Pastel Pop Darlings: The Fairy-Kei Guide

My past article about fairy-kei and lolita fusion, thereafter dubbed ‘fairy lolita’ or fairy-loli, has been generating a lot of interest and traffic after being posted to an online fashion community. Some commenters remarked that it was the only in-depth guide available to the style. Since that article was more of an overview, specifically meant for those with a lolita background, I thought I would write an additional article as a complete guide to fairy-kei, in the tradition of my complete guide to over-the-top sweet lolita style. Without further ado…

 By the way, these photo collages are BIG so you can examine the smaller details of their outfits. Click for larger! Shown above: first two, Maga, SPANK! staff; Japanese street snap; Tabuchi (founder of SPANK!)

 Fairy-kei (meaning fairy-style), also called SPANK! style or pop-kei, is one of the currently popular Japanese street fashion. The style is based around muted pastels, bright flourescents, and 80s revivalist cartoons and motifs such as My Little Pony, Care Bears, Rainbow Brite, vintage 80s Barbie, etc. The look is very much a ‘fantasy style’, emulating the worlds of 80s girls’ cartoons and early shoujo manga. It began with Tabuchi, founder of the vintage and repurposed vintage boutique SPANK!, as her personal style, and then the look took off from there.

The Clothes & The ‘Silhouette’; Texture & Color Palettes

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the fashion. For anyone joining me from the lolita world, you can probably relate to this experience when studying other fashion styles or street styles. It feels like a notebook-in-hand moment, with plenty of questions: what kind of fabric is prevalent? What fashion silhouette? How many layers? What’s the color palette? Essentially, what are the ‘rules’? Lolita fashion is very structured and despite its fantasy nature, can sometimes seem more like a math equation or getting your adjusted balance sheet to balance. If I put a headbow here and socks here, then do I get an equal of frills to style? (I gotta get out more and put down the accounting textbook…) But here’s the kicker: aside from lolita fashion, most Japanese street styles are unstructured. It’s a few people with a common idea or concept (in this case, fairy-kei is pretty much the brain baby of Tabuchi, founder of SPANK!) that ends up evolving into a look, and then a following. So this ‘structuring’, especially for airy-fairy fairy-kei, is pretty rough. This is just my observations and interpretations of it.

The silhouette is very similar to mori-girl and natural-kei in shape – an extended A-line with little defined waist, bust, etc. It’s sort of a sack-like appearance, really, when it comes to fairy-kei dresses and one-pieces. Some flare can be added in the form of short colored petticoats (think Bodyline’s small, cheapy ones – they won’t double under your lolita skirts, they’re really just for color) and its counterpart, pumpkin pants, which are like short, super puffy bloomers, usually in decorative fabrics. So for a dress, there are most likely layers on top (cardigans, sweaters, etc) or underneath (tees, cutsews a la lolita, etc); then there may be a few peeking hems of colored petticoats with pumpkin pants to keep your from flashing your panties. On the opposite end of the spectrum are very defined waists with ‘tutu’ dresses or petticoats that more resemble tutus in shape than anything else. That being said, even these defined waists are in no way revealing. Like other street styles, fairy-kei has a bit of a frump, a layering look that comes off as cute when paired with big eyes and whimsical hair and accessories. That slightly nerdy, overly energetic girl of the 80s? That would be fairy-kei, I think. If you aren’t used to the style, rent a bunch of 80s movies and watch them. Karate Kid has his typical love interest, who’s got a great blonde Cali-girl teeny bopper vibe going on (except at the end where she clearly discovers the 90s and becomes a soccer-mom-in-the-making, but ignore that).

Fabric is usually lightweight for dresses and skirts, such as the loose A-line dresses and the fluttery colored petticoats. Thick, fluffy sweaters, oversized 80s sweatshirts; this is also the land from whence comes the mokomoko accessories craze, and stuffed animals are sewn onto sweaters and scarves, or as the usual purse. Dress length can be ankle length, knee-length or mini-skirt length; anything fluttery and flowy works.

The most important aspects of fairy-kei are the vintage/fantasy world factor, and the color palette. Color is one of the most important features here, less so the structure or item. Pastels and neon-tinted pastels, or high-saturated pastels. Popular colors are mint/seafoam, lavender, super pale pink, electric blue, lime green, creamsicle orange, neon orange, and in smaller doses, ‘white-with-black-dots’. Several motifs and themes are often found in fairy-kei as well: most notably the unicorn, followed by kittens, any vintage 80s toy or franchise, moons and stars, rainbows, and naturally sweets such as cotton candy and conversation hearts (the chalky American candy that say things like UR CUTE).

The DIY and Vintage Factor

Whereas many Japanese fashion styles are now ‘couture’ based (having established a variety of brand houses to cater to the style, i.e. Angelic Pretty, Baby the Stars Shine Bright, etc for lolita fashion), fairy-kei is very much based on DIY and vintage. While some clothes can be ‘bought’, most of these clothes are vintage or re-purposed vintage. SPANK! and its sister store, Ticket to Darling, sell 80% vintage clothing they think fits with the SPANK! and fairy-kei aesthetic; 20% of their items are re-purposed vintage or handmade. Many girls make their own clothes with finding vintage fabrics or clothing and sewing them into items that fit the style. This dress below is made from vintage lilac unicorn bedsheets:

I happen to have the same set & can’t wait to turn it into a floaty onepiece! The thin fabric is also great for layering. Besides vintage bedsheets, vintage toys and other 80s paraphanalia is very popular. Vintage My Little Ponies (G1 for you collectors) make great necklaces and hairbands, or Care Bears pinned to jackets. Vintage 80s-style buttons, 80s cartoons stickers made into necklaces… Plastic pastel chain, a uique feature of the 80s, is often used for jewelry, along with plastic charms. I’ve seen felt brooches, clay conversation heart rings… Most accessories are DIY and based on the idea of pastel pop cute, with only a little historical basis. Don’t forget simple I-made-it-cute items; I’ve seen denim shorts with fabric painted shooting stars, denim jackets with unicorns painted on the back and edged in lace… I’m sure bedazzling, popular in the 80s and 90s, could also be a hit here.

Shoes, Bags, and Other Accessories


As said, the primary concern in fairy-kei is the color palette, so finding necessary accessories is mostly about hunting up pastels. There are a few shoe types that are popular in fairy-kei style however. Hi-top sneakers in bright pastels are on many a fairy-kei girl’s must have list, and give you feet a nice break from high heels. Reebok x MILKFED (shown above, right) collaborations sneakers are popular, but I think any pastel hi-top would work. Punk boots, such as my pastel pink Doc Marten knockoffs, and engineer boots in similar colors work well too. Some gyaru brands make pastel UGG-type shoes; usually Yumetenbou have several in the winter, and you can snap them up in powder blue, lilac, mint, and pink. Adding cute shoe clips, bows, or ribbons can amp them up as well.

{via kyandi.tumblr.com; these are photos from her personal wardrobe}

While it seems that fairy-kei girls favor more comfortable shoes than other fashions, they still have a soft spot for heels. Pastel heels, preferably super-shiny ones that look like life-size versions of Barbie shoes, make the cut. Again, there are plenty to be found on Yumetenbou, but their shoe sizes stop at 7.5 (I’m an 8… kill me now.) Look around at spring time in your local stores, or perhaps check out Irregular Choice. Fairy-kei also willingly borrows styles from sweet lolita, mostly Angelic Pretty, so tea parties, ruffly platforms, and heart-buckle shoes or boots also on the table. You can buy the real thing or the knockoff, depending you your tastes.

Purses and bags come from all over in fairy-kei. Shaped purses from Angelic Pretty (shooting stars, teddy bears, chocolate bars), animal purses (unicorns are common), or totes made with vintage material can all be seen. Vintage lunch boxes with character designs can also fit the bill, and fairy-kei girls are also more likely to have cutesy backpacks.

For other accessories, there are also tights and legwarmers. Tights in glittery styles, rainbow, transparent, cute patterns like kittens… And fluffy, droppy legwarmers. If you can’t find any you like from fashion sites, you can find them on discount dance supply websites. The above legwarmers are from Yumetenbou (now sold out, but one can always hope they restock), which despite being a discount gal website, has plenty of items suitable for fairy-kei. Check the roomwear departments of the Girly and Princess sections; there’s often mokomoko items or colorful hoodies, etc.
Hair

Fairy-kei is the Japanese subculture that is about the unnaturally colored hair. While some girls do like wigs, plenty of girls in this style actually dye their own hair. Due to social constraints in Japan, like getting a job, this is pretty hardcore. For fairy-kei you will see some really cool and colorful dye jobs. Pastels like pink, blue and lilac are obvious choices, but so are neon orange and teal. Tabuchi is well-known for her bright teal and sometimes lime hair. Highlights, tipped bangs, etc, are all very popular. Some girls get braided-in extensions to get that Rainbow Kid look. Kawaii Ambassador of Pop-kei/street style usually rocks super-tight curls with braided-in extensions. If you’re looking for extensions, I’d recommend clip-ins over more permanent methods, so you can change them with your outfits or non-fairy-kei style. Still, natural colors like soft brown, chocolate, and blonde also look cute. Pigtails, poofy giant buns, bobs curved under, etc, are some of the most popular. Curls are done, but if your hair isn’t curly no one will shoot you.

Makeup (And Nails)

To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t seen any significant makeup trends for fairy-kei. Looking through example photos it seems to be just bright colors, some eyeliner and perhaps false eyelashes. Simply choose your favorite girly makeup up look and add some bright colors like super bright pink blush, or perhaps ‘Marshmallow’, lilac-pink blush from Candy Doll.

If you want a more casual style for your nails, any pastel tone will do. I’m currently wearing Essie’s Nice is Nice lilac, with white polka dots I added with a small brush. Fairy-kei girls do like acrylic 3D nails however, usually commissioning unique styles from Japanese nail salons like Care Bears, air-brushed unicorns, or Little Twin Stars. If you can’t find or comission 3D nail art, you can always keep them in a simple glittery style with the requisite color palette.

 

Where To Buy


There are some brands that sell fairy-kei and pop-kei style. Here’s how to get your fairy-kei fashion fix:

 

 Brands and Online Shopping 

 ManiaQ - lots of rainbow petticoats, vintage style tees and jackets/parkas. SHIPS OVERSEAS!

Spank! online store does not ship overseas; you’ll need a shopping service. New items posted every Sunday at 12 noon Japan time, hurry, things sell out quickly!

Electric Alice - Australia based webshop that sells items from 6% Doki Doki, Delilah, MILK, and other brands. Click here to view their fairy-kei section.

Refuse to Be Usual - Their ‘Cute Me Up’ section has plenty of fodder for fairy-kei lovers. Swimmer – cute clothing, accessories and homewares. Needs shopping service.

KERA shop - sells many of the brands showcased in KERA magazine. Needs a shopping service, but sells Nile Perch, as well as Angelic Pretty, Baby, Dangerous Nude, and others.

Chocomint - plenty of fairy-kei worthy accessories!

Listen Flavor - punk and pop-kei clothes.

We Love Colors - a huge supply of pastel tights.

6% Doki Doki - super-saturated pop-kei and decora-kei style, and most likely the most expensive (nearing lolita brand prices). Needs shopping service.

 Buy and sell fairy-kei clothing at the community 80s_cuties! I don’t always see something I want, but if you lurk you might find just the thing. I got my ManiaQ hoodie from there!

 You can also look into buying secondhand on mbok or Yahoo!Japan. I don’t know very much about this area, but it is out there if you’re already familiar with the process.

If you’re looking for vintage items to collect or DIY with, you can’t do much better than etsy. I’ve found a plethora of vintage My Little Ponies, Polly Pocket, Rose Petal Place dolls, Lady Lovely Locks Dolls, Lisa Frank stuff… all moderately priced. EBay can also be the place to find vintage sheets or other items, but etsy would be my first choice.

Inspiration Station

The best way to do fairy-kei is to observe all sorts of coordinates and media and then select what you like and make it your own. With this is mind I have included a lot of my favorite coordinates in photos in this article. Most of them were found on several pop-kei themed tumblrs. If there are any you recognize, please let me know and I will add credit; I don’t claim these photos as my own in any way, they’re simply a teaching guide. Below I’ve included a list of fairy-kei tumblrs. If you want to learn fairy-kei, one of the best things you can do is get a tumblr and start following these cuties.

Fairy-kei Tumblrs & Other Sources

kyandi - an adorable tumblr run by Kyandi, a great example of fairy-kei and fairy-lolita, plus tons of vintage inspiration like Sailor Moon, 80s Barbie and Creamy Mami.

fuckyeahtabuchi - love for the Spank! founder Tabuchi

spankgirls - for girls that dress in spank! style

fuckyeahpopkeifashion - pop-kei fashion

Tabuchi’s lookbook.nu - see what the founder of SPANK! wears every day!

Fairy-kei Flickr Group

popkei community @ Livejournal

Other Articles About Fairy-kei

Miseducated.net - Fairy-kei and More 80s Revivalist Fashion

Marshmallow Stars - Fairy-kei Links

TokyoFashion.com - Fairy-kei & Japanese Decora Nails in Harajuku

 

 

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