What Exactly is Kawaii Style?
The Ultimate Guide to All Kawaii Looks for Fashionistas
When Japanese school girls in the 1970s started writing and doodling in hyper-cute ways, in a time when the shoujo genre blossomed in the fields of art and manga, the cultural phenomenon now known as kawaii was born.
Embraced by young people in Japan, kawaii culture focuses on self-expression through cuteness in visual art and fashion. Think of Hello Kitty and all the adorable characters created by the iconic brand so synonymous with kawaii, Sanrio. The giant eyes and simplistic figures in round shapes are unmistakable.
Today, kawaii culture has developed into a popular fashion theme that has expanded its reach over time, spreading its influence across so many aesthetic forms in Japan and throughout the world. But what really makes a clothing piece kawaii, and how does it fit within this pop culture phenomenon?
Delving Deeper Into the Intricate Details of Kawaii Fashion
Despite global recognition of the kawaii look, it can be a bit confusing to define. In the US, it’s pretty straightforward when you say something is cute. But in Japan, kawaii is more nuanced. Not everything that has cutesy elements is called kawaii. The reverse is also true, with darker themes such as Gothic Lolita.
The best way to see the entire scope of kawaii is to look at the world-famous district of Harajuku, home to the insanely extensive, wildly colorful kawaii shops you’ll ever find. If you’ve seen Gwen Stefani’s uber-kawaii, Harajuku-inspired music videos, they’re only the tip of the iceberg.
Seriously Kawaii Fashion Genres You Need to Know About
Kawaii street fashion in Harajuku isn’t just a single style. Rather, it encompasses a myriad of different aesthetics. With that being said, you may want to explore all of the kawaii fashion genres to refine your individual kawaii style. Here are some that you don’t want to miss:
If you’re looking for something so distinctly kawaii, you may want to explore the Lolita look. It’s what people mostly expect when looking for kawaii fashion. The style came to be when brands in the 1970s, most notably Pink House, Milk, and Angelic Pretty, began to sell cute clothing.
Lolita in Japanese pop culture is a mashup of Victorian-era dresses and kawaii themes, heavily inspired by doll aesthetics known as “doll-kei.” As a whole, it is best summed up as hyper-feminine and modest, characterized by curly hair, big eyes, and crinolines and wide skirts with bows and laces.
For Lolita hair and makeup, accentuating the eyes and curling your hair will do the trick. But it doesn’t stop there; if you go further into the world of Lolita fashion, you’ll find that it also has its own subgenres. These include:
- Sweet Lolita
The girliest and the most childlike of all Lolita substyles, Sweet Lolita focuses on cuteness expressed in pastel colors. It can be distinguished through its heavy use of candies and fantasy themes.
In other words, Sweet Lolita looks like a cupcake in human form. But if you’re more adventurous, you can incorporate dark colors into this subgenre and go for the so-called Bittersweet Lolita look.
- Gothic Lolita
If you want something darker than Bittersweet Lolita, Gothic Lolita is the way to go. It uses themes and symbols related to three subjects that ultimately define this look: death, religion, and royalty. Castles, crosses, coffins, and skulls are frequently seen in Gothic Lolita fashion.
Although black rules in this Lolita subgenre, it doesn’t always have to be the sole color present in your wardrobe. Maroon, royal blue, and similar colors are also great additions to your Gothic Lolita palette.
- Classic Lolita
If Sweet Lolita embraces fantasy, and Gothic Lolita emphasizes death, Classic Lolita concentrates on the subject of Victorian elegance. In this style, subtlety is essential, and that means wearing Lolita dresses in neutral shades that don’t stand out so starkly.
If you love unicorns, rainbows, and cotton candy, then Yume Kawaii is for you. Because yume means dream and kawaii means cute, this look includes everything that’s charming and surreal.
With Yume Kawaii, your clothes should look light and fluffy, like a bright, sunny sky full of swirly, friendly-looking clouds so often depicted in kawaii art. This is where you can go all out with super bright pastel colors, with an occasional dash of patterned fabrics such as polka dots.
Looking for something extreme? Decora might just be your kawaii style. The name is short for decoration, and the look is exactly just that: an excessive use of kawaii accessories.
If you walk around the streets of Harajuku, and see people dressed in bright, neon colors, with piles of countless bracelets, hair clips, necklaces, and everything in between, that’s Decora fashion.
There’s no real requirement when it comes to accessorizing in Decora style because it’s relatively lax compared to other kawaii styles. But for the sake of consistency, most choose to add 80s kawaii icons such as Hello Kitty and the Care Bears into their Decora look.
If you want to mix and match other kawaii styles with Decora, you’re in for a treat. There’s Dark Decora with its dark color palette and punk elements, Pink Decora with all-pink outfits, and Decololi with Lolita and Decora elements combined in one interesting style.
Like its namesake, this kawaii style is anchored to the concept of friendly fae folk. Although it looks quite similar to Lolita, Yume Kawaii, and Decora, what differentiates Fairy Kei from the rest is its strict adherence to the pastel-only rule: black is banned, and white is used ever so sparingly.
Rather, followers of this kawaii genre choose loose, light, and airy clothing in lavender, mint, and other cooler, paler shades. If you have a closet full of oversized shirts and jackets, just add prints of moons, hearts, and candies and they count as Fairy Kei.
Understanding the different fashion genres residing in the kawaii haven that is Harajuku is a great way to fine-tune your kawaii aesthetic sense. There are definitely more kawaii subcultures, which means that there are so many ways to create a kawaii look!
If you’re looking for affordable kawaii clothing, look no further. Whether you’re into Lolita, Yume Kawaii, Decora, or Fairy Kei, we’ve got your kawaii fashion needs covered at Juwas! Shop now and discover oodles of kawaii stuff for your room and closet.