I've spent the morning researching all kinds of jargon for this post and I fear I'll still get it wrong so be prepared to click through to a plethora of links, using a bit of Google Translate if necessary if you want the whole picture.  This may even be all old news to those that follow Japanese streetstyle sub-culture and trends closely.  If I start sounding at all like this slightly fuddy duddy video here that talks through the ins and outs of Mori style in Tokyo, then please do comment and say "Susie, you're like an overbearing children's TV presenter talking about fashion.  STOP!"

Owners Naoaki and Hitomi taken from DropTokyo

I'll start off with this dated video though because despite its failings of a) talking about Mori style when really they mean dolly-kei style and b) being slightly patronising when talking about how to style yourself up mori-style, it DOES a fine job of introducing you to the world of Grimoire, the pioneering vintage store in Tokyo's Shibuya opened by former Cutie model Hitomi Nomura and Naoaki Tobe.  You have to plough through it a bit to get to the parts where Hitomi is talking about the concept of her store but I promise it does get insightful.  The explanations about mori girls aka girls who dressed in fairy/forest-inspired looks are useful but the key thing is that Grimoire is most associated with dolly-kei, a scene which literally attached itself to the store…

Tokyo Fashion gives a very succint definition of dolly-kei style and I can do no better so here it is…

"Dolly-kei, as you may have guessed, takes inspiration from antique (and slightly spooky) dolls and movies such as Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter. The used, vintage and antique clothing and the store’s own accessories line, which include crucifixes, bags and shoes, also come from the duo’s interest in picture books, European folk stories and fantasy."

I can see why dolly-kei can be confused with the Mori style which is described in the video but that in itself illustrates the SPECIFIC exacting standards which apply to Japanese style tribes and their various off-shoots.  For me, it's a non-specific mix which can't be defined by decade or even nationality dress.  Swiss, folk, Slavic, Native American all goes into the mix from all periods from late Victorian to the 70s.  The focus is on vintage but new items may be incorporated as well and when seen on a Japanese girl with immaculately dyed hair, the effect is mesmerising.  As you can tell, I felt like a complete dullard with my no-make-up face and black ashen hair when walking amongst these magical creatures.

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Pics from Dolly-Kei Tumblr – gonna try not to grumble about lack of sources on Tumblr but will shut up…

Back to Grimoire, the store.  I didn't actually get to go to the original Grimoire store but was taken to Grimoire Amandal, the bigger second store which has just opened this year.  Tokyo Telephone talks about the opening of the Amandal store but I have my own pics here which they graciously allowed me to take.  What I saw was a really super heightened method of visual merchandising that frankly, I have not seen in any other vintage store EVER.  My other go-to Japanese sub-culture blog La Carmina also cites Grimm's Fairy Tales as a reference for dolly-kei, and that definitely permeates the store as creepy taxidermy and ornaments mingle with faux flora and fauna, invading a vaguely Victorian interior.  It's all down to the work of co-owner Naoaki Tobe who I had the pleasure of meeting.  He talked about taking frequent European trips with his partner Hitomi Nomura (as explained in the video, she's a dolly-kei heroine who has her fair share of fans…) to source both the exhaustive haul of vintage and the furnishings for the store (I don't want to even try and guess how much they spend on overseas shipping…).  There's a strange otherworldly mix here where you feel as though you are steeped in a historical context but which one?  Victorian?  Edwardian?  Regency?  Or is it just all an imaginary blend made for fantasy and not in fact historically accurate?  Harry Potter's sub-plot where he is transported to a pub in Arthurian times?  A set for Heston Blumenthal's Medieval feasts?   An antiques junk shop hidden in a forest?  The frustrated historian in me keeps wanting to put a tag on it all but the beauty of Grimoire is that it defies conrete definition in its historical, literary, imaginary and geographical references – it's a mix of everything that comes together in recognisable harmony. 











Likewise, the clothes can't be pinpointed either.  Sourced from America, Czech Republic, Germany and Austria, the clothes apparently adhere to a roughly Eastern European aesthetic (as opposed to the traditional Scandinavian qualities of the Mori girls) but to me, there were pieces from a plethora of places and periods that all contributed to the dolly-kei aesthetic.  Folk dresses from 70s Gunne Sax (a popular label at Grimoire), Victorian French blouses, Russian shawls, 60s Biba-esque shifts, delicate Edwardian underpinnings… it was all stuffed on the rails read to be mixed.  What I gather from Grimoire's philosophy is that ultimately, it's the pairing of clothes that is important, which of course is appealing to me as someone who doesn't like to have such a rigidly boxed in style.  Tokyo Fashion says that there are concrete rules when it comes to Mori style (60 points apparently…) but Grimoire's is a little harder to define and slightly unexpected in its outcome. 

I found Grimoire's approach towards vintage so fascinating because of the attached style-tribe of dolly-kei.  To be so specific and so defined in its aesthetic made for a more rewarding shopping experience.  Actually in general, Japanese vintage stores, though they import from European/American sources, they manage to find the best picks and really curate and merchandise their stores well so that they have a real point of view with their vintage selection as opposed to bunging it all on a rail and hoping for the best.  Of course I'm always up for a hunt, no matter what circumstances but I can't deny the allure of seeing vintage that is categorised and presented in such a fine-tuned manner.  The same goes for Jeanne Valet in Daikanyama which has some dolly-kei-esque pieces but mainly focused on Victorian workwear and extremely old pieces that were muted and weathered. 

The Grimoire shop girls on the blogs for both the Grimoire store and the Amandal store show various manifestations of dolly-kei.  Both are worth ploughing through for extra dolly-kei candy…


The online shop is a bit patchy seeing as it's not the full selection and things always seem to sell out quite quickly but it's a good snapshot of the sort of stock that Grimoire has.  I feel like the website probably reserves the 'safer', easier sells for the website with older, more delicate or rarer pieces saved for the physical stores…

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As for me, I'm never going to really commit to dolly-kei or mori or alas, any of the Japanese sub-culture styles purely because I don't possess the knowledge nor the inclination.  Instead, I'll just go about my own tame and uncommitted way and borrow teensy weensy bits.  This embroidered blouse was bought in Jeanne Valet in Daikanyama but slips over this Meadham Kirchhoff dress (I can't quite believe I have this pretty pretty piece in my wardrobe…) seamlessly evoking a little of their latest A/W 11-12 collection…





Over that goes an embroidered apron that I picked up at Grimoire for something that is probably about as dolly-kei as I'll go without even reaching the wizard-obsessed heights of true dolly-kei style. 




(Worn with H&M cycling shorts and Erdem x Nicholas Kirkwood boots)

This is completely unrelated to the post but I end with a Tokyo-vintage-related question.  I bought this vintage top in Toga's vintage annexe in Tokyo but we've been trying to ID the painting printed on it.  The Style Salvage team and I have pinpointed – Edwardian, British, possibly Hyde Park – not a lot of clues I'm afraid.  It may not be anything recognisable or famed.  I suppose it doesn't really matter what it is.  Just saves questions when I walk around and people think I'm wearing it because there's some signficant artist on there and I can only do is reply in an airy fairy way "Oh…I don't know what it is… I just bought it in Tokyo!"


(Worn with Ellery et Graz sunglasses, Topshop floral skirt, Heikki Salonen trousers, vintage Robert Clegerie shoes)

Comments (41)

  1. salome says:

    AMAzing post…. 😉
    love it

  2. I love the way you interpreted this trend in your first look!

  3. Rebecca says:

    Yet more thanks coming your way… haha!
    If you’re interesting in more discussion on dolly style (and mori, lolita) and how it overlaps, then it’s well worth checking out Valerie and her blog: http://tokyofashionandartfactory.blogspot.com/
    Not only does she talk about the history of this kind of fashion, she also does a fantastic job photographing the key people involved too. Lovely stuff.

  4. Kylie says:

    I found this post completely fascinating. The Japanese ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks of me’ attitude is also very interesting, see how Hitomi Nomura walked around that craft shop and didn’t get puzzled stares. Although the girls they first used as examples for the Mori style or dolly-kei style were very subdued in comparison to her, sort of bohemian crossed with Victorian. Great post

  5. susie_bubble says:

    Rebecca: Thanks for the link, I think I did come across her blog on my travels but forgot to link through to it….
    Kylie: Gah…just another flaw in TV reporting on fashion… but actually I found the TV clip quite engrossing… I really wish there was more of this type of TV reporting on fashion in the UK actually but no, we just have terrible make-over shows and cheesy style competitions
    Actually in the context of fashion in general in Tokyo, people are dressed quite subdued, girls might borrow elements of Hitomi’s style as seen in the girls on the TV clip but I didn’t encounter many that were doing the full-on dolly-kei look. Still, when I did, nobody openly stared at them. I don’t think it’s in the Japanese manner to stare anyway….

  6. Charlotte :) says:

    Love the outfits! really quirky and cool and fit in well with the style. That shop looks so fun and interesting! wanna go there! x

  7. Great blog!
    I am a huuuuuge fan of Japanese fashion, and I think you did a great explaining everything here!
    Grimoire sounds and looks incredible!
    one ticket to Japan please…pronto!

  8. Rosie May says:

    Wow, amazing post, amazing fashion, amazing imagery.
    Love the photo of Naoaki and Hitomi – stunning! 🙂

  9. monia says:

    When I was in Japan few years ago, I didn’t expect how beautiful are the women and how stylish are the men. Both have a unique style I can’t see anywhere else! The way girls style their hair is amazing, and I guess they do it by their own!
    Monia, Rome

  10. Thanks for very interesting post!
    Love sub cultures in Japan.
    They are always fascinating and very polite.

  11. I love that you did this post! Japanese subculture has been on my radar lately (just did a sweet lolita post) and I had never heard of this one! The vintage inspiration is fascinating to me. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Kylie says:

    Haha, I had to do one of those style contest videos, I felt a complete prat when I watched it back. As much as I love reading blog posts and article, yes it would be lovely just to sit back and have it told to me sometimes. Maybe a new venture for you?!

  13. Pat Lyttle says:

    Awesome post Susie. I new you’d like the shop and the whole Dolly Kei angle. When I found out you were in Tokyo I thought where’s her Hitomi’s card and had to tell you about her. The piece you have are good but you really should have come and seen me as I have lots of the components already specifically for Mori & Dolly Kei. The girls from the shop are amazing aren’t they and the music makes you chuckle.

  14. love love love. Just makes me even more desperate to visit Japan!xx

  15. Aah, my sweet little Liebchen….

  16. Isabelle says:

    Lovely post, Mori came up as something to look out for in our trend presentations and these images have got the cogs whirring. Also, those sunglasses are too much!

  17. michele says:

    Wow! Love this post. I really like Japanese streetstyle and I was very curious about what I now learned is dolly-kei! So cool. But I’m afraid it only looks good on Japanese girls, or it could get a bit Oktoberfest-y…
    I don’t know what painting that is on your shirt, but I LOVE it, the sleeves and the print are perfect! Good score!

  18. The red outfit is adorable!
    Copper Etiquette Always Appropriate Shop Dresses

  19. Sarah says:

    I really like your take on that style. Your shoes are absolutely gorgeous, as is your dress.

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  21. Nick Zantop says:

    Super post, I love that embroidered apron! Really gorgeous!

  22. Taylor lewis says:

    All these posts make me want to go to japan! 🙂
    You look great Susie!
    Taylor x

  23. Taylor lewis says:

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  24. alix says:

    oh. my. god. your boots from the first pic are AMAZING. i want them so badly
    also your second outfit is so nice, you look great!!
    love all your clothes, love this blog. 🙂

  25. Rafi Abalulu says:

    Wow i just love the Japanese girl, her hair is awesome, and old fashion clothes, very nice.

  26. sophie says:

    Great post Susie, really interesting as it’s something I’ve not read about at all before + i love the Jeanne Valet top!

  27. Sarah says:

    I adore the image of the fairy tale butterfly mirror with the glowing jars – simply inspiring!
    also you look beautiful in red 🙂

  28. While I similarly feel as though I can’t properly commit to dolly-kei, I’m fascinated by the style and think it’s absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for the well-researched post on this style- so many other sources lump mori, lolita, and dolly-kei together and it’s refreshing to see someone who seems to really know what they’re talking about.
    Also, I believe the two images from the dolly-kei tumblr came from the Droptokyo site sometime last year: http://droptokyo.com/street/ I unfortunately don’t have the dates that they were posted.

  29. Bella says:

    I…can’t…even! Those outfits make you look like a fairy from folklore! And that store looks like the house of a woodland fairy. The kind of fairy that lives in tiny adorable mushrooms! Also, I love your hair. It must have additional anti-gravity power because no matter what I do, I will never get my hair to cooperate and stay in a bun like that without a million pounds of hairspray and a hair net. Blargh. But…great post. Sorry…I ramble.

  30. Theo Theroux says:

    I adore this post! Such a cute look and the unidentified painting top is beautiful. You are such a good blogger.

  31. So interesting that you just posted this, last week I posted a shoot I styled inspired by Mori Girl fashion http://www.onthestreetsofsydney.com/2011/06/mori-gyaru-forest-girl/ which is a little different to Dolly-kei but seems similar to us westerners looking in. By the way did you ever make it to the store Spank I told you about, who are the founders of Fairy-kei? They pre-date Dolly-kei & Grimoire and have been doing the whole re-make vintage thing for a while. I hope you did cos the owner of that store, Tabuchi, is my bestie in Tokyo. xxx

  32. that store looks magical!

  33. SwapQueenII says:

    Love your vintage top – its classy and magical at the same time.
    Personally I wouldnt take on the whole Tokyo fashion sub-culture… dont think I’m that all out inclined but I would definitely borrow a few pieces from what I see here… totally rocks!

  34. Lise says:

    The painting on your shrit is by Jean B√©raud. It is entitled “le chalet du cycle au Bois de Boulogne”
    Great post ! I would really like to see this Grimoire shop one day…

  35. Milan Boya says:

    i love red n white dress.. great outfit!

  36. bittersweet says:

    Wow, I have heard of mori and dolly before because I am interested in lolita style. I enjoy going through photos of these styles. But I have never heard that it is inspired by my homeland = the Czech Republic. I would never put this together. I am amazed!
    You have done a great job on this article, I would welcome more articles on Japanese street fashion from your point of view.

  37. donghanjin says:

    i love red n white dress.. great outfit!

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