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What are Harajuku Girls?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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The term “Harajuku girls” refers to teenager girls and young women that populate the shopping area around Harajuku train station in Tokyo, who are known for their outrageous fashion. Extremely popular throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century, Harajuku girls became symbolic of the new, individualistic generations in Japan, determined to break old stereotypes that cast the Japanese as bland and uniform. The Western world became far more aware of Harajuku girls following the popularization of the culture through the music and cosmetic lines of pop singer Gwen Stefani.

Dressing as a Harajuku girl does not conform to any single style; in fact, it is the astounding variety and elaborate nature of the clothing that makes this particular fashion district stand out. There are several genres of clothing that appeal to many Harajuku girls, though mixing genres to create new styles is often encouraged.

Gothic Lolita is a popular look around Harajuku station, taking inspiration from Victorian-era clothing and Nabakov's infamous portrayal of dangerous innocence, Lolita. This style involves the combination of short frilly dresses, veils, and parasols with knee-high stockings and high heels or platforms. Some insist that eroticism of youth is not the goal of the style, despite the name, but that it is more about creating representations of traditional girl dolls.

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Kawaii and decora are two trends favored by Harajuku girls that are often related. Kawaii means “cute” in Japanese, and the style generally reflects an attempt to appear child like. Decora may involve elements of kawaii, but must include the use of colorful plastic accessories that are strung together as jewelry. Pastels, rainbows, and large stuffed animal companions are often characteristic of this style.

Cosplay Harajuku girls are inspired by the incredibly influential world of Japanese anime, manga, and video games. A girl may dress like a famous heroine from a movie, comic book, or video game, complete with weapons, wigs, and armor. Cosplay is popular in many other parts of the world and frequently the subject of large scale gatherings or conventions where participants all dress in costume.

Though the outfits of Harajuku girls may seem quite outlandish to some, they are considered a serious fashion influence by many experts in the industry. Popularized by portrayals in fashion magazines and music, the concept of Harajuku fashion has spread far beyond the bounds of Tokyo. Some suggest that the bold style choices from this unique area are helping to change fashion worldwide.

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