Many of us in the West were introduced to Harajuku street fashion through a) Gwen Stefani and b) Fruits and Fresh Fruits by Shoichi Aoki. These photo collections, published by Phaidon Press, document the over-the-rainbow style of Japanese teens. Last May, Phaidon released a new lookbook, titled Gothic & Lolita. Each page has a full-color portrait of one or more youths on the streets of Osaka and Tokyo. Included are their names, ages, and replies to questions about their outfits.

Gothic & Lolita is a prime example of never judging a book by its cover. The term “Gothic Lolita” refers to a distinct category of fashion, along with its subgenres and social culture. The title and cover image (of two Sweet Lolitas) imply that the book focuses on Gothic Lolita and its complementary styles. But the “&” proves to be crucial: the introduction differentiates Lolita from Goth, and the portraits include a number of Punk, Cyber, and Club Goth looks with no Lolita elements whatsoever. And so, we have images like:

There is much debate over what constitutes Gothic Lolita, but hardly anything in Madoka’s outfit links her to the style. Rather than displaying childlike demureness, she’s working the “come-hither.” She bares skin, while Goth Lolis (with the exception of EroLolis) are typically modest. Her lace-up boots, skin-tight satin and black lipstick place her squarely in the Club Goth realm.

At least half of the photos have little to do with Gothic Lolita; in other words, we’re got a lot of pancake-powdered extras from Dawn of the Dead. All this is fine – but if someone picks up the book looking for an overview of Gothic Lolita fashion, then she will be disappointed, or even worse, utterly misled.

Phaidon’s lookbook DOES contain unequivocally Goth Loli outfits, such as dresses and coats from Baby, Metamorphose, and Black Peace Now. But the wide and exhilarating spectrum of Lolita subgenres is under-represented (see next post). And the outfits portrayed are rather paint-by-number:

Sorry, girls. Detail and quality make a Goth Loli outfit stand out – and even the flowers in their hair are wilted.

When I read Fruits, my eyes were popping out as I turned each page. I didn’t have nearly the same experience with Gothic & Lolita; the inclusion of strictly Goth looks is confusing, and the originality and whimsy of Lolita fashion is not conveyed. The book is worth a flip-through, but I would turn to the Gothic and Lolita Bibles, Japanese style magazines such as Kera, and websites to get a more coherent understanding of the style.



  1. kitsune__chan
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    those two girls you critisized for having wilted flowers in there hair are in a band called Kokusyoku Sumire and and personally i think its a great band^ ^

  2. lacarmina
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    hahah I think they're a great band too! I wrote about them here:

    I usually love their outfits and styling. I don't think they're at their best in these photos, however.

    (I also had a snarkier tone in the blog's early posts… but it was often misconstrued! I've since let Ronan of the Committee be my fall guy ^__^)

  3. kitsune__chan
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    those two girls you critisized for having wilted flowers in there hair are in a band called Kokusyoku Sumire and and personally i think its a great band^ ^