Sasa Stickings Cheung, she doesn’t like to broadcast her age, has been wearing Ouji for almost two years. She first started wearing Lolita in 2014, then transitioned to Ouji, which is a Boystyle fashion of Lolita. Cheung watches young women dressed in maid uniforms bustling around the room getting orders in Uncle Tetsu’s Angel Café on Dundas Street West Toronto, Ontario. A young-looking girl gives us our menus and scurries off.
Cheung laughs and reads the menu our server gives us. She wears a red, shimmer, see-through blouse with frills in the middle. Her sleeves stop three quarters away from her wrists. Over her blouse she wears a black vest with three silver buttons on each side. Cheung wears long, black trousers and black combat boots. Her black, frilly parasol is beside her because of the harsh downpour that happened an hour ago. Cheung’s coord is made by her. Coord is short for coordinate or coordination and this word is used for a good Ouji or Lolita outfit.
Ouji, Japanese for “Prince,” is a fashion sub-style under the umbrella of Boystyle, a Japanese street fashion. Some people who believe Boystyle is the male counterpart of Lolita because Boystyle is influenced by young male fashion from the Victorian Era. Lolita is influenced by young women’s fashion from the Victorian Era and the Rococo Era. Others don’t see a connection between the two fashion styles because Boystyle doesn’t follow the rule of wearing a bell-shaped petticoat. However, like Lolita, Boystyle is gender-free and anyone can wear it.
Boystyle has a few sub-styles, but the most popular styles are Ouji and Aristocrat. Ouji is known to be childish and incorporate prince-like elements such as crowns or satin capes into their coords. There’s poofy pumpkin shorts with either tights or stockings underneath them. Blouses have frills, ruffles or jabot. Vests are worn during warmer weather, while a swallow tail jacket or blazer is worn during colder weather. Ouji can also be themed; aside from dressing like a prince there can be pirate Ouji, punk Ouji or sweet Ouji.
On the other hand, Aristocrat is the mature sub-style in Boystyle. This sub-style draws its influences from the Gothic Victorian era. The sub-style is known for dark colours, long dark trousers or skirts, high-necked collars, frilly blouses, jabots and jackets.
Caitlin Mackrill, 19, has been wearing Lolita for five years. She was introduced to Lolita through Anime and likes to wear Classical Lolita. These past six months, she started wearing Ouji because she thinks the sub-style is cool. Because Mackrill likes the Classical Lolita look, she likes Aristocrat’s sophisticated, adult look, but she wears mostly Ouji coords.
When she feels feminine on certain days, she wears Lolita; on other days when she feels masculine she wears Ouji. Mackrill feels a boost of confidence when wearing the two styles, but whenever she wears Ouji she feels cooler, and in Lolita she feels prettier.
Another aspect Mackrill likes about the Ouji fashion is putting a feminine touch to the outfit, “You can wear your hair long, wear high heels and wear hourglass fitting clothes,” she explains.
Mackrill believes wearing Ouji is easier compared to Lolita because there’s little to no emphasis on accessories while wearing Ouji. However, Trillainna Stanton disagrees on Ouji being easier to wear compared to Lolita.
Trillainna Stanton, 27, who goes by the nickname Rain online, started out wearing Lolita in 2007, then transitioned to Boystyle. Now it’s part of her everyday wardrobe. She likes to wear pirate Ouji and is a member of an online group filled with people wearing Boystyle called Palace of Princes. During high school, she wore Lolita accessories not knowing what the fashion was until she bought a few dresses. This prompted her to research the style, then she started wearing Lolita. When Rain began working in Biotechnology, it required her to wear pants. So she decided to wear Aristocrat at work; this made her start wearing Boystyle both at work and outside of work, and Lolita outside of work.
“I always wore different dresses to express my mood for the day. I feel like they helped my social life at the time because I’m usually quiet, but my dresses have always been a nice conversation starter,” she says.
Unlike Mackrill, Rain finds wearing Boystyle more difficult than wearing Lolita because it’s a challenge to fit and match items. Ouji or Aristocrat clothing doesn’t always come as a set like Lolita where there’s a dress with a matching headdress and matching tights or stockings. There’s a size problem too because when a brand releases Ouji or Aristocrat set, there’s only one size of trousers. Usually, Boystylers end up searching for another pair of trousers to complete a coord. Another challenge is getting an Ouji or Aristocrat coord because only a few brands such as Alice and the Pirates and Atelier Boz sell Ouji and Aristocrat sub-styles.
Both Mackrill and Rain do have similar experiences while they wear either Lolita or Boystyle.
Mackrill says when people see her on the streets, they interact with her differently when she wears either Lolita or Ouji. While she wears Lolita, Mackrill gets stares and catcalls, then when she wears Ouji she gets stares too but gets asked, “Why are you wearing that?”
She likes wearing Ouji because there’s a lot of positive attention to it from within the Lolita community. “90% are Lolitas [in the Southern Ontario Lolita Facebook group], they always want to pair-up and take pictures,” Mackrill says.
Whenever she wore Lolita during meet-ups being held by the Facebook group called Southern Ontario Lolitas; she would leave early. A few months ago during the 2nd year of the International Lolita meet-up, Mackrill didn’t feel like wearing Lolita, so she wore Ouji. She was greeted with warm, excited atmosphere by the other Lolitas. She ended up staying longer during the meet.
Rain says she also has similar responses within the community and out. Outside the community people are respectful when she wears Ouji compared to Lolita. Rain always get compliments like, “You look really cool,” or “I like your outfit.” While in Lolita she gets the usual questions, “Why are you dressed up?” or “Are you in a play?” Rain believes people who sees them dressing in Boystyle tend to see the fashion unusual compared to Lolita because Lolita’s coords have vibrant prints and colours compared to some Boystyle’s coords.
Inside the community she is welcomed with positive responses by others, however, Rain says her and other Boystylers have had encounters with girls being creepy, which can be demeaning and uncomfortable. These girls would pretend that the Boystylers are replacements for their boyfriends and treat them like as accessory coords to their Lolita style.
There’s a fun activity both Lolitas and Boystylers do called Kabe-don. Kabe-don is a Japanese trend that was taken from Shoujo or Anime scenes. It’s when a man slams his hands against the wall, pinning a girl against it. This is supposed to be flirtatious and cause the girl to be flustered. Rain says Kabe-don requests are welcomed and are usually fine when it doesn’t get too creepy, and doesn’t make Boystylers feel uncomfortable.
Wardere Farah, 25, known as Wardere online, has been dressing in Ouji for a year and a half. Wardere was introduced to Lolita first by his friend Alice. Later on he was introduced to Boystyle when another friend, Clara, was wearing Ouji. He likes to wear Aristocrat and wants to make a blog dedicated to the fashion but right now he only owns a few outfits because it’s difficult to find and expensive to buy.
In the beginning, when Wardere began dressing in Boystyle he was afraid because there weren’t many men of colour wearing the style. This didn’t make him stop wearing Boystyle rather it encouraged him because he likes to break down barriers.
He remembers when the Southern Ontario Lolita Facebook group had a meet-up during December 2015. The meet-up was held at the Distillery District where it felt and looked like a winter wonderland. Wardere wore a green overcoat outfit because he wanted to be festive. He laughed when people came up to him and asked, “Do you work here?”
However, it wasn’t all laughs when an intoxicated man saw Wardere, walked up to him and called him, “Santa’s gay helper.”
“I laughed at him,” Wardere says then laughs, “what can I do? I didn’t want to make a scene.” This experience didn’t affect him, it made him appreciate the fashion more.
“I feel good, I feel nice, I feel authentic, and I feel classy.”
Sasa Stickings Cheung asks the server if any drinks contain caffeine because she has to be fully rested for the Japanese Fashion Festival that’s going to be held the next day in Mississauga.
Cheung went to Anime North for the first time in 2014. While wandering around she found a booth selling Lolita; the brand was called Julliette et Justine. One dress in particular caught her eye, and she reached for the dress to feel its fabric. She was astounded by how soft and gentle the fabric felt under her fingertips. She was also in awe at the dress’s prints. Cheung didn’t purchase the dress, because it was expensive, but it made her research the fashion, and fueled her passion in designing her own clothing line called SA Design.
For Cheung, wearing Boystyle wasn’t a drastic change from her wardrobe because she feels like a tomboy and wears boyish clothing. Just like Rain, Cheung likes to dress in pirate Ouji. When she wears it she feels powerful and has fun pretending to be a jerk.
When asked if she would ever stop wearing Ouji, Cheung widens her eyes, shakes her head. She then chuckles and smirks. She answers the question with a question of her own.
“Why would I cut off my arm?”