Japanese fashion subculture always feels like they only exist in books, films, or fairytales until you see one, walking down the street, in real life. Our blog has tackled a few of these fashion trends that you never thought you’d discover until they went wild in Harajuku and eventually, embraced by different parts of the world and races.
We’ve written about the Gothic Lolita, Gyaru, Cult Party Kei, Mori Kei, Visual Kei, and a lot more. So if you are interested in Japanese fashion, make sure to check our blog for more how-to and complete guides.
What is Dolly Kei?
If you love Brother Grimms Fairytales, antique dolls, and vintage clothes, you might find yourself being infatuated with this certain Japanese fashion style.
This particular fashion is not as focused on the brands, unlike the other Japanese fashion trends, but it was strongly believed that the style was created and heavily inspired by the brand Grimoire. A certain store being the epicenter of a fashion style is not uncommon in Japan, as a similar style called Cult Party Kei, which was also famous in its own time, also was believed to have been created from a resale boutique in Harajuku called the Virgin Mary.
In regards to its name, the term “Dolly” didn’t actually originate from Japan but was actually formulated from the West, as a very specific adjective to describe and refer to the style. Coming from the words of a Grimoire staff, the brand referred to their fashion as antique, used, or simply vintage. However, the term Dolly sticks the most and has reached and is commonly used by the international communities and ears. At this time, it is very unlikely to change the name to its original Japanese term and so Dolly Kei is the more commonly known spoken name.
The general concept of Dolly Kei is often confused with Mori Kei and Cult Party Kei, with pieces of clothing actually interchangeable with one another. Another common feature these styles also share is the importance of layering the clothes to achieve a certain natural silhouette. But, if you look closely or you have a sharp eye for detail and fashion, you would notice that despite being generally alike, these 3 are actually distinct and unique from one another and we will tell you all about it when we discuss further the concept and idea of Dolly Kei.
However, Dolly Kei was a short-lived fashion trend. It emerged in the 2010s and didn’t stay long either. The shop that was believed to be where the style originated has been changing their target audiences to ladies in their 30s and 40s, as their loyal customers have since grown from their Dolly Kei phase. With these, Grimoire clothes have also changed, taking a more modern approach.
But I must admit, it is a shame that Dolly Kei didn’t stick around for long as it was actually a very beautiful fashion style. It is something straight out of a vintage fairytale, with similarity to movies such as Alice in Wonderland and Narnia.
If you are a vintage-enthusiast, you might want to try the Dolly Kei look, and here is a bit of a guide to help you dress like one.
Dolly Kei Basics: What to Wear?
Dolly Kei does not have a specific set of rules and guidelines in terms of dressing like one. Dresses and skirts have no specific length and even though clothes layering plays an important part to looking like a Dolly Kei, it is not as necessary as one might think.
The most important feature to really snag the whole Dolly Kei look is really nailing the quality of your clothing and that is to think vintage. Once you have gotten a hold of the whole vintage look, you are already considered as a Dolly Kei.
But for beginners, that might be a vague concept to swallow and you might still be swimming with questions. To dive in further, it is a mix of fairy tale, middle age attire, bohemian and gypsy. It is better to stray away from looking too prim and proper and looking worn out and messy is more like it.
Color Schemes and Elements
Because the look is aiming for vintage, the classic color schemes of Dolly Kei leans toward more on black and jewel tone colors. Ethnic colors and patterns and Middle Age tapestries are also common occurrences for the look.
Every once in a while, you might catch a glimpse of pastel and whites in some pictures but Dolly Kei fashion in those color schemes are less common compared to its darker counterpart
Popular clothing details and elements such as embroidery, tapestries, tassels, laces, and flowers can often be seen decorating the whole look. It is also important to take note that this particular fashion style is not too keen on a perfect put-together look but instead, clashing elements and textures are encouraged.
Hair and Makeup
In terms of the hair, it is actually kept natural and simple. Hair colors are in the natural dark shades such as blacks, browns and even a darker shade of red. As for the hairstyle, wavy hair, braids, and simple and natural updos are the way to go.
Makeup-wise, go natural. Or almost natural. You can always emphasize the lashes by adding a volumizing mascara or thick, natural-looking fake lashes and accentuate the cheeks by adding a bit more of your trusty rosy blush. These are commonly seen, however, they are not necessary to look the part.
Modern Dolly Kei
If you briefly remember, the current generation had a phase where we were obsessed with vintage clothing. I’m not too sure if that is still a thing as of the moment but I do remember the rise of patterned skirts and laces. The one good thing about Dolly Kei is, even though some might argue that the style died a couple years back, we can still look the part since Dolly Kei pieces can be worn in moderation.
It won’t totally look like the authentic Harajuku-based Dolly Kei but vintage pieces of clothing can be incorporated with the modern in trend outfits.