At first glance, you would absolutely know this style and even if you don’t know the exact term, you can immediately tell what is the concept the person is going for. I haven’t seen this fashion as much as I would like to, which is a bit disappointing because as someone who loves anything that has a semblance to fairytales and folklore, it really is a shame that this particular fashion trend is not as popular as it was a few years ago.
And just to give you a bit of a scene, just imagine. Within a deep forest, surrounded by tall willow trees and tiny wood creatures, walking and hopping about, there is a wooden cabin and there lives a girl.
Fashion-wise, you shouldn’t expect anything modern at all. It will look completely out of place and just doesn’t suit that folklore and billowy mood we are going for. It is unusual to see this in the casual streets, especially in the West. However, as my memory serves me correctly, this is a common concept for runway segments and even magazine photoshoots. That is in the case of other countries but not in Japan.
This specific fashion style in Japan has a dedicated name and was a famous and whimsical subculture. This is Mori Kei.
What is Mori Kei?
Mori Kei - in English, forest style - is a vintage Japanese fashion style that centers around the appearance of forest-dwellers. The overall concept of this style is very fitting for its name, it is to represent individuals who look like they are living in the forest. The goal of this trend is natural and earthy, which is mostly achievable by layering two or three items to get that soft silhouette effect. An individual who dresses in mori kei is described as a free-spirited person with an aura of peace around them.
History of Mori Kei
Mori kei started when in 2006, in a Japanese social networking site called Mixi (similar to Facebook), a community called Mori Girl was created by Choco, the community’s manager. She was inspired to trend the fashion when her friend commented on one of her outfits, saying, “You look like you are in a forest.”
Even though the said fashion was seen roaming the streets of Harajuku, though very rarely, it was Choco who really gifted its name and made a set of guidelines for the style. However, the said guidelines were really loose, and not even the authentic and original Mori Girls followed them. Despite that, it gave a general knowledge of what the fashion style was all about.
By 2009, the fashion style has reached its peak and the Mori Girl community has 35,000 members. The fame led to the appearance and creation of numerous Mori Kei magazines and brands. It has even reached television fame with artists, such as PoPoyans, creating Mori kei-inspired music, and wearing the style. The anime Honey and Clover was also influenced and had its character wear Mori Kei styled-clothes. The fashion style was globally well-loved and wholesomely embraced by nature-enthusiasts fashionistas all around the world and popularity-wise, can even rival with other famous styles such as Lolitas, Dolly Kei, and Decora.
Mori Kei Fashion
If you are inspired by this particular fashion style, then here we are! A guide on how to dress like a Mori Girl. Even though the guidelines that Choco has created are not set in stone, it still serves as a general idea of what to wear and how to look like one.
Main pieces of clothing are dresses and skirts of varying lengths, but blouses and sweaters are also commonly seen. Usually, these pieces are incorporated with textures such as laces, knits, and cotton. Another point for this look is layering. Wearing oversized sweaters under long dresses or warming up with scarves and shawls underneath a layer of sweaters and skirts.
Another thing to note about this particular style is that Mori Girls are not body-conscious girls. This means all of their clothing pieces are at least a size or two larger than their frame and they would not be seen with anything body-hugging. Layering also helps build that natural volume that will hide the natural figure.
The colors also play a huge part in dressing up in a Mori Kei style. All colors you can determine as natural and earthy tones are automatically Mori Kei approved.
Unlike other Japanese fashion subcultures that are extremely experimental, I would say that Mori Kei is significantly toned down than the rest. Hair colors are kept natural, either black or brown shades, and hairstyles are also relatively conservative and fairytale-like. These could either be natural-looking waves and curls, straight, braids, and even pixie cuts.
To add that magic, hair accessories such as flowers, flower crowns and laces, are put to decorate the rather simple hair.
To really live up to that forest-dwellers and guardians of nature vibe, Mori Kei makeup is actually minimal to none. It is encouraged to look as natural as possible. Rosy cheeks are actually a popular touch and maybe even a hint of light lip tints that resembles the natural lip color or just a swipe of eyeshadow should complete the whole makeup. In this style, less is more.
Up until now, I’ve only been mentioning Mori Girl but its gender counterpart is also pretty much present during its peak and they are called as Mori Boy. Even though they weren’t as large as the Mori Girl, they too have a place in the fashion world.
Their clothes still embrace the colors schemes of earthy and natural tones, even though a tad bit darker, and have differed from their feminine part in terms of the textures and pieces. They mainly focus on baggy pants, sweaters, and leather shoes. Layering still plays a big part for the Mori Boy fashion.
Unless you are very thorough with your clothing pieces and prefers buying in boutiques and shops with Mori Kei specific clothes, this particular fashion is not that expensive to wear at all. You can scour your local thrift shop for vintage-looking pieces and if you are good with your hands or a sewing machine, you can easily alter them to your chance or even better, you can sew from scratch.
Decline of Mori Kei Fashion
However, it is such a shame that the fame of Mori Kei was short-lived. Between 2013 and 2014, Mori Girls started dissipating the streets of Harajuku, along with this, distinguished internet Mori Girls personalities have also slowly deactivated their blogs. Smaller Mori Kei brands disappeared and bigger Mori Kei-inspired brands, such as Wonder Rocket, switched to mainstream fashion and when it closed its doors in 2017, along with it are the memories of what was once a magical dream walking down the street. Mori Kei was suddenly no more.
The merry days of Mori Kei might have been no more but the fashion style still lives on. There is still a great number of enthusiasts scattered all around the world, still embracing it and so the style has never really disappeared. There are still fashion brands that offer Mori Kei-inspired clothes but have been adaptive to the present fashion taste, slowly incorporating a tinge and touch of modern into the classic Mori Kei clothes.