The NYT's Kaori Shoji reports on two new "doll-like" fashion movements making waves in Japan: Mori (forest girl) style and Ageha (butterfly) style. While the two movements are completely different, Shoji's article exposes how women are negotiating identity through fashion.

The first movement, mori, takes inspiration from "girls who live in a forest" - neutral colors, basic fabrics, unfussy clothing, and layers. Some fan sites of mori fashion mention taking inspiration from fairy tales. Here are a couple more examples of the look:

In addition to the style of dress, Shoji spoke to one of the arbiters of the movement and discovered that there is also an ideal personality associated with mori girls.

Midori Yokokawa, an editor at the fashion magazine Forest Girl, which was launched in October to cater to this new phenomenon, said: "Forest girls are wary of all forms of aggression or self-assertiveness. They're just too fragile, or they would like to be that way.

"They don't want to live so much as to exist, preferably on a metaphysical level."

The other movement, Ageha, translates to "Swallow-tail butterfly girls," but really means girls who dress themselves as ornately as possible.

"I like it when everything about me feels artificial," said Kiyomi, 23, who likes to buy her clothes at Jesus Diamante, a boutique specializing in the Ageha look.

Kiyomi claimed she never leaves home unless she is wearing mules decorated with rose buds, her yellow-dyed hair in rococo coils framing her face and her chest enhanced by thick gel pads stashed inside her bra.

As far as I can tell, Ageha fashion looks something like this:

Shoji interviews an Ageha devotee, who hints at the appeal of Ageha fashion:

Naoko Kamijyo, 19, who lives to buy cosmetics, clothes and hairpieces, says: "I'm no great beauty, but I love to be made up. I want to change myself, to be unrecognizable. Who wants to go through life just being themselves?"

These types of movements do not stem from a desire for compliance or to fit in. Indeed, many of these street-grown fashion movements focus squarely on self-expression, even when others believe it to be unacceptable. In the NYT article, one of the Ageha girls mentions:

"I'd love to date, but I rarely get the opportunity," she sighed. "The sad thing about being an Ageha is that most men prefer more natural-looking girls and we're not into that at all."

Over on Japanese news hub 3Yen, the reception to Mori style was decidedly chilly. Writer Taro refers to the trend as impractical and "burka-like", before appearing in the comments to snidely opine: "Much of the popularity of this Mori Girl look is that it covers up a mediocre or dumpy figure…which was the same reason for the popularity the "Earth Mother" look of the hippies."

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Taro's harshness speaks to the divide between how people think about fashion. To some, being fashionable is a simple matter of looking appealing, or of being cute. But to others, the true power in fashion comes from the act of transformation, of being someone completely and utterly different. Just as Superman jumped into a phone booth and shed his identity as Clark Kent, women across the globe pop into their closets, sit in front of vanities for hours on end, and spend billions of dollars each year on the latest miracle products. We make investments into clothing and makeup in hopes that the person looking back at us in the mirror is closer to our fantasies - and those fantasies are creations entirely of our own making.

Cult of the Living Doll in Tokyo [NY Times]
New-old ‘Forest Girls' fashion of Japan [3Yen]

Related: Mori Girl (Forest Girl fashion) [8Tokyo]
Mori Girl Fashion - An Introduction To The Latest Tokyo Street Fashion [Alice and Peter Punk's Little Reports From Tokyo]
gyaru fashion and style [ggggal]
Ageha Februrary 2009 [Gyaru Raba]