JAPANESE SCHOOLGIRL INFERNO: Toyko Teen Fashion Subculture Handbook
>> by Izumi Evers and Patrick Macias; illustrated by Kazumi Nonaka
>> Chronicle Books (May 3, 2007) >> 144 pages paperback

I was charmed by this cheeky guide to Japanese schoolgirl style, from the sailor-suit gangstas of the 70s to the Dracula maidens of today. About twenty pages are dedicated to Goth Lolis and their precursors, the Nagomu indie chicks of the 80s. This section begins with an in-depth, photo-packed history, followed by an illustrated Profile (must-have items, ideal boyfriend, a day in the life). Key designers such as Moi-même-Moitié, Alice Auaa, Baby, The Star Shine Bright, and Vivienne Westwood are discussed.

Without question, most of these subcultures would never fly outside of Japan. A Kigurumin in Pikachu pajamas might be mistaken for a furry fetishist. A Gonguro, in blackface and six-inch-platforms, would get an angry call from the NAACP. Gothic Lolita, however, wouldn’t look too much out of place in the West. (Of course, the foof would have to be toned down; we have a lower tolerance for cuteness than the Japanese.)

But will Gothic Lolita gain hold in America, where Goth kids are tagged as school shooters or reduced to objects of ridicule on South Park? I’m optimistic. While there are points of convergence, Gothic Lolita is stylistically very different from Western Goth. When a survey asked “What is the purpose of your interest in Gothic Lolita?”, most girls responded “To have a sense of beauty. (P125)” Another answered, “Every girl simply wants to dress up and look cute. Lolita fashion is the tool to totally transform myself into something else. (P126)” Now isn’t that something we can all relate to?