One of the major Japanese fashion movements is the Lolita movement. First off, this is not the lolita from the sexy novel. It's not a movement about a sexual style. In point of fact, there is less skin showing in this fashion style than in most others worn by young people.
The young men and women dress in a fashion related to the Victorian era, in a style that the dolls of the time were dressed in. There are a number of categories of the fashion, but frills, lace, petticoats and half-dresses are common elements.
This is related to the concept of kawaii or cuteness which can be related to a desire to return to a more innocent past time, a sort of reaction against the psychological pressures of present-day life that the young people have to contend with. When one thinks of the Victorian era one thinks about politeness, courtesy, grace and a refined approach to other people, all traits that are sadly lacking in today's world.
"The concept of kawaii includes elements such as ‘cute,' ‘pretty' and ‘lovely,' but it is not restricted to these. It also implies something precious: something that we are drawn towards and which stimulates one's feeling of wanting to protect something that is pure and precious." Consuming Bodies: Sex and Contemporary Japanese Art, 2002.
The fashion can also be a desire on the part of young women to rebel against the constraints still put upon Japanese women. Basically, there's a lot of reasons and explanations why people choose this fashion style.
The style is about as peaceful as you can get; there's not really anything aggressive about the style (other then all-black color which upsets some people.) The categories include:
1. Sweet Lolita: Pink and white are the main colors with lots of frills and lace. They young women will carry around teddy bears, parasols and other things which increase even further the cuteness quotient. It has a very, very innocent look to it, nothing challenging or nasty at all. (There is some argument about this, though, in that some sources say that carrying toys around shifts the style into kawaii and not lolita.)
2. Gothic Lolita: Again, there is a tendency to confuse terms. Using the word "Gothic" would cause many people to think along the lines of safety pins, all-black clothing and nasty behavior, but in the fashion sense only the all-black is actually used, and even a mix of black and white clothing will be found. The accessories carried around include purses and parasols. There is some argument I've seen about other colors; some sources say darker sheds of red, green, blue and purple will also be used, and other sources say it's almost totally limited to black and white or all-black clothing.
I like one description that I read which compared the Gothic Lolita look to that of creepy dolls, saying that "We are dolls, they seem to say, but don't play with us. We bite."
In any event, the appearance is still very cute, very doll-like.
3. Gothic Aristocrat: This is a more mature look than the above two forms, the people looking quite aristocratic in their dress.
4. Kodona: This is a more male-oriented fashion
5. British Aristocrat/Dandy: a more adult version of Kodona.
6. Wa-Lolita: A mix of the Lolita fashions with the more traditional kimono and yukata fashions.
In addition, there are "elegant" variations of some of the above, so there's quite a few variations on the theme.
This shows the Sweet Lolita style quite well, the young woman carrying a doll that is wearing matching clothing. The clothing is about as non-threatening as you can get. Definitely not a clothing style that emphasizes sexual aspects, either. Just something that's pretty and cute.
Here's another very innocent looking outfit, very pretty, very cute. It's easy to see how this type of outfit can give some psychological comfort to someone because when they wear it they can imagine that they are back in some kind of (idealized) more innocent time.
Some other cute outfits
A more Gothic look
One of the girls in the film is definitely into wearing Lolita outfits, and below are some of those that she appears in.