What's the allure of this collection, you may ask. After all, $50 will get you a range of items, including Bodyline dresses, brand socks and accessories, and plenty of jewelry. But these published items, while not wearable, are a part of the Lolita culture. The magazines are straight from Japan, and are in fact, in Japanese completely. But because they're from Japan, you get to see what the latest trends are on the streets of Harajuku. Often, brands will also buy up ad space in these magazines (or Mooks - magazine/book hybrid) to showcase their newest items, before they even go up on the internet.
KERA is the premiere J-fashion magazine available. It began in 1998 and has been publishing monthly ever since. KERA features lolita style as well as other J-fashions like Hime Gyaru, Mori Girl, Dolly Kei, Ageha, Pop Kei, Visual Kei, Decora, etc. It's still a mostly picture-based magazine, and still in Japanese. There are ads for lolita brands as well as other shops that sell the aforementioned non-lolita styles. Street snaps, make-up and hair tutorials, articles on musicians in the fashion world, and so much more. There are a bunch of other spin off publications from KERA, including Maniax, BOYS, Snap, and the ever-so-popular Gothic and Lolita Bible. The articles are in Japanese and often feature fashion icons such as Misako Aoki, Nana Kitade, and Ana Tsuchiya on their covers.
Yes, they really are all in Japanese. And no, I can't read it, not a bit. So then why would I buy it? I can't read anything in it, so what's really the point? Well, the pictures of course!! Taken by professionals, photoshopped beyond recognition, and finally decorated with oodles of sparkles and hearts. There really isn't another magazine quite like the Gothic and Lolita Bible (GLB) in regards to their photography. In addition to the actual pictures with models, GLB acts as a seasonal catalogue, showing the latest series from Japanese brands. There are also hair and make-up tutorials (with step-by-step pictures, no translating necessary!) and crafting/sewing patterns. The sewing patterns do need to be translated, but often someone will post that information up online somewhere.
However, there is one option available in English. A few years ago, Tokyopop decided to release a version of the Gothic and Lolita Bible in English with content designed specifically for western Lolitas. They completed five volumes before canceling the project. These are somewhat rare now, but every once and awhile, one will pop up for sale somewhere. The English version contains similar content to the Japanese one. Both have street snaps, advertisements for Japanese brands, catalogue sections, patterns, and hair/makeup tutorials. The patterns and sewing instructions are in English for these, making them an excellent resource for DIYers.
While the Japanese bible contains articles related to places in Tokyo, events in Japan, and other things Japanese girls might want to check out, the English bible created content for the American and European readers. They covered a few conventions and events held in America and Europe, and spotlighted designers that have become known as the "American Brands" (Megan Maude, Candy Violet, Sweet Rococo). Some content was directly brought over from the original, but the editors of the English version of the bible were quite successful in writing original content for their bibles. For example, the one above on the right is the "flower issue." It contains recipes for flower-themed sweets (candied rose petals!), a tutorial on making roses out of ribbon, and a quiz to see what flower you are. Because the English bibles were all published in 2008 and 2009, they're somewhat outdated now. But they're still fun to flip through occasionally and worth their inflated prices.
Here's my current collection of publications. It's still quite small. The first English GLB got a little cut off, and I have the newest KERA in the mail. I keep them in a plastic box to protect them from getting bent, dusty, and being nommed on by kitties. I most recently acquired my first Japanese GLB, and I have to say, I've really missed them since Tokyopop stopped making them. Even though I can't read it, the pictures tell the story of Lolita in Japan, which I just love. If you're looking to get some Japanese magazines for yourself, there are a few different places to look. If you live in a very big city that has a Japanese book store then you're really lucky! You can probably get it there! I believe Kinokuniya has these in stock. You can also order from Tokyo Rebel or through a shopping service in Japan. Finally, you can buy old editions of KERA, GLB, and brand catalogues on the EGL Comm Sales, though they may not come with the stickers/patterns/other goodies that are sometimes in these. In fact, all of my Japanese brand catalogues are from EGL comm sales and are secondhand.
Does this make you want to start collecting these items? Maybe not, but that's okay. There are plenty of better things to spend your money on in the world of Lolita. Still, I hope I've given you a better understanding and appreciation of these items and why they exist. Feel free to email me at email@example.com or let me know on my Formspring with any questions or comments you've got!