November 21, 2008

When My 3 Year Old Daughter Plays Princess, It's Cute.

These Japanese ladies? Not so much.

Japan has been famous for its extreme fashion fads, mostly among teenagers. These have ranged from the Lolita look, in which women dress up in baby-doll dresses and bonnets, to a tough-girl look called Yamamba, or mountain hag, which requires a dark tan, white eye shadow and shaggy, silver-bleached hair.

But the princess boom is seen as a more polished and sophisticated look that's popular among working women in their 20s and 30s, perhaps as a bit of escapism from workaday stress and economic uncertainty.

"There's a longing for a happy-ending fairy tale," says Asuka Watanabe, a sociology professor at Kyoritsu Women's Junior College, who specializes in street fashion.

While it may be in style among fashionable women in New York and London, black isn't an option for hime girls, who prefer pink and florals. They also have a doll-like sense of beauty that requires effort and practice to attain. To create the ideal "supervolume hair," curl only a few strands of hair at a time and alternate between inward and outward curls, advises Vanilla Girl, a fashion magazine for teenagers aspiring to become hime girls. Dyed hair extensions can help form more dynamic ringlets, while mascara applied on top of fake eyelashes plus black liquid eyeliner can really accentuate the eyes.

The princess boom has also taken off among an unlikely group of women: nightclub hostesses who also like the big-hair, glamorous look, though their dresses are often more revealing.

Jesus Diamante started the princess boom. Toyotaka Miyamae, 52, who had run an import shop specializing in evening gowns, set up the company in Osaka seven years ago to design feminine dresses tailored to Japanese women, whom he found to be shorter and to have smaller chests than Western women. Inspired by his favorite actress, Brigitte Bardot, he created dresses in quality fabrics that mimicked the feminine and elegant style of her youth.

"What I wanted to do wasn't that unique," says Mr. Miyamae, who named the company after a Japanese musical. "I just made them to fit Japanese bodies."


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