recipes.

Currently the heart of the Gothic Lolita subculture, at least commercially, is the Marui Young department store in Shinjuku, after its predecessor Marui One closed at the end of August 2004. This large youth-fashion oriented department store has 4 floors entirely devoted to Gothloli and related fashions.

Crossover with Goth
In Japan, Goth is a very minor subculture with few followers, partly because the emphasis upon visual identity in Japanese youth culture makes other factors such as music and literature much less important signifiers. In Japan most people wrongly assume that “Goth” refers to “Gothic Lolita”, except for the Goths themselves, who strongly emphasize the differences. However, due to the immense popularity of Gothloli from around 2001-2004 (probably the second most easily spotted youth fashion after kogyaru), and its continued acceptance by many young girls, Goth nightclubs and events increasingly try to attract Gothic Lolita customers to bolster the low number of Goths who attend. Therefore many Japanese “Goth Clubs” will also feature a guest DJ playing J-pop and Visual Kei music, Tea and Cakes in the chillout room, Doll decorations, and other items designed to appeal to the Gothloli sense of European nostalgia.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Gothic Lolita.

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