Introduction and a bit of History
The Gothic & Lolita Bibles are a series of magazines, published quarterly, that are put out in Japan. They're a combination of fashion magazine, lifestyle magazine, and surreal art book - some of the fashions have to be seen to be believed. They are a bit more durable than your average magazine, and cost 800 yen (US $8) each. As of February 2005, there are currently 15 volumes published, with only volume 2 out of print.
The bibles cater to the gothic movement in Japan, which is pretty different from that in the West, especially clothing styles, music styles, etc. The magazines are full of beautiful, surreal photographs and they can simply be bought as an eyecandy artbook, though they can also be used to peek into an interesting culture (provided, of course, you can read Japanese).
Please do note, however, that the term "lolita" for the fashion isn't connected with pedophilia; the title stems from the fashion movement where girls dress like, well, Victorian girls - white stockings, mary janes, crinolines, etc. The overall effect is to look "cute". I suppose it'd be considered sexual if you're into girls that look a little bit like pink butterballs.
The gothic movement clothing line is mostly black and white, and not prone to color (a movement largely hinted at in the Fruits magazine). There are very few lines that cross over into color - largely the Japanese goth (kimonos, obis, etc) styles might, since most of the clothing line for that is drawn from Takuya Angel, a line known for screaming color combinations (hot pink, red, green, neon orange come to mind).
This is a particularly interesting hobby, as these costumes are so elaborate that they're not really meant for every day wear. Goths tend to congregate at Yoyoi Park in Tokyo on the weekends, dressed to the nines.
The pages of each magazine are largely devoted to the season's fashions, with full spread photos of young Japanese women modeling in items. (Some of the advertisements, however, utilize waifish blonde girls and boys who appear to be member so of the gothy angst club. Either that or they're spaced out.) There's almost always a photo shoot of Mana, from the former Malice Mizer and current Moi Dix Mois. If he's not featured, Aya, from the band Psycho Le Cemu, is usually featured. Both men are girlishly and sumptiously dressed in frilly skirts or Victorian dresses, and their genderbending has fooled more than one homophobic young man into exclaiming, "They're so pretty!" Aside from photo shoots, there are also articles on how to do your hair and make-up in appropriately gothy looks, reviews on music, movies, and books, and sometimes even recipes for the aspiring lifestyle goth who just has to make cross-shaped cupcakes for their parties.
There are also some interesting articles on different music bands in every issue, such as Marilyn Manson, the Cure, etc, accompanied with photos.
There's even a patterns section in the back, where the more crafty and creative of readers can fashion their own little accessories. Photos of crafted items are displayed beautifully, and there is always a fold out pattern guide in the back that you can use. These are fairly simple projects - ties, long skirts, bags, etc, and those new to sewing should have a lot of fun making them (and the patterns are easy to read and decipher, even if you're new to this whole cutting-from-a-pattern business).
The demographic seems to be primarily high school students, but one look at the prices of these gorgeous black outfits will leave you wondering how any student can afford anything more than one or two items - shirts and pants typically cost 8000 yen (~US $80) and up, with dresses and coats going well over 30,000 yen (~US $300). Accessories are not cheap, either, costing usually 4000 yen (~US $40) and up. Certainly not a cheap hobby to indulge in. But it's been noted that women in Japan will spend up to 80% of their money on clothing and accessories, so perhaps it's not that far-fetched.
An interesting thing to note, especially when one is aware of the increasing attention being drawn toward the increasing waist size of America today (and, to a lesser extent, in other countries), are the models featured in the bibles. Volume 1 shows a marked difference from Volume 12: the first few models were natural-sized, leaning toward chubby, even. (Note: most might not even say "chubby" at all, but I'm extremely aware of what "normal" is in Asian culture, and those girls are and would be considered chubby). In the more recent mooks, there has been a noticeable slenderness in the models, though a certain roundness to the faces and bodies still exist (which is only appropriate for some of the clothing styles popular within the goth movement).
"Gothic & Lolita Bible" is one of the few times where the title of the magazine is, oddly enough, appropriate; it is something of a "bible" to the whole goth movement in Japan; despite its name, it does not entirely focus on the lolita styles (though a good 80% of the fashions cater to it, it being a lolita bible, after all), but instead shows off the full spectrum. The classifications are a bit confusing to the western goth, so they've been classified below. Note that this is very approximate; while some genres have nicknames to go with it, they're not strongly delineated.
Common between all of these are huge stomper platform boots of five or six inches; looks like that the trend that Namie Amuro brought in has still not died, and probably never will, considering the average height in Japan. There is something very disturbing about seeing mary janes with 3 inch platforms. Some will opt for three inch platform heels (with an accompanying one inch platform in front), but it's stacked high, high, high. Both boys and girls.
Elegant Gothic Lolita: shortened to EGL, this is the one that tends to get to most publicity, mostly because hideously adorable Japanese girls are dressed up like little girls with ruffled blouses, big, poofy skirts, knee high socks, and mary janes. Make-up on these girls tends to be minimal, natural, or none at all; hairstyles tend to favor big curls done up in pigtails. Clothing colors are very minimal: black, white, red. Bags tend to be huge and clunky looking. Due to the high waist of the dresses and the poofy skirts, this is an especially good style for slightly chubby girls, since the skirts and princess-line shirts will tend to hide most girl's biggest deficiencies (upper arms, waist, hips, butt, thighs); the net effect is that both skinny girls and chubby girls, wearing the same outfit, will just about look the same in size.
Elegant Gothic Country Lolia: a sub-category of the EGL. Features extremely bright colors and antiquated Victorian patterns on the dresses and coats (flowers, roses... the kind of pattern you'd see on an old rug). Colors are bright and most importantly, pastel: candy pink, baby blue, pale yellow. As with EGL, makeup is miniminal or none, hair is heavy on the curls, and the skirts are extremely poofy, aided by crinolines. Country lolita clothing tend to be heavy in ruffles, bows, ribbons, and other miscellaneous frou-frou. Victorian Maiden and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright are both popular labels.
Wa-loli (Japanese Lolita): The category is nicknamed "wa-loli" - Wa for "Japan" and "loli" short for lolita. For those girls tired of the Victorian schtick and want to put a slight twist on it. The poofy skirts still exist, but the tops are no longer button-down puffy sleeve blouses, but rather, kimono stype tops with huge trailing sleeves, complete with an obi belt (bigggggg bow in the back... we're not talking about box knots here). Hair is styled like a Japanese girl (long, straight, and usually black), and instead of stockings and mary jane stompers, it's usually bare legs, leg warmer type coverings, and getas. Colors range from dark and somber to bright and cheerful; doesn't seem to be a set color pattern for this style. Popular brand of choice is Takuya Angel (a frightfully expensive brand among a series of expensive brands).
Side Note: I must add that the brand Takuya Angel carries a particularly unusual clothing line - their shirts double as skirts, depending on how they are worn. It's quite interesting, actually.
Elegant Gothic Aristocrat: Abbreviated EGA. For those that don't want to look too young. These fall into two categories:
Women: Girls who carry off the EGA look are usually older (since it's incredibly hard to pull off EGL after a certain point in time). Sometimes they prefer the EGA more, sometimes they just don't have the right look for EGL (too sharp-faced, perhaps). Clothing line is heavy on black, and features long skirts, high collared-shirts, velvet, black opera gloves, corsets, etc. Makeup is heavier, leaning toward dark red and blacks, and hair is less elaborate (usually left straight). The look is that of a Victorian woman (in mourning).
Men: Guys (or girls who like the look) pull off the British aristocrat dandy thing - fancy coats, canes, cravats, top hats, the works. Don't see too much of this, though.
Kodona: Kodona is the answer to the EGL movement, but this time, for boys. Boys and girls that like the androgynous look go for this style, which tends to favor knee breeches, tweed jackets, short-sleeved shirts and ties. The essence of a Victorian boy, if you will.
Note: Black Peace Now makes particularly nice ties, but Vivienne Westwood and Ba-tsu are also popular, especially the Ba-tsu line designed by Dir en Grey. They tend to lean toward the punkish lines, though they're not actively trying to look punk.