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Interview: Jenna Winterberg and Michelle Nguyen

Editors of Gothic & Lolita Bible

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Michelle Nguyen and Jenna Winterberg, Editors of Gothic & Lolita Bible

Michelle Nguyen and Jenna Winterberg

© TOKYOPOP

With their frilly and lacy frocks and eye-catching style, devotees of Gothic and Lolita fashion have been making the scene on the streets of Tokyo for years. But recently, this stylish subculture has taken root in America as more and more girls are discovering its beauty, romance and mystery. The roots of this fashion revolution can be found in the pages of Gothic and Lolita Bible.

Too pretty and collectible to be a mere magazine and too timely to be a just a book, Gothic & Lolita Bible is a "mook," a hybrid of both. TokyoPop has imported Gothic & Lolita Bible to American shores, and produced the first English edition of this influential publication, which made its debut in February 2008. To learn more about this fashion phenomenon, I spoke with Gothic & Lolita Bible Editor-in-Chief Jenna Winterberg and Coordinating Editor Michelle Nguyen to learn more about what makes this Japanese trend so appealing to Western fashionistas, and their plans for the Gothic and Lolita style invasion.

Q: It's great to see the American version of Gothic & Lolita Bible debut this month. But for those readers who might not be familiar with it, can you explain what the Gothic & Lolita Bible is?

Jenna Winterberg: Gothic & Lolita Bible is a magazine-book hybrid (or “mook”) that first debuted in Japan, and it’s dedicated to two related forms of Japanese street fashion, Gothic and Lolita. Most people recognize Gothic & Lolita Bible as THE source for information on Lolita fashion. It not only tracks the trends but also influences them with its coverage.

Q: When was it first published in Japan, and who were creators of this magazine and this style?

Michelle Nguyen: This magazine was first made as a spin-off of the popular KERA magazine, which focused on all street fashion in Japan. Thanks to the establishment of major brands for Lolita, the style grew so popular that it merited its own mook. Both publications are published by the same parent company, INDEX Communications.

Music artists such as Mana of the band Malice Mizer (who first suggested the idea of creating the G&LB) and singer-songwriter Kana further supported Gothic & Lolita Bible and Lolita style itself. They often would wear Lolita or Gothic clothing in their performances, which helped spread the awareness of the fashion. Also of note: Takemoto Novala is an author who wrote many essays on the proper behavior and attitudes of “young maidens,” inspiring many people to become interested in Lolita lifestyle, in addition to the fashion.

Lolita clothing is by nature very conservative; perhaps as a reaction to the modern image of sexy and powerful women, Lolita instead showcases an innocent and modest look.

Q: In your editors’ intro, you make a distinction that it's Gothic AND Lolita Bible, not "Gothic Lolita" – can you explain?

Jenna: Well, there are two types of fashion featured in Gothic & Lolita Bible. They’re related because both are street fashion from Japan, and both have a Victorian base. The Gothic fashion the name refers to is not equivalent to American Goth, rather it’s a Gothic aesthetic reminiscent of what one might find in Victorian horror novels.

Lolita is the more popular of the two fashions, and about 80% of our mook (and the Japanese version, as well) is dedicated to that fashion. Nearly all Lolita is based upon the bell shape of the skirt and the inclusion of a lot of frills (ruffles, lace, and bows), but there are a lot of subcategories of Lolita, including Gothic Lolita (which uses darker fabrics, darker makeup, and the like), Sweet Lolita (which includes motifs like animals and sweets), Country Lolita (which often incorporates gingham and fruits, and which some say is a sub-category of Sweet Lolita), Punk Lolita (which is edgier and often includes tartan plaids, buckles, and elements of that nature), Casual Lolita (which might pair a twin set or a cute hoodie with a traditional Lolita-style skirt), and more. So, the mook isn’t just dedicated to one subtype of Lolita, it covers all Lolita, and a little bit of Gothic, too!

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about Gothic and Lolita fashions and lifestyle?

Michelle: People take one look at the word “Lolita” and assume that the fashion has a sexual undertone, as is true of the novel of the same name by Vladimir Nabokov. However, Lolita is inspired by clothing from the Rococo and Victorian era, and it emphasizes modesty and cuteness rather than sexuality.

Also, people tend to think “Gothic Lolita” is the only category of Lolita, when in fact there are many other facets of the fashion, such as Sweet Lolita, Classic Lolita, and Punk Lolita, to name just a few.

Q: What do you think is the appeal of the Gothic and Lolita fashion to American audiences? What type of girl is most interested in this style?

Jenna: I think it appeals to different people for different reasons. A lot of the feedback that I get is that girls like it because it’s very feminine and frilly, and you feel like a princess when you dress in Lolita. I also hear a lot that it’s nice to cover up; Lolita fashion is very modest in its traditional form, so you’re not bearing your shoulders or your belly or your thighs, or much skin at all, really! And it’s a nice change, what with how revealing a lot of trendy fashions have become.

Those most interested in the style tend to be high-school and college age, but there are definitely younger girls and older women who are attracted to the fashion, as well—anyone who thinks the clothes are cute and wants to feel pretty herself!

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