Hello Kitty couldn’t do it better herself.
Break out your childhood Hello Kitty accessories, because Kawaii fashion is trending once more in the States. Kawaii aesthetics have long been a staple in differing iterations within Japanese culture, where the notoriously cutesy style first emerged as a handwriting style (particularly in girls), and then later went on to serve in part as a symbol of shifting social, economic, and political conditions in Japan for both young men and young women.
Following student rebellions in the ‘60s and ‘70s, young women, increasingly frustrated by their lack of post-school options, turned to the cute culture as a means of subverting cultural expectations. “One of the reasons women choose to stay in the interim period of shōjo [females in the period between puberty and marriage] is the limited range of alternative paths available for women who aspire to pursue a career after completing education,” Kumiko Sato wrote in her essay “A Postwar Cultural History of Cuteness in Japan” published in Education About Asia in 2009, which aimed to make sense of the kawaii culture’s influence on young people, namely, young women. “Women thus embrace the harmlessness and innocence of shōjo by enthusiastically consuming cute merchandise, while delaying their roles as wives and mothers.”
Kawaii culture is classified by sweet, almost childlike fashion with maximalist touches. It’s almost as if a cupcake with a mountain of frosting was turned into an inspired clothing trend. As Sato discussed in her essay, late ‘80s literary and media depictions of kawaii showed female characters “struggle to achieve family bonds and youth freedom,” which helped mark a shift in understanding of what women could be and become. (It later went on to become “dark kawaii,” which made sense of even more shifting cultural norms.)
If you’ve ever felt like not growing up or, at least, escaping from the adult world, kawaii likely speaks to you. Marked by a love of stuffed animals, pastels, ruffles, and pretty much anything soft and adorable, it’s borderline impossible not to love and obsess over sweet kawaii fashion.
Now, the only thing you need is a credit card on hand and some creativity to buy into the trend.
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Now that you have your kawaii fashion down pat, all you have to do is get started on your collection of manga.