Today's article would introduce you to Otome Fashion — a female fashion first seen in Japan during the 1970s, which is a very pretty and feminine style that was inspired by 1960s fashion and femininity.
Otome fashion is very popular among lolitas, especially those who love casual lolita and want to be cute without dressing in an over-the-top sweet lolita outfit when you go to work or hang out with your normie friends.
1. What is Otome Kei / Otome Fashion?
Otome(乙女) means "maiden" in Japanese. Kei(系) means "style" in Japanese. As you can tell from the name, Otome kei is a very feminine Japanese street fashion.
The main goal of Otome fashion is to achieve a refined young lady look by wearing cute clothing that gives off a hyper-girly feeling. Otome Kei can also refer to a lifestyle based on traditional girls' hobbies.
Q 1: "What is the relationship between Otome Fashion and Otaku culture?"
Otome Fashion originally referred to a maiden-like fashion but some people may mix it with Otome's other meaning in Otaku culture. Otome fashion still exists to this day although people tend to use this term to refer to female Otaku or Otome games.
|▪ "Otome(乙女)" in Otaku Culture
The meaning "maiden" was diluted due to the development of the feminine Otaku culture in the latter half of the 90s. It now more often refers to those girls who are obsessed with anime, manga, or games.
|▪ Otome Game (乙女ゲーム)
Otome game, literally "maiden game", is a story-based video game that is targeted toward women. The main idea is to develop a romantic relationship between the female character and the male characters. It has many elements in common with shojo manga(girls' comics) and josei manga( ladies' comics).
Q 2: "Is Otome Fashion a Casual Style Lolita?"
Otome fashion is often mistakenly seen as a casual style lolita outfit with a small petticoat or without a petticoat in the Western community.
Actually, the Japanese initially called Lolita Fashion "Otome-Kei" or "Kawai style", but over time, they decided to use the name Lolita and Otome Kei developed into another fashion.
Unlike Lolita Fashion, there are no specific rules or guidelines for Otome Fashion and all you can do is follow the 'feeling' to make yourself cute, feminine, elegant, and romantic. The cut of dresses in Otome Kei may be similar to lolita but more comfortable and often worn without a petticoat. However, they can also be an alternative to each other sometimes and casual lolita dresses decorated with less lace are good choices for an Otome coordinate.
The biggest difference between them is that Lolita Fashion is meant to be eye-catching for its full silhouette and doll-like vibe, while Otome Fashion would remind you of a refined young girl that you might see in a French café. Otome Kei's overall feel tends to lean more towards vintage-inspired, rather than Victorian-inspired. People who love the European aesthetic would also love this girly, romantic fashion from the early-mid 20th century.
Vintage-inspired Otome v.s. Casual Lolita
Otome fashion originated in the late 1970s and is often referred to as one of the predecessors of Lolita Fashion as they appeared around the same time and have a lot of shared history. Some people would say that the very early Lolita Fashion which often used very little or no petticoat could be considered Otome in modern terms.
The magazine "Olive." first started this girly, romantic fashion trend in the 1980s and turned it into a major trend in Japan. The Japanese brand Pink House also released some dreamy wear with ribbons, lace, and small details around the same time, which are popular choices for those who love Otome fashion.
The Starter of Otome Fashion - the Magazine "Olive."（the 1980s）
Hyper Girly Fashion Brand - Pink House
3. How to Make A Otome Kei Coord Out of Your Lolita Wardrobe
Although there are no strict rules for you to finish off an Otome style coord, you can still have some certain points to note if you want to have a good Otome style coord.
Here are some tips on how to put together an Otome-style coord out of your already have lolita wardrobe. Actually, the key to making a nice Otome coord is to follow your heart and be as cute and feminine as possible!
Tip 1: Use Layers
Let's primarily focus on the usage of layers in Otome Kei. A classic Otome outfit usually consists of 3~4 layers of a blouse, a button-up dress or skirt, and a sweater or vest/cardigan. Pants and shorts can also be used in Otome.
In my opinion, wearing a simple cute sweater/knitted vest/cardigan over a JSK or a skirt from your lolita wardrobe is the easiest way to make an Otome coord. So casual lolita items are also very suitable for Otome Kei, especially those casual lolita dresses that are made of light fabric.
For example, brands like Jane Marple, Milk, and Emily Temple Cute would work for both casual lolita and Otome Kei. You can also find casual lolita indie brands like Girl Dream, Dear Celine, CuteQ, etc, and daily kawaii brands like Day to Day, Four Daughters, etc, on our website.
Tip 2: Center an Outfit Around a Dress or Skirt
The main piece you chose should be modest and it means it could be the one with the least lace or decorations in your Lolita wardrobe.
The dresses & skirts in Otome Fashion usually have a bright cute but elegant pattern on them and can be quite long in length (the length above the knee is rarely seen.) But you can choose a shorter length to create a more cute Otome style. Anyway, the choice of length is all depending on what feel you want to achieve.
For colors, you can choose natural color schemes like browns and creams, pastels, solid colors, brighter colors like mint green and bright red, or even dark colors like dark blue and wine red. Colors can also be mismatched when you prefer a more casual style or contrasting when you prefer a kitschy look. It's the color balance and coordinating that all matters so remember to stick with 2 or 3 main colors.
For patterns, you can focus on nature-based patterns like small floral prints. Block colors with no patterns are also a very popular choice. Kitschy patterns, oil painting patterns full of the literary atmosphere, and other contrasting patterns are also welcomed.
Anyway, there are no limits to Otome fashion so feel free to use bold mismatched colors or patterns as long as it is still cute and girly.
Tip 3: No or Small Petticoats
You can get rid of your poofy petticoat when you are trying an Otome-style coord. This is why most lolitas love this style just like a casual lolita coord, it's cute but subtle perfect for everyday wear to work or hang out with your friends on the weekend.
Tip 4: No Over-accessorizing
When it comes to jewelry and accessories, there are usually one or two large statement pieces. I would say that a single necklace or a ring would be enough. And remember that they should be minimal and not too overpowering.
Accessories like bow clips, flowers in the hair, berets, straw hats, scarves, straw baskets, and totes are also commonly used in Otome.
For legwear and shoes, striped socks, Mary Janes, Oxford shoes, boots, sandals, and flats in natural colors are very common.
Tip 5: The Minimum Makeup and Vintage-inspired Hairstyle
Natural hairstyles, such as long curly hair with straight bangs, twin tails, brides, and bobos, are commonly seen in Otome Kei. The hairstyle tends to be vintage or retro, which brings a romantic vibe to the whole outfit.
The makeup also tends to be innocent and more understated than Lolita. Cute pink blush, a subtle pink gloss, some mascara or half falsies, and light eyeliner with a brown shade would be enough. Besides, drawing fake freckles on the cheek is also trendy in Otome Fashion.
4. Otome Kei Coordination(Casual Cute)
Let's try to build up an Otome Kei wardrobe together. In my opinion, all you need to build up an Otome Kei wardrobe are at least 4 main pieces, at least 3 blouses or cutsews to pair with your JSK/SK, at least 2~3 cardigans of different weights, at least two hair accessories, one bag that match everything, at least 4~5 pairs of different legwear(ankle socks, over knee socks, tights), and 2 pair of shoes in different styles.
If you already have a lot of causal lolita items in your wardrobe, I would say you can successfully put together an Otome Kei coord without extra shopping as Otome allow more colors than Lolita. All you need to do is focus on the dominant color and be as feminine as possible.
Here are some actual examples to make some Otome Kei coords out of your lolita wardrobe, let's have a look!
Green Coord - Otome Kei
The first coordinate is built around the green main color accented with white. I will choose a simple cardigan without collar details as the blouse already has a large ruffled collar and this yellow casual cardigan can do well in displaying the sleeve details of the blouse.
Yellow Coord - Otome Kei
The second coord focus on small floral prints and the coffee-colored cardigan adds an elegant touch to the whole coord.
Pink Coord - Otome Kei
The pink coord is also paired well with the same accessories as the yellow coord. However, the white cardigan will be better.
Blue Coord - Otome Kei
Blue stripes in this blue coord are very elegant, which also suit everyday wear.
Brown Coord - Otome Kei
The last coord is a vintage-inspired coord, which gives off a strong literary aura by highlighting the skirt's prints.
In sum, a good Otome Kei coordinate is more about an overall aesthetic, so it could be casual and formal depending on how you coordinate. I hope this blog could help you create a nice Otome-Kei coord and tell the differences between Otome Kei and Lolita fashion. If you have any creative ideas for putting together a different Otome style coord, please let us know via leaving a comment.