J-Fashion is an increasingly in-depth subject, but when you know execute it properly, it’s unmistakable for anything else. A lot of the time it’s over-the-top, big, and features a lot of details which come together for a total theme. The three fashions which I’m going to focus on are decora, mori kei, and Lolita, and tips for these which can really be used to composite for any other look. As a back to school look, these styles aren’t exactly common in the U.S., so maybe your parents might not let you wear it, maybe you’re just not sure about going all out, or maybe you don’t have a whole outfit yet – that’s alright. Hopefully, the tips below can lead you to a happy medium of trying out new things while still being affordable and meeting in the middle for a relaxed, more mainstream American look in your comfort zone.
First up is decora, which is comprised predominantly of a plethora of colours and accessories. What most of those aware of decora know, are the pastel hair colours, brightly coloured, large, and plentiful J-pop accessories, and platform shoes, often sneakers. One of the main aspects which make this style is attractive is a sense of fancy, or pure fun. Most simply, you can take a piece of decora, such as a certain bag, sweater, or platforms, and just mix it into your usual wardrobe for just a pinch of kawaii. But, the full look is a great, accessible, versatile look for school because lots of coords (coordinates, or outfits) are paired with a cute backpack and generally look rather comfy – so style with a function. For school, toning it down is probably the best option, as to save money, avoid ruining a perfect coord, or blend in a little better. As a beginner, I suggest hitting up Tumblr fashion blogs to find exactly what kind of aesthetic you like and feel like is your personal style, but check out user decorademon for a good range of looks. What one part of the outfit is your favourite? If it’s possible, find that piece, or one close to it, and make that the beginning point of your outfit – style outfits around the statement piece. If you fall in love with a certain hoodie and it’s feasible, go ahead and spend the money to get it. That will become the main piece of your outfit, and you can build with more simple pieces around it.
The rest of your pieces don’t have to be pricey or even new to fit into your mild decora look. Decora uses a lot of layers on the bottom half of your body, so if you have a favourite pair of shorts or skirt, that doesn’t totally clash with the hoodie, wear it over a cute pair of patterned tights with a pair of leg warmers – Walmart to Amazon carry both. Platform shoes are in style now, and are available online and in stores like Charlotte Rousse and Rue 21. Chances are, if you’re considering decora or already wear it, you have plenty of kawaii accessories at hand already, such as bags (I know I have at least three), necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Layer your jewelry! As long as you’re comfortable and still have circulation, the more the better! Use both hands for bracelets and rings, and feel free to mismatch your earrings for a unique look. For your hair and makeup, don’t be afraid to go bold! Sparkly eyeliner, false lashes, matte pastel lipstick, and blush can take your look from cute to kawaii and really pop! Your hair doesn’t have to be three shades of pastel or a wig to fit in either; some clip-in coloured extensions or hair chalk can add some interest without being too much, too hot, or too expensive. Adding the hair accessories is the biggest part of decora though! Low pigtails are a popular style, and with that you can add plenty of matching bows or other kinds of cute hair bobbles (i.e. teddy bears, pom poms, etc.) with the tell-tale barrettes in your bangs. Don’t do too many if you’re unsure! The barrettes can be off-putting to people who are unfamiliar and can tend to overdo it if you’re aiming for a more subtle look. In the end, every choice is up to you!
Mori kei and Lolita are similarly built in the basis of antique and vintage pieces at the soul of the look, as well as showcasing a soft, feminine silhouette. While it might not be an ideal look for days you have P.E. or your schedule runs you all over campus, the looks can be good for chilly days and when fancy dress is required or wanted, like a presentation or your birthday. Mori kei has a very flowy, soft silhouette and most pieces can be found at your local thrift store. Layering is key, as the style is all about fulfilling your forest girl dreams. Boots are a favourite shoe here, which are easily found at a local Goodwill or consignment shop. The base of the look is usually created with a flowing (but not necessarily long) dress or skirt, but for a more casual, mainstream look, a pair of jeans or leggings layered with the proper accessories can be excellent. Scarves, glovelets, hats, legwarmers, and sweaters/sweater vests are great layering options that can provide most of the interest in your outfit. Anything long and with a bit of movement in the fabric is good, like a waterfall sweater, a long tunic top, or super long scarf wrapped loosely a couple of times. As a rule of thumb, stay away from bright colours and bold patterns, and lean more towards smaller prints, like gingham or houndstooth, or knitted/crocheted textures with a neutral or earthy colour palette, like browns, ivories, greys, navies, and greens. Scarves and other accessories can bring in other hues, like dark, saturated purples, reds, and blues. Remember to keep in mind that the key aesthetic is almost like a Miyazaki movie: a quaint cottage in a clearing in the woods with an herb garden and plenty of flower filled window boxes in early spring. The Tumblr blog belonging to c4tbus is perfect for the idea of the total aesthetic, plus their looks are to die for. The look is cozy, vintage, and effeminate. For jewelry, keep it to a minimum and keep to tones like brass, bronze, pewter, and rose gold. Long, pocketwatch necklaces are high recommended, as well as dainty earrings and rings. Makeup and hair are both rather low-key. Hair can be put up in a hat, braided, in double buns, or loose waves with small bows, flowers, or large hats. Makeup should simply accentuate your natural beauty in neutral eyeliner, shadows, and lipstick, if you choose to wear makeup at all. Blush is a must for makeup wearers though, as it helps to push the idea of having walked briskly out of the woods for your day.
Lolita is more polished, and focuses more on the wearers silhouette, as to be classified as Lolita the silhouette must be maintained, which is the classic bell shape. Lolita prizes modesty over the cozy look for coverage, but shoulders and the areas below your collarbone and above the knee should really be covered. There are many styles of Lolita, but the three most popular are sweet, gothic, and classic. Each are very specific and allow for each wearer’s personal style to emerge. To tone it down, I’d suggest looking at casual Lolita coords, which are often a less expensive, yet just as respected style, which is more “acceptable” in mainstream life and easier to maintain in the wear and tear of every day life. The first place to start is your pain piece, either a JSK (jumperskirt), one-piece (a full dress with sleeves), or a skirt. Casual Lolita often times prefers the skirt, as it is often times the cheapest option and presents less struggle to keep clean/comfortable to the wearer. Once some semblance of a skirt piece (skirt itself, JSK, or one-piece) has been attained, petticoats are required. I do not suggest buying anything from costume stores, as they are poor quality and often times very short. You can find patterns in any fabric store or even look at thrift stores, as square dancing petticoats often fill the gap perfectly. Blouses from thrift stores usually do the trick, but make sure they fit the style. Does it cover you properly, does it have a nice collar/ruffles/lace/ poufy sleeves/etc? If the sleeves are a little short, feel free to add a cute sweater over, as most casual Lolita looks do. Wear your hair up or curly for easiest convenience, with bows or a headband and keep makeup tasteful, and stay away from anything too “dolly” like (that isn’t Lolita style, sorry). Jewelry should be kept rather minimal, but can range depending on the type of look you’re going for. Stockings, tights, or some sort of socks should be worn to cover the calf and shoes can be anything from 5$ Walmart flats or 60$ Demonia Mary Janes. For the best look at meshing the elegance of Lolita with “normal” life, check out tumblr user fannyrosie, who is a professional at dressing in Lolita in a way that fits into her busy, everyday life.
Fashion is what you make it, particularly when the looks you love are rather, well, foreign to the world around you and would stand out. Your comfort level is all that matters, and if you feel confident and happy in your look, everyone else will feel it too.