Anyone who's ever imagined themselves as a heroine in a fairy tale probably harbours a secret desire to dress up as a Lolita girl. But while it's easier to get away with wearing mountains of frills and pink petticoats in Japan, where the subculture originates, you might not know where to begin looking for that perfect 'cupcake' dress. You also might be a little shy to strut around the streets in a corset. To help you live out your Lolita fantasy, we went through the whole experience ourselves – shopping, dressing up and going out in public looking like a doll – so you know you can trust us when we say, don't worry, everyone else will be in fancy dress too.
Step one: know your stuff
Inspired by Rococo- and Victorian-era clothing, Lolita style started out with a focus on modesty but these days is all about playful prettiness, with girly colours, frills and petticoats taking centrestage. The original silhouette was a flared knee-length skirt or dress, but this has expanded to include other items such as corsets, frilled blouses, knee-high socks, and headdresses. The term 'Lolita fashion' was coined by fashion magazines in the '90s and it's now one of the defining subcultures of Harajuku's street fashion. In 2004, the fashion trend spread around the world thanks to the film 'Kamikaze Girls' as well as Gwen Stefani's troupe of backup dancers called Harajuku Girls.
Within the subculture there are a variety of different styles, so if the Sweet Lolita look is a little too twee for you, you can replace frills, bonnets and bows with the dark make-up and black clothing of the Gothic Lolitas. Or you can join the Punk Lolitas and don tattered fabrics, ties, safety pins and chains. Before you begin shopping, find inspiration by walking down Harajuku's Takeshita Dori or popping into Laforet Harajuku, both of which are popular gathering spots for Tokyo's real Lolitas.