When examined closer, however, it’s clear that there is more freedom than meets the eye. Mori Chack provides a great example: he paves his own path by taking his interest and skill in combining opposing forces, like an innocent looking design paired with an aggressive personality, to create characters that break the mold. This serves as a reminder that you ultimately define your own sense of kawaii.
One tangible way to incorporate this ethos into daily life is through fashion. Experimenting with outfits & styles allows anyone to showcase their personality and differentiate themselves from others. Under the umbrella of kawaii fashion in Japan there are multiple subgroups of unique style categories with dedicated followers. Some enthusiasts even adhere to more than one subgroup depending on how they feel on any given day.
How you decide to dress kawaii depends on a culmination of your personality & interests. A good starting point is to consider what kind of music you like, what characters or TV shows you prefer, and what kind of actresses or actors you’d like to emulate. It’s also worth considering if you’d enjoy creating a persona or if you’d rather bring your inner self out. The answers to these questions can help guide you when choosing how to mix and match colors, textures, and accessories.
Let’s take a look at five popular subgroups of kawaii fashion for inspiration. Which one do you most identify with?
Full of bright colors, this style is perhaps the most associated with global perceptions of Harajuku kawaii, despite peaking in the mid 2000s. The name comes from ‘decoration’ and refers to the heavy use of accessories, textures, and playful themes. T-shirts & hoodies with character prints are popular choices.
Attitude: Fun-loving and outgoing
In this subgenre, pastels rule! Light pinks, purples, and turquoises make an appearance from hair to footwear. It’s common, however, to break up the color with whites. Usual clothing includes oversized t-shirts or sweaters, plus puffy shorts or skirts. Accessories include bows, bracelets, bunched socks or cute purses.
Attitude: Calm and sweet
Described as cute with a gothic edge, this style is less than two years old but is wildly popular in Japan. A bit classy & preppy, the most popular colors are blacks, whites, pinks and purples. Skirts, dresses, and frilly blouses are often worn. Hair bows or Sanrio headbands of Kuromi or My Melody are common.
Attitude: Bold, in charge, and somewhat rebellious
This look lacks strict guidelines, but generally adherents wear multiple layers, and a vintage look–very vintage, think Middle Ages!–is key to getting it right. Common color schemes can be black & white, plus pale jewel tones. This look employs a mix of patterns & textures, from tassels, flowers, lace, and embroidery. Accessories are always large and vintage or homemade, and include bags, hats, ribbon-like hair decorations, and fabric necklaces.
Attitude: Independent and creative
All about wearing ‘pretty’ clothing, this style is progressive in that both female, male and non-binary members take part. The focus is an androgynous look that blurs the line between what is generally thought of as strictly women’s or men’s clothing. Popular colors are pinks, reds, and anything that pops! Although there are plenty of examples of adherents wearing darker colors as well. One of the biggest clues to this style is that unnatural hair colors are often seen.
Men may choose skirts or shoe styles traditionally reserved for women, and women may wear a suit jacket, but all kinds of mixing and matching of styles can work for any identity. Painted nails, purses, and hats are common accessories. If it’s cute it’s considered part and parcel of the genre.
Attitude: Unafraid and outgoing
This is just a small slice of defined kawaii fashion groups that exist. This creative world is always evolving in creative and exciting ways. You don’t need to be a big name clothing designer in order to define any categories either, if you wear something unique to yourself that you love, you might be able to start a brand new trend, just as ordinary fans of the kawaii life have been doing for decades. Let us know in the comments below how you’ve been inspired and what kind of new looks you’d love to try out someday soon!
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