From Classic Pink to Gothic Chic, Expert Panel Examines Origins and Global Phenomenon of Japan's 'Lolita' Style

Lolita Fashion: Costume or Culture?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014, 6:30 pm, at Japan Society

** Featuring Misako Aoki + Mini Fashion Show **

講演会・ファッションショー『ロリータファッション: ファッション?コスプレ?』

New York, NY – Japan's inimitable Lolita fashion trend took off from the streets of Harajuku in the 90s and has proved a lasting global phenomenon. The avant-garde, self- and tailor-made take on Victorian-era clothing has created a vibrant subculture. Twirling its Rococo skirts and accoutrements in many directions, styles range from brooding gothic blacks and punk Westwoodian tartans, to sweet and kawaii (or cute) bursts of pink flowers and bows--all ornate, opulent, frilly and thrilling.

In Lolita Fashion: Costume or Culture?, an expert panel goes behind the seams of Lolita fashion, delving into the origins, history, styles, international permutations, and what's new and on the horizon. Gwynn Galitzer, performance artist and Founder of Dirty Bird Productions, moderates the panel featuring Japan's former "Kawaii Ambassador" Misako Aoki, appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 2009; Carolyn Dee, author of the popular Lolita blog F Yeah Lolita and administrator of the largest English-speaking Lolita online community; and Christina Gleason, researcher of Lolita culture, author of the blog Ramble Rori, and founder of the first Northeast USA alternative fashion conference, RuffleCon.

In addition, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, which was established in 1988 by Akinori and Fumiyo Isobe in Tokyo, Japan and now has 28 shops across Japan with flagship stores in both Paris and San Francisco, will show a collection of Lolita fashions direct from Japan chosen specifically for this event. Taking place at Japan Society on Wednesday, February 5, at 6:30 pm, the event will be followed by a meet-and-greet wine reception hosted by Misako Aoki.

The New York Times described Lolita fashion in its second decade: "skirts with petticoats, baby-doll dresses, bloomers, corsets and high-necked, ruffled shirts are all part of the style, and no look is complete without a parasol, a headdress, a handbag or the perfect pair of Mary Janes. Fine lace and demure cuts emphasize the overarching preference for modesty. For many young women, being a Lolita is more than a way of dress. It is a state of mind, a way to live even when not dressed as a Lolita.”

CNN commented on the deeper psychological context of Lolita: “Some fans of the fashion believe that it is a direct commentary on the oversexualization of the female image, and by taking it in a new direction, lolitas challenge the image of what women are supposed to look like. Some believe it makes them less approachable, creating a wall of safety between themselves and men who might otherwise approach them. Some enjoy the idea of looking doll-like and simply enjoy the fashion for what it is, and like wearing it out in public gatherings.”


Misako Aoki
is a top model for Baby, The Stars Shine Bright; Putumayo; Algonquins; and other well-known Japanese gothic and Lolita fashion brands. She has graced the pages of the leading Harajuku magazine, KERA. In her role as an official "Kawaii Ambassador" (i.e. Ambassador of Cute) for the Japanese Government, she traveled the world to help develop appreciation of Japanese fashion and pop culture. Aoki is a President of the Japan Lolita Association, established in 2013, which boasted more than 3,000 members in less than a year, with more than half from foreign countries, according to the Nikkei Voice. While active in the Japanese fashion scene, Aoki works to advance social welfare in her primary job as a registered nurse.

Being involved with Lolita fashion for over a decade, Carolyn Dee runs the popular Lolita blog, F Yeah Lolita. She is also admin of the largest English speaking Lolita online community, and was a co-creator of RuffleCon. More at

Christina Gleason has researched Lolita fashion and its sub-culture through informal surveys and interviews on her blog, Ramble Rori. Since then, she has given over 40 presentations, been sourced in research papers, and created the first Northeast USA alternative fashion conference, RuffleCon.

Gwynn Galitzer (Moderator) is a performance artist born and raised in New York City's Hell's Kitchen. She holds a BFA degree from the School of Visual Arts, where she received the 2010 Rhodes Family Award in Fine Arts and the BFA Fine Art Thesis Grant. She has exhibited and performed at Envoy Enterprises, Dixon Place, The Wild Project, and the 2011 Creative Time Gala among other venues and galleries. From 2009-2012 Gwynn was the Co-Director of The Lowbrow Society for the Arts, a New York City based artists collective, where she produced and curated art shows and interactive installations at 950 Hart Gallery, DROM, Rebel NYC, Brooklyn Fire Proof, and The Gowanus Ballroom. In 2012 Gwynn founded Dirty Bird Productions, a network of DIY musicians, artists, and writers dedicated to building a strong, supportive community that benefits the whole, as well as the individual. She is currently producing, promoting, and directing shows with Dirty Bird Productions in Brooklyn. More at


Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a world-class, multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese-speaking audiences. At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.

Lolita Fashion: Costume or Culture? takes place Wednesday, February 5, 6:30 pm. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). Tickets are $12/$8 Japan Society members, seniors and students. Tickets may be purchased in person at Japan Society, at, or by calling the box office at 212-715-1258. For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit the website.

Lecture Programs at Japan Society are generously sponsored by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Japan Airlines is the exclusive Japanese Airlines sponsor of Lecture Programs at Japan Society. United Airlines is the exclusive U.S. Airlines sponsor of Lecture Programs at Japan Society. Additional support is provided by Chris A. Wachenheim, and the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund.

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Media Contacts:
Shannon Jowett, 212-715-1205,
Kuniko Shiobara, 212-715-1249,

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