Himekaji (it's basically pronounced how it's spelled! hee-meh-ka-gee) translates to princess (姫) casual (カジュアル). I think of it as the toned down version of himegyaru. Like, what a princess would wear when she's "off duty" & doesn't have to worry about royal responsibilities - just casually having tea or hanging out. It's girly and cute and very feminine. You'll likely see a lot of floral, neutral colors, lace and bows, but it's not as OTT as himegyaru.
But let's back up just a little. Himekaji is a substyle of the overall Japanese fashion genre "gyaru". There are many substyles of gyaru and a lot of them are quite different, but some staple ideas (concerning the fashion aspect) that you'll tend to see throughout them are:
- Clothes that flatter your body,
- Tendency to be outside the "norm" of everyday fashion,
- & Typically heels/shoes with a boost to help elongate your legs.
When you want to start going into himekaji specifically, keep the principles of general gyaru style coordinates in mind and then additionally:
Typical features more specific to himekaji -
(photos all from Liz Lisa AW14 listings at Tokyo Kawaii Life)
- Light colored florals, usually with roses, in medium scale (not too small, not too huge)
- Neutral colors, pastels: dusty/light pink, beige, brown, baby blue, white
- Check/plaid/argyle patterns
- Lace, frill, ribbon/bow, flower, ruffle details
- Jumper skirts/suspender skirts
- Sailor collars
- Set ups (matching top and bottom)
- Pom poms details/(faux) fur details
- Ribbon tie backs/emphasis on flattering the waist area
- "Corset"/lace up detailing
- Cardigans and knits
- Gold accents/accessories
Generally, I wouldn't do too much black though. Himegyaru can definitely incorporate black but personally I find himekaji not to include black clothes or detailing too much.
Typical himekaji brands (just to give you a general idea of what the clothes might look like) are Liz Lisa, Tralala's Penderie, DreamV (particularly DearMyLove) and Ank Rouge. Most of their clothes are mainstream himekaji and you'll likely have an easy time creating himekaji coordinates with items from these brands.
Most of my personal himekaji outfit examples are created with brand (majority Liz Lisa) but that's just the clothes I have to work with and clothes that I enjoy wearing. I don't consider it a waste of money or time, especially because I mostly purchase during sales of 40% off or more. If you can find similar pieces elsewhere, that's great!
Where can I find himekaji clothes outside of Japan?/Where can I buy off brand clothes that will fit into the style?
As far as I know, there isn't a non-Japanese one-stop-shop that you can go to that will just have all the items you need for himekaji if you're not purchasing (Japanese) brand without even trying. Like I said earlier, it's generally easier to create coordinates if you're buying from a specifically themed store/brand because they do function as a one-stop-shop. It's not super easy to find items that are similar to brand items but not brand items internationally, and it's going to take a bit more effort on your part to browse and shop with a keen eye. I think the best advice I can give is to have a really good idea of what you're looking for (is it a certain kind of floral? is it a particular color scheme? a top with a certain cut? a lace detail?) when you're shopping and focus on that. It can be hard because these stores will often style for the American (or whatever country you're in) customer who likely coordinate quite differently than you might for himekaji. Places like Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe have cheap clothes that could certainly possibly work for himekaji if you pick and coordinate them carefully.
Local boutiques and thrift stores are apparently other good places to look. The items are never going to be exactly the same, and especially for dresses, not very close for prints and colors to what you'd get with brand, but you're also not paying brand pricing, so you're getting what you pay for. I don't personally spend a lot of time going to places like that myself (since I do buy brand fairly often), but it's really up to YOU to take the initiative. You probably won't find something that works every single time you go, but that's part of the challenge of trying to find Japanese style clothes outside of Japan. On the other hand, shoes (and socks) that work well with himekaji coordinates can often be found from a number of different places and brands. They might not have the super girly details that many brand shoes tend to have, but, for example, a neutral mary jane pump can be found almost anywhere.
Another side option for customers outside of Japan that want brand items but don't want to deal with forwarding is to shop through Tokyo Otaku Mode (TOM). They have a multitude of options from Japanese fashion brands and will deliver authentic product directly to international addresses. Here are my recommended items from TOM, many of which would be suitable for himekaji coordinates!
Basics to consider starting with:
There isn't one perfect way to start building a wardrobe! Of course it's not wrong if you don't start with these things or this (light colored) color scheme. It's just important that you have items that will easily match with multiple pieces in the genre when you first start. Personally, I started by simply just purchasing pieces that I liked and when I needed something to match, purchased that as well lol.
White/neutral color button down shirt with collar and lace/frill/bow/floral details
(sorry socks do not photograph attractively)
Personal himekaji outfit examples/breakdown - I'll start with 3 of my favorites and then do some other general examples.
This is my most favorite himekaji style outfit to date. This trip to the east coast in November 2013 allowed me to layer and put together outfits that would be utterly ridiculous in Hawaii. Since I don't usually have to think about dressing for warmth, it was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to dress cute without being cold, but I think mission accomplished :O.
Easily my second favorite. This was on the same trip so that's why I'm wearing a lot of the same things lol. I had some of my best fashion moments there, and I think it's because I was forced to think about layering (so when I pulled off a layer, the outfit still made sense) ahead of time and just pulled some of the best pieces to take with me. Makes me wish I lived in a place where I could have coordinates like this all the time!
Third favorite based on everything matching so well including my phone case lol. Glad an outfit I created in Hawaii could actually make my top 3 lol. I'm also glad my hair was working with me that day for a casual shopping outfit. (Floral) jumper skirt with a (flower lace detail) collared top is an easy himekaji coordinate. Plus my nails matched :)
This is where owning pieces from all the same brand makes creating coordinates easier. Most Liz Lisa pinks match with each other. So the pink wedges easily match with the pink details in the floral of the jumper skirt and the purse.
Separates (but not set ups). Similarly to the casual shopping outfit above, just pair a cute statement print skirt with a collared shirt (or a shirt with a frill/lace detail) and voila, outfit. White tops tend to work with almost everything, but I like to take a secondary or tertiary color in the print and pick the top based on that! I like the skirt to be the focal point so although the top should have a small, special detail, the skirt is often the star of the show.
Middle: Tralala flower applique button down, Liz Lisa key motif skirt, off brand lace ankle socks and Liz Lisa 2-strap lace up back pumps
Right: Ank Rouge button down with removable bow, Ank Rouge mermaid print skirt and Liz Lisa clear pearl sandals with Liz Lisa seashell pouch
OP coordinates. These also tend to be pretty easy since the dress is already an outfit on its own.
Top Right: Liz Lisa off shoulder floral OP with ribbon tie and Flag J ankle strap pumps
Bottom Left: Liz Lisa x My Melody 5th collab OP and Liz Lisa 2-strap lace up back pumps. This one I would probably improve with an ankle sock. I personally tend to be lazy with sock accessorizing because it just feel weird in Hawaii. But since this is a long sleeve dress, the overall coordinate would probably work better with a pair of ankle socks. Liz Lisa x My Melody collab dresses tend to be pretty great representations of himekaji at its finest with the cute prints and attention to detail.
Bottom Right: Liz Lisa floral shirring off shoulder OP and Liz Lisa knot wedge sandals (with floral headband). This is one of my favorite OPs I have ever purchased from Liz Lisa. I love the colors and how they work with the print and also the general fit and length of the dress.
I don't have many real ootd pictures with outer/cardigan pieces due to the warm weather here. Please considering checking out my summer --> autumn transition outfits post for ideas about how to make warm weather himekaji clothes work for you when the temperature drops utilizing cardigans and knits. (Click the link above to quickly look at the gifs if you don't want to watch the full video.)
Set ups are basically instant outfits and great for beginners. You know they're going to match and that they look good together. Just pick a shoe and there you go! What's also great about them is that you can also use the top or bottom separately if you want to as well to create even more outfits.
Middle: Liz Lisa faux sheer overlay top and matching sukapan and Liz Lisa floral lace-up back wedge sandals
Right: Liz Lisa button down floral top and matching sukapan and Dream V heart heel mules
Incorporating OTK socks (when they aren't hidden under OTK boots). I thought I had better examples than this, but if I do, apparently I didn't take any pictures lol. I don't wear socks like this very often in Hawaii because it's just too hot, and it's not worth it. These are outfits with pieces from my Liz Lisa 2013 Royal Rose tote fukubukuro when I had a lot less brand pieces to help coordinate lol. Tbh, these are a bit weak for himekaji, but technically still work imo, and it's the best I have right now. (If I take better pictures/create better coordinates later, I'll change these out!)
Middle: Forever 21 ruffle button down top, Liz Lisa check ribbon tie back skirt, off brand OTK socks and Liz Lisa 2-strap ribbon pumps
Right: Liz Lisa sheer sleeve dot top, off brand floral sukapan, off brand OTK socks and Liz Lisa 2-strap ribbon pumps
I also think most of the outfits that I created with my 2014 Liz Lisa x My Melody collab trunk carry fukubukuro can be considered himekaji as well! (Click the link above to quickly look at the gifs if you don't want to watch the full video.) There are a few coordinates utilizing ankle socks and OTK boots in there.
These are probably not what you would typically think of when you imagine himekaji, but despite the darker (navy) color, imo they still are! You still have the collar, button down details, check pattern with ruffle and ribbon tie (on left) and lots of lace detail (on right) and overall the looks are quite sweet. Plus, the other pieces are light colored (collar and shoes / top and shoes) as well.
Right: Liz Lisa puff sleeve blouse, Liz Lisa flower lace detail flare skirt and Liz Lisa two-strap lace up back pumps
EDIT: Since creating this post, I have created an Instagram account (@_emiii_chan) and have been posting a lot of OOTDs there as well that you might find useful :). I've also been trying to do a (monthly) OOTD post here on my blog as well if you don't have an IG account. And, of course, I also post OOTDs/coordinates on Tumblr! Not every single one of my OOTDs will fall under the himekaji umbrella, but I think it will be fairly easy to discern the ones that do and the ones that don't lol.
For outfit inspiration, I tend to look towards LL Gals and Liz Lisa shop staff (since I wear a lot of Liz Lisa pieces). I go to the staff snaps at lizlisa.com and the various shop staff blogs (which tend to update about once a day or so). Even if you don't wear a lot of Liz Lisa, I feel like these are still good places to look for outfit inspo because they update regularly, and there are so many of them with gals of different body sizes and heights! Ank Rouge also has shop staff blogs as well. If you order online from any brand stores, they also typically have an outfit example in the stock photo that you might consider using for inspiration even if you don't get the other pieces from the brand.
I think the hard part of writing this post is that the things I like to wear just happen to be called himekaji. It's not like I decided I liked himekaji, and then I bought particular things and coordinated a certain way to fit the label. That's why I found it hard to put certain ideas into words. I just buy what I like and coordinate them how I think looks best and that happens to be, for the most part, himekaji! So a lot of what I wrote about and what you saw above is just how my personal style and preferences happen to fit into this genre, but not so much how himekaji defines how I dress and shop, if that makes sense. I didn't start by wardrobe with basics and trying to encompass the genre - I just bought some things that I thought were cute.
I created this post to attempt to nail down some basics if you're not sure where to start, but I think the best advice I can give is don't think too hard about getting labeled as a himekaji gal. If you like something, wear it. Please don't let it bother you that it doesn't fit into a particular "popular" style genre. I personally prefer to think of most of my outfits as "himekaji inspired" since I don't want to worry about conforming to other people's standards (in or out of the gyaru community). If it falls into the himekaji category, fine. If not, I'm still wearing clothes I look and feel awesome in, and I enjoy it. And that's why I continue to do it.
Sure, sometimes wearing clothes like this will garner a few more stares (from strangers), but that's part of wearing gyaru fashion - standing out and being different and looking fab while you're doing it. I wouldn't suggest this style for you if you are in the witness protection program or something and need to blend into the crowd and not attract any special attention to yourself. If you like what you're wearing and people are looking at you for a few extra seconds, keep your head held high, and don't let them get to you. Half the time, I'm sure they're probably not thinking anything negative anyway so there's no need to feel so insecure. It's generally easier to wear gyaru fashion if you've already got a bit of confidence, but what will help is taking a solid look at yourself in the mirror from all angles before you leave the house and giving yourself a nod of approval and knowing that you look great that day :)
There are so many different ways to just start making style changes, and you'll know what's best for you! Good luck!
Hope this post is at least a little helpful. Leave me some suggestions if you think I should add anything!
Please also check out my Himekaji style with shoes (sneakers and flat boots) blog post!