Fairy-kei, also known as "Spank girl" (after the pioneering Fairy-kei brand Spank!), is one of the most recently developed Japanese fashion styles. The style takes a palette of pastel colours and mixes it in with 80s vintage clothing, inspired by kitschy characters like My Little Pony, Popples, Care Bears and Jem & the Holograms. The look often includes tutus, mini frilled shorts, Tshirts with cartoon characters, vintage reebok trainers, scrunchies, silly badges, acid wash denim, bright coloured hair and hand-made accessories in pastels or sparkles.
Fairy-kei is an easy and comfortable style to wear head-to-toe, but if you're just getting into it, you might like to start with something simple. You could pair a cute character t-shirt with denim shorts and ballet flats. Or you could take a pastel-coloured tutu, tuck in a baggy singlet and top it off with an elastic belt.
Lolita draws its inspiration from Victorian-era clothing and porcelain dolls – not Vladimir Nabokov's infamous novel by the same name. As you might have guessed, Gothic Lolita combines the frilly girlish shapes of Lolita dresses with the darker feeling of goth clothing and make-up. Outfits typically draw from a colour palette of black, red, dark blues and purples, and white accents; accessorised with symbols such as crucifixes, bats, crowns and coffins. Popular clothing items include headdresses, frilled blouses, dresses with room to accommodate a large petticoat, bloomers, overknee socks, lace tights, strappy heels or flats and gothic bags and jewelry.
Unless you already consider yourself a goth, Gothic Lolita can be an intimidating style. But it's actually very simple to put together thanks to the limited colour palette and flattering shapes. If you're just starting out, you could take a simple "jumperskirt" dress and mix it with a leather jacket and slouchy boots for a cute punky look. Or you could wear a black frilled blouse under a chic black dress with heels, for a creepy-cute twist!
Mori Girl, or "Forest Girl" – also occasionally referred to as "Swamp Girl" – is a newly popular look that evokes a life in a forest. Inspired by earthy tones and natural fabrics, Mori girls layer together vintage pieces with delicate knits and lace dresses, combined with well-worn leather boots, satchels and straw hats. Make-up is kept simple and hairstyles are left messy and natural, or incorporate braids and loose buns.
Mori Girl has some similarities with the western Hipster look, what with the mutual interest in vintage leather boots and dresses. But Mori Girl incorporates much more layering and has a looser silhouette overall, making it an easy and comfortable look to wear. Individual Mori Girl pieces are usually quite simple and can be worn with a range of normal coordinates, it is only when they are all piled on top of each other that the look is created.
Lolita draws its inspiration from Victorian-era clothing and porcelain dolls – not Vladimir Nabokov's infamous novel by the same name. Sweet Lolita infuses the look with bright candy colours and cutesy accessories, often on themes like dessert foods, cute animals, toys and music notes. A typical outfit includes giant hair bows or lots of mini hair accessories, cardigans, dresses with room for large petticoats, overknee socks, strappy flat shoes or heels, bright plastic jewelry and simple doll-like make-up.
Of all the Japanese looks, sweet lolita is the most recognisably "Harajuku" – probably thanks to Gwen Stefani. It can be difficult to get into because you will need to collect a lot of individual pieces before you can perfect the look, but each piece is so bright and fun you can use them to liven up the rest of your wardrobe. You can wear the dresses petticoat-less with simple flats and cardigans for a casual summer look. Or you can add in the petticoat, a bolero, open-toed heels and a 50s hairstyle for an authentic Rockabilly look. The bright cardigans and plastic jewelry will go with almost anything – and the flat "tea party" shoes also work with a surprising number looks, including fairy-kei. You can even wear the petticoats on their own when it's just too hot!
Punk is one of the longest-standing Japanese street styles, developed from the original British Punk-Rock movement of the late 70s and influenced by the softer New Wave style in the 80s. Tokyo punk style takes typical punk items like studded jackets, safety pins, ripped clothing and Vivienne Westwood items, and adds punches of brighter colours like hot pink, lime green and electric blue.
If you like the style of punk but are not-so into making a hardcore or emo statement, Tokyo Punk is perfect for you. It's an easy look to adopt, with comfortable flattering shapes in almost any colour imaginable. It's also easy to work in your own hand-made pieces, like a pair of artfully ripped tights.
Himé Gyaru, or "Princess Gal," is an offshoot of Gyaru style, which uses heavy eye make-up, tanned skin and huge curly bouffant blonde hair to imitate American California girls. Himé Gyaru takes this aesthetic and gives it a royal edge. Clothing is almost always white or pink, often with lace, flower and heart motifs. Accessories such as miniature crowns, long silk or lace gloves and pearls are popular, and shoes are usually strappy heels or open-toed heels with large rose decorations.
Himé Gyaru is a fun, free-spirited and versatile look that can be cutesy or sexy. However, you really do need that big bouffy hair to pull off this look with authenticity, so if you're not prepared to commit to a serious relationship with your hairspray, take individual pieces from the look and wear them your own way. You could pair some pink strappy heels with a killer dress for a night out, or accessorise a simple slip dress with pearls and roses for that Princess effect!