“ Japanese Fashion Magazine „
~~~What the heck is this magazine about, anyway?~~~
Well, to put it in simple terms, it is a fashion magazine that is also a sewing pattern book. It is devoted entirely to a type of street fashion known as Gothic Lolita, or Gosu Rori. Put aside thoughts of any references to Nabokov's novel as the implications of the fashion have nothing what so ever to do with it. Rather, the fashion looks to Victorian children's wear and rococo fashions and turns them on their heads, creating various subgenres within the fashion. The fashion is closely associated with a type of J-rock known as Visual Kei, with many of the artists driving the fashions and even founding fashion design houses devoted exclusively to this fashion.
Sweet Loli uses pastel colours and lots of frills, lace and bows. Think Alice in Wonderland and A Little Princess, and you will get a feel for the sugary cuteness of this style. Make up and hair play a large role in this, with light make up, porcelain white skin, and complimentary doll like hair styles. Turn the colours pitch dark by twisting the colours into blacks, scarlets, and deep purples and adding the occasional bit of tatter, and you get Goth Loli. Make up for Goth Loli is as dark as Sweet Loli is sweet, with porcelain white skin, deep bloody scarlets, and black and grey eye shadows and liners playing a role.
Take Goth Loli and put in more tatters, some chains, bondage straps, a bit of tartan, add trousers, and change the hairstyle from cute and sweet to definitely something more chunky and short, and one lands on the Gothic Punk Loli side. Make up is again dark on pale skin. Wa Loli is a mixture of any of the previous types, but with the bodice of the outfits modified to accommodate kimono sleeves and an obi belt.
Then one has Elegant Gothic Aristocrat and Elegant Gothic Lolita, initially popularised by J-rock icon Mana. Take Wa Loli or Goth Loli, remove the cutesy touches, and add in the more formal overtones of adult Victorian wear and make use of velvets, silks, brocades, and so on, add in the occasional stylised crucifix, and you get the idea. Aristocrat is typically worn by both men and women (as is Goth Punk Loli), while Lolita is mainly worn by females but not always.
All Loli styles typically adhere to the same sort of footwear: chunky platforms rule the day, both in boots and in shoes, where Mary Janes are predominant. The style of the boots of course are made to complement the clothes, so can vary greatly, though the thigh high socks or patterned tights are another standard usually carried across this fashion spectrum.
The magazine carries full colour photographs of models wearing a mixture of these styles and includes instructions for drafting your own sewing pattern to make up your own version of their in-house featured designs. In addition there is a removable insert with a few patterns to trace off, and of course advertising spreads from the larger fashion houses that specialise in this style. A quick look at the price tags associated with the ready to wear shown quickly disabuses the notion that this is anything but high fashion as a belt alone can set you back the equivalent of £350. Once you manage to reclose your mouth after reading the price tags, you begin to appreciate just why so many opt to make use of the patterns offered for sewing the clothes themselves, as well as make use of the silver art clay features detailing how to make your own accessories.
~~~~What are all these squiggles?~~~
While sold internationally, these magazines originate in Japan, as it is the centre of the Loli fashion universe. Take a peek of Harajuku's pedestrian bridge in Tokyo, using Google Earth's street view or Google images (yes, it is actually a landmark, so you can simply type in "Harajuku pedestrian bridge, Tokyo" and find what you are looking for) and you will see literally huge crowds of people out wearing this stuff. The fashion has spread across the globe from there. Many will also recognise the fashions from depictions in manga and anime. So those "squiggles" are the written form of Japanese.
~~~Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! I don't read Japanese!!!!~~~
All is well. The magazine is mostly pictures; numbers are written using ordinal numbers and all of the sewing instructions are shown in full detail pictorially. The few terms you do need to know, such as words for fabrics, notions, and the like, are all easily solved. Thanks to this magazine's international popularity, someone has kindly provided a "How to Use" manual in English and included a handy glossary for these. Simply match up the written Japanese and ta da, the English word for it is right there. You can find this at Batty-chan's fabulous site, www.antipope.org/feorag/gosurori/
She literally takes one by the hand and gently walks one through using the magazine's patterns. Provided you have basic sewing skills and know how to draft and amend sewing patterns (if not, best get a book on how to do that first), then you will be able to make use of these magazines.
~~~Okay, so what sizes do they cover?~~~
It is probably no surprise if I mention here that generally, the Japanese are smaller than your average European or North American. So while the patterns are multi-sized into small, medium, large, and large large (their version of XL), they do not conform strictly to what one might expect. This is not an issue, however, as measurements are given in centimetres, so you can easily decipher where you need to make alterations to the pattern in order to get the correct fit. As no one ever fits a pattern perfectly measurement-wise anyway, this is not a big deal, just one to be aware of lest you make the newbie mistake of thinking," Oh, I wear a size 8, so I must be a small", and blindly trace along. So, even if you are MUCH larger than the patterns provide for, you can still alter the patterns proportionally to fit with just a little effort.
~~~Is it just clothes?~~~
No, there are also handbags, head dresses, the occasional cuddly toy, and various fashion accessories featured, also often with patterns or how to's. Even the advertisers get in on it, with sponsors such as Art Clay doing spreads showing how to make your own silver accessories using their product, with step by step photos of actual projects provided. Fabric shops also appear showcasing their wares, with maps and web addresses. Granted, the maps are not much use unless you happen to be in the neighbourhood, but many of the online shops these days ship overseas at a reasonable cost so if you see some must have fabric you cannot get anywhere else, it is worth a look see. Of course, there are also sewing machine advertisements too (buy a Juki!!!), but those tend to be standard adverts merely showing the product with a rather pleased young lady holding up her (admittedly Loli) creation.
~~~My interest is piqued, where can I find this?~~~
You can order this from Amazon.co.uk, though be careful as often only back issues are available and they can go for steep prices, often topping over £100, as they are considered collectible. EBay is another option, as well as importers who specialise in Japanese merchandise, such as www.Otaku.co.uk and similar shops. Relatively current issues retail for about £15-20 plus shipping which is quite a bargain considering that patterns are included for about ten different outfits, plus various accessories.