Lolita Fashion: Costume or Culture?

misako aoki lolita panel nyc japan society

On Wednesday, the Japan Society provided the NY Lolita Community with a precious gift. They showered us with a panel, fashion show, and meet and greet with the one and only Misako Aoki. Not even an ice storm could keep our EGL gals and guys away. The topic of the panel was Lolita Fashion: Costume or Culture? I prefer the later, thank you. Here is a quick breakdown of the details:

  • Gwynn Galitzer of Dirty Bird Production, moderator
  • Former Kawaii Ambassador Misako Aoki, panelist
  • Carolyn Dee author of FYeah Lolita, panelist
  • Christina Gleason author of Ramble Rori, panelist
  • Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, fashion show

The Panel Discussion

lolita lecture panelist christina and carolyn of rufflecon

Most panels on Lolita fashion stick to the “101” facts. This panel didn’t deviate much from that script. But what I enjoyed most was to hear Misako, Christina and Caro talk about what is currently on trend. In particular a return to more classic-style coordinates instead of sweet-style dominating the scene. The longer style of dresses in particular being the new and very popular option. Misako also mentioned that she is very fond of the long and flowy trumpet sleeves right now. For example, Baby’s Labyrinth in the Reminiscent Mirror Flower Lace Blouse or on their Doll Coronet Aria Onepiece.

misako aoki discussion trumpet sleeves in lolita trends

misako aoki discussing lolita fashion in new york

And if you can believe it, Misako flew to NY from Tokyo in her coordinate. Bonnet, petticoat, uh huh. Yep she is the real deal.

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright Fashion Show

After the Q&A panel there was a mini fashion show featuring eight looks from Baby, the Stars Shine Bright and Alice and the Pirates. While the wedding coordinate is always greeted with oohhs and aahhs. This time it was the pirate boots and hat that accompanied the look Kitsy modeled which attracted the most attention.



tanya - tаня






misako's fashion show

misako aoki

Sweet Dreams,

P.S. If you haven’t already, be sure to get your tickets for RuffleCon, the first Northeastern USA convention dedicated entirely to Japanese alternative fashion.

12 Feb Update:  Japan Society posted a video of the lecture to their website.  Be sure to check it out.

Antique Frame Credits:  (1)  (2)  (3)  (4)

Hiromitsu Agatsuma Live at Japan Society

Hiromitsu Agatsuma live at Japan Society NYC

I made my way to New York via Detroit with a brief layover in Chicago. While many of my friends were perfectly content to continue on in the greater Detroit area, I followed the advice of Doctor Who wholeheartedly, “RUN!” I don’t regret it one bit. But one thing I left behind was being at the core of a magical musical scene.

Richie Hawtin was coming to great fame in Europe, but back home, he was just one of us. Our crowd would go to extremes to feel the pulse of the techno blood that back in the day poured through my veins. Often this meant risking your life in some of the most neglected ruins of the industrial era not to mention the constant alert one had to be in for fear of the police busting up the party.

So what does any of this have to do with the out of this world live performance I saw last night at Japan Society? Agatsuma holds a special place in my heart for healing a major musical void. Sure Sneaker Pimps and a few others came and went. But my move to NY and the distance from the epicenter of techno turned the volume way down. It was an impossible act to follow. And then, I have no idea how, I stumbled upon Hiromitsu Agatsuma. The joy of music returned.

kenny endo taiko drums

I had never heard anything like it. What Agatsuma-san is able to do with the shamisan blew my mind. Ironically the song that got me hooked was Beams. The year was 2002 and the intro song literally was a transit from my old love to the new. The fusion of traditional and electronic was fresh and thrilling.

It was about the same time that I discoved Kodo’s Sai-So remix project, albiet a little late to the party. I was already developing a taste for taiko at that point but here was another amazing feast of old and new brought together to create something unique.

kenny endo taiko with hiromitsu agatsuma shamisen

I admit that I still feel out of touch with music these days, but last night’s performance with Kenny Endo on taiko and Agatsuma’s shamisen was truly uplifting. They each performed a few sets solo and then a few pieces together. The best piece was their encore. It was relaxed, high energy, and you could tell they both had arrived at that place of harmony where the artist is removed and only music remains. They literally rocked the house. From my front row seat I could hear the stage lighting reverberating. A friend of mine was leaving class at Japan Society and said even in the halls outside the auditorium it was pretty much out of this world.

I’ll leave off with the program. Wish I could have bottled up the evening to play it over and over again!

Kenny Endo Set

      Kotsuzumi (traditional)






    Spirit Sounds

Hiromitsu Agatsuma Set

      Tsugaru Aiya-bushi (Aomori Prefecture folk song)


      Kami no mai


    Tsugaru Jongara-bushi (Aomori Prefecture folk song)


      Tabaruzaka (Kumamoto Prefecture folk song)


      Yume no Pahu (Endo)


    Yosare (Agatsuma)

日本語のクラス (Nihongo no Kurasu)

Japan Society NYC Nihongo no Kurasu

I have learned more in 20 sessions of Japanese than I did in a few years of Spanish and French.  The Toyota Learning Center at Japan Society in NYC has really done an impressive job both with the selection of their instructors and the curriculum.  Another key difference in this experience is that all the students really want to be there.  It is not like learning a language in high school because there is an obligation.  My classmates and myself are very intent on learning the language.

My class is a great mix of those who have Japanese spouses, those infatuated with manga and anime, and those doing business in some form with Japan or Japanese nationals.  For me it is my complete and total obsession with the fashion, arts and culture in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Party @ Izakaya Riki

Japanese class party at Riki restaurant

After our last class we all adjourned to the local salaryman’s bar, Riki Restaurant.  Last semester we reserved the tatami room, this time around we had one of the karaoke rooms upstairs.  Tons of fried food, bowl upon bowl of udon, and infinite pitchers of beer and bottles of sake were exactly what was needed to cement in everything we had learned!

biiru o kudasai

Sweet Dreams, Sheri




P.S.  And in case I haven’t had enough sake, I have a team outing at the Riki this Friday! (^_-)☆


Friday was the conclusion to the Japanese language – part 1 lessons I have been attending at Japan Society.  To learn something, really learn it, I like to throw myself in fully.  Short of moving to Japan, I am actively finding as many ways possible to absorb the content.

So much of a country’s culture is poured into their language.  To truly grasp the context one needs to also see the language in action.  What shaped the dialect, what historical occurrences defined common sayings, what foreign influences were adapted along the way?

My ever patient and encouraging boyfriend was game to partake in what I am calling a J-Weekend.  A 3-day quest to tap into all things Japanese.

Mitsuwa, Minamoto Kitchoan, Japan Society and the Riki

After pulling together a Tokyo-worthy Otome-Kei coordinate, we were off.  Friday began with a shopping spree at Mitsuwa, in New Jersey.  First stop was Sanseido Bookstore.  Picked up the Spring edition of Gothic & Lolita Bible.  The shopgirl was so sweet, with my purchase she gave me an extra copy of the GLB poster they received! Next up was Mars where I picked out a thank you card for Aizawa-sensei.  On to Minamoto Kitchoan to get a gift of seasonal wagashi as a thank you present for Sensei.  And no trip to Mitsuwa is complete without picking up a cart full of yummy Japanese groceries. Grabbed a pre-packaged bento for a quick meal before class.

Made it back home with just enough time to put the groceries away, switch out my dress for jeans (still pulled off an Otome esthetic), grab my school bag, and make it to the train. Class was so lively.  By week ten we all were much more relaxed with each other and so there was quite a bit of giggling going on.  Especially as one classmate, when asked to use our newly learned verbs, was uncovered to have had quite a lot of beer to drink lately.  Which is a great segue into the final stop for the day.

After class, many of us adjourned to Riki, a local izakaya (typical salarymen restaurant/drinking establishment).  What better way to learn more about the language then to enjoy Life’s Sweet Essential  #1 – Food.  We had our own screened room with traditional seating which was great as it allowed us to be a bit rowdy. For some bizarre reason the girls sat at one table and the boys the other.?.?  It was great to finally get to relax and learn more about everyone outside of school.  Something we have promised to do again in May.  Several pitchers of beer and many glasses of sake later we parted ways.

Still from Sakuran, Anna Tsuchiya, and Lolita Coordinate

A much more relaxed pace was planned for Saturday.  We had a lovely sashimi style lunch made from the Mitsuwa trip loot.  I pulled together a NY take on Sweet Lolita  (black + cute) for a night out at the movies.  We saw Sakuran, staring Anna Tsuchiya!  The story is a period piece and not terribly original.  But the director’s adaptation of the manga was an incredible kaleidoscope of colors.  The set was absolutely astonishing.  I will say that it is a long way to go to see a movie from 2006 though when you live in the burbs – but I had a blast getting all dressed up anyway. After the show, the folks at Japan Society were handing out adorable bookmarks with an illustration from the manga.

Homemade lolita skirt and headdress

After gallivanting around for the majority of the weekend, a nice casual day in was planned for Easter Sunday.  Spent most of the morning finishing up a little project to convert 2 hippie-esq, floor length, summer dresses I picked up on discount into a casual Lolita skirt/petticoat.  Lolita is not exactly mainstream culture in Japan I realize – but an area of the culture I am infatuated with just the same.

I chopped both dresses across the bottom where the volume was the fullest.  With some fabric I had in my stash I added a pair of built-in bloomers.  Totally digging this concept as I am not the biggest fan of elastic, so whenever I can reduce some of it from the equation, all the better.  A bit of gathering at the waist and all 3 pieces were ready to be attached to the waistband, which was also a recycled shirred halter top from one of the dresses.  And voila, a super light weight skirt or petticoat for the summer months.

Started work on a hair corsage as well.  Can’t wait to finish it.  Picked up the crown applique in the Fashion District awhile back and have been dying to use it in a project.  Stay tuned to see the finished piece.

And so there you have it – my jam packed J-Weekend.
Now what am I going to do next weekend?

Sweet Dreams, Sheri




Credits: (Friday Collage) The photo of the wagashi is from Minamoto Kitchoan’s website; the photo of Aizawa-sensei came from Japan Society’s website; (Saturday Collage) the photo of Anna in Sakuran is a wallpaper from

Sakura, Kabuki & Me

In a little departure from my previous posts to celebrate Hanami, today’s is a portrait.  Was able to get all gussied up earlier, as we went down to the city to a Kabuki performance at Japan Society.  The show was AMAZING!

That would be me hanging out under the beautiful Sakura :)

We were given free admission to the art gallery with our theatre purchase.  And in a little room annexed to the gallery, in a corner they painted a Sakura tree outline.  JS welcomed  guests over the past few weeks to write wishes and prayers on pink paper blossoms.  These blossoms were then attached to the branches of the tree.  What a sweet idea.

Sakura wish tree at Japan Society, NYC

Sweet Dreams, Sheri





Eradicate Boredom

Confession – it drives my nuts when I hear someone say they are bored.  How can anyone possibly be bored!?   There are just way too many happy and interesting things to occupy one’s time with.  If you already know it all – well I guess congratulations then on having the biggest ego on the planet.  My philosophy is the minute you stop learning you might as well be dead.

To keep my mind sharp, I dabble and love to take random classes.  For example, in February I am excited to begin Japanese language lessons through Japan Society.  [I have put this one off for far too long.]  Last winter it was screen printing at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn.  A couple summers ago was a refresher sewing course at Sew Fast Sew Easy in Manhattan.  [If you are a fan of Project Runway, as a little trivia, Kenley was an instructor at SFSE.]  Before that I had fun with Stained Glass at Pratt.  And long before that were French lessons at French Institute Alliance Française.  All of these courses I personally invested in outside of conferences, webinars and other professional courses that I regularly engage in specific to my “day job.”

Tiki-Hime Illustration

The doodle I drafted for screen printing at 3rd Ward.

Seeing it spelled out it does sound like a rather schizophrenic list.  But I believe the subject matter is not the important factor. Instead it is the act of putting your mind through the discipline of coursework.  I honestly don’t think I would be as successful as I am in business if I didn’t take these opportunities to stretch myself and sustain a “beginner’s” mind.  These classes force me to look at life with a fresh set of eyes.

It is a pitfall I see all to often in Corporate America.  “I am so experienced, I have done this a hundred times, I can do it in my sleep.”  While I am a huge fan of tried-and-true processes, everyday presents us with a new opportunity to do things better than we have ever done before.

So the next time you are bored – run, don’t walk, to your computer.  Jump online and search for a lesson near you.  Any lesson!  And let me know how it goes.

Sweet Dreams, Sheri