Of Vintage Whimsy and Forest Fancy: A Glance into Mori Girl Fashion

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Earthy tones, loose-fitting layers and a love of vintage – that’s mori girl (literally ‘forest girl’) in a nutshell, and against a backdrop of other current fashion trends among young women – bleached hair, heavy make-up, high heels and miniskirts – it makes for a refreshing change.

A relatively new subculture, mori girl is a term thought to have originated from the name of a community launched in August 2006 on Japanese social networking site Mixi. The style became visible in Japanese fashion magazines during the following year, although it was not until 2009 that the first magazines geared specifically towards the style such as Mori Girl Lesson, Mori Girl Papier, and Valor began publication. Other magazines including Spoon, Fudge, and Spur have also welcomed the movement – particularly Spoon, which published a supplement called ‘Mori-Girl A to Z’ in February 2009 and chose actress and model Yuu Aoi to represent the look. It was also Yuu who portrayed art student Hagu in the 2006 live-action film version of Honey and Clover – declared to be the mori girl fictional archetype by fans – and who has since been one of the major poster girls of mori girl fashion.

63. picture2February 2009 cover of Spoon featuring Yuu Aoi

Much as the name suggests, a mori girl is, at heart, someone who supposedly looks as though she could live a serene life alone out in the forest. While this might seem a contradiction given that mainstream fashion trends tend to be born and lived out in the city, the lifestyle to which mori girls aspire is characterised by a love of peace and quiet. Exploring old neighbourhoods and hole-in-the-wall shops, going for solitary walks and expressing her creativity through photography or journaling, and living an individual life with no mind to how fashionable it might appear to anyone else are just as important as the actual clothing to mori girl devotees.

Like any other fashion trend however, the clothing still plays a significant role in how mori girls define themselves. In contrast to skin-baring or body-hugging outfits, mori girl fashion is all about keeping things loose and layered, although not necessarily heavy; the ideal image is one which should not be too weighted down or bulky, but rather light and airy with each layer purposefully adding something to the overall look – girlishly whimsical rather than Bag Lady). Tiered dresses and long A-line skirts, blouses with puffed sleeves, crocheted cardigans, draped scarves and stoles, flat shoes or boots with a rounded toe, and subtle or earthy colours are the cornerstones with which mori girls build upon. Patterns are generally kept classical and are enhanced with vintage accessories such as pocket watches and analogue cameras.

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While lace and floral prints are often a part of the aesthetic, mori girls avoid looking overly cutesy by keeping things as natural as possible. To this end, make-up is kept to a minimum and fingernails short and undecorated. Hair is often slightly wavy and highlighted with simple flower or berry-related accessories. Synthetic materials are shunned in favour of cotton and wool knits in creamy tones, although earthy browns, leafy greens and berry reds are other obvious choices.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, mori girl fashion has also spilled over into other categories like interior design, with ideal rooms being represented as wood and sun-filled havens, uncluttered but strewn about with old books, antique knick-knacks and vases filled with wildflowers – fairytale cabins which ooze old-world appeal.

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Although still in its infancy, mori girl fashion has captured the hearts of many young women looking for a simpler and more natural subculture to discover their niche in, and has already inspired its own subsets such as yama (mountain) girl, which emphasises brighter colours and greater practical functionality for hiking and trekking. Fresh and quirky but not aggressive, girly without being overly cute, the mori girl look stands out from other street fashions by contrast alone and, if the many blogs and forum threads dedicated to the style are anything to go by, is one style that’s here to stay.

Question of the post: What do you think of mori girl fashion? Is it a breath of fresh air compared to other fashion trends like gyaru and lolita, or do you find its relative simplicity a little old-fashioned or dull?

17 thoughts on “Of Vintage Whimsy and Forest Fancy: A Glance into Mori Girl Fashion

  1. I’m a fan. It’s obviously a bit calculated and contrived, but what fashion isn’t?

    How long until we start seeing mori girls headlining anime instead of schoolgirls?


    1. “How long until we start seeing mori girls headlining anime instead of schoolgirls?”

      Probably the same day that mori girl stops being a fashion and starts becoming a fetish.


    1. I think I do as well, at least on a personal basis. Although since I very rarely wear anything related closely to Japanese street fashion myself, I often find the bolder/weirder/uglier fashion trends more interesting just in terms of research and people-watching.


  2. What sort of fashion styles are Japanese male youth currently into now? I don’t remember much on clothing, although I recall host club style mullets being somewhat popular.


    1. I think it really depends on where in Japan they are and what they’re into. In some cases the whole host look is pretty popular, but I’ve also seen a lot of guys who favour the whole hip-hop image.


      1. Could you do an article on the latest male youth fashion as well? i think it would be good to compare male and female fashion in Japan.


  3. Of all the fashion styles out there, while this one might not be my favorite, it’s the one I feel I could best embrace. It tends to feel a lot more subtle than the LOOK AT ME approach many other fashions have. However, at some point subtle is just dull–it seems people serious about this look would be willing spend a pile of money on it just like any other big fashion commitment.


    1. Yeah, I would think that any specific fashion trend that anyone seriously committed to would end up being fairly expensive, regardless of how subtle the general look is.


  4. I’d think girls into the Mori girl fashion would take inspiration from British muslin dresses from the 1700s – 1800s, because that’s what that looks like to me. I think the proper name for that era in British history is the Regency. Now, if these so-called Mori girls started making their own clothes from scratch, that’d just be cool! For material, they should also look into antique calico prints. (I sew clothes for myself. So, um, heh.)


    1. Oh yeah, and plaids too! Get you some Scot tartans and make you a dress and matching cape out of it! Oh, that’d be awesome!


      1. I think we’re thinking about different dresses. I’m not referring to what I call the ballroom dresses but rather the everyday wear made from muslin. Its hard to discuss without photo examples.



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