kawaii Barbie toys

What Is Kawaii Style? & How To Be Kawaii In 2023?

Are you a fan of cute, colorful, and playful fashion? Then you might want to learn more about kawaii style. Kawaii is a modern Japanese word that evolved from ancient Japanese with its meaning changing from shy, little to cute and adorable. It’s also a cultural phenomenon that has influenced Japan and the world. In this article, let's learn about Japanese kawaii culture, from its history to its subcultures.

What is Kawaii culture& fashion?

kawaii girl walking on the street illustration

The word Kawaii evolved from the original word "Kawayushi", meaning embarrassed, shy, vulnerable, lovable, and small. Nowadays, Kawaii is roughly translated to "cute". This frequently used word is more than just a word that is used to describe something adorable or cute-it is also a widely celebrated popular cultural style.
The Kawaii fashion trend has become extremely popular within the last 3 decades, with the rising of the Japanese anime industry, video game industry, and fashion development. There are several very iconic clothing that indicates the Kawaii culture. They are typically colorful, and vibrant, with childlike vibes, sometimes exaggerated anime outfits.
For accessories, there are also cultural features that make people Kawaii. For example, headbands with furry bunny ears, kitty ears, or fox ears. Accessories with glitter, hearts, stars, etc.

History of Kawaii

The origin of the word "Kawaii" has a long history that dates back to the Heian Period, which is roughly the late 8th century to late 12th century. It is the variation of the word "Kawayushi".
As the literal word evolved and the meaning changed to embarrassing, small, cute, and lovable. Eventually, it transferred into the word Kawaii.
By the 1970s, the target group of the Kawaii culture grew from young middle school teenage girls to more massive people.

Development of Kawaii culture

Girls' illustrations are an early artistic form of kawaii. Yumeji Takehisa’s illustrations on “chiyogami” woodblock prints, merged East and West, using round eyes in his work to represent innocence and youth. There is a distinct Western influence present today; the big, round eyes are a result of the interaction between Japan and America during World War II.
Before 19702, the target audience of Kawaii was younger school girls. Targeted teens with drawings and cosplaying as a fashion trend. And cute dresses, accessories, and objects consisted of the early Kawaii market in Japan
When it turned to the 1970s, rounding writing became popular in Japanese schools, teenage girls would use cute symbols and text "emoji" to decorate the writing.
Probably one of the most important figures of Kawaii, Hello Kitty, was created in 1974. It is one of the most famous cat figures in the whole world in around 130 countries. It was a character with big eyes and a big head, a small nose, it was of normal ratio and proportion, yet still was very cute and lovely. It was extremely popular transcending age and gender until today.

Kawaii fashion features

kawaii fashion

The features of Kawaii fashion clothing are colorful, vibrant, anime-resembling, and high school-age girls style. The costumes fit well with the body shape but they aren't revealing at all.
For accessories, there are also classic features that make people Kawaii. For example, headbands with animal tails or ears of foxes, bunnies, or kitties. Garments like accessories with glitter, hearts, stars, etc.

Branches of Kawaii culture

One of the most fascinating aspects of kawaii culture is how it has influenced and diversified into various subgenres that reflect different aspects of Japanese society and culture. There are some fashion subgenres below:

  • JK is the abbreviation of the Japanese word “Joshi Koukousei”, which means Japanese female high school students. JK uniforms are the school uniforms worn by these students, and they usually consist of plaid skirts, blouses, ties, and socks. JK uniforms have become very popular in China in recent years, especially among young women who have graduated from college.A Japanese girl wear a high school uniform


  • Lolita is a fashion style inspired by Victorian-era dress and kawaii elements. Lolita has several substyles, such as sweet, gothic, and classic, that express different moods and personalities.Japanese girl wear lolita dress
  • Decora is a style that involves wearing colorful and cute accessories, such as hair clips, bracelets, necklaces, etc. Decora is often associated with Harajuku street fashion and music genres such as J-pop and visual kJapanese girl wear a Decora dress

However, kawaii culture is not limited to fashion. It also has a significant impact on animation, movies, and other cultural events. For instance, kawaii characters such as Hello Kitty, Pikachu, and Totoro are widely recognized and loved by people around the world.
Therefore, these subgenres of kawaii culture demonstrate the diversity and creativity of Japanese pop culture and its global appeal.

Why is Kawaii not only popular in Japan but all around the world?

Why can Japanese Kawaii culture be spread wide across the world? It is probably because Kawaii was a massive and critically influential cultural trend domestically, and as the Japanese films, cartoons, and production industries took the lead in the 1970s, Kawaii culture was output as Japanese culture to the Western world.
Later, as the ACG(anime music), movie industry, cartoon industry, and video game industry developed quickly and Japan become one of the top tiers in those industries, Kawaii elements were culturally exported to the rest of the world along with the works, productions and products.

kawaii girls illustrations
The other reason is that due to the interaction of WWII, the Japanese and the U.S. has implicit cultural exchanges, meanwhile, after WWII, the Japanese took in Western culture rapidly, and the mixing of Japanese culture and Western culture made it easier for Western people to accept Japanese culture later. The most direct result of the cultural export of Japanese was that Kawaii become a viral culture all around the world.
A smaller but probably significant reason for women is that in the 1970s, the rise of feminism also invoked the spread of Kawaii's trend. Because Kawaii is all about women and girls, it is about being young and energetic, and friendly to people around. Kawaii itself was a very attractive culture, which led to so many girls being fond of it since it makes them confident in such a biased society.

How to Be Kawaii?

Being Kawaii is all about being cute and adorable. Looking Kawaii is not enough, you have to stay energetic, polite, and nice, so everyone around you will feel delighted. Remember, always stays energetic and friendly, just like the characters in mangas.

Kawaii clothing

Wear anime graphic t-shirts or oversized sweaters with soft prints. JK(Japanese high school girl uniform) and Lolita dresses, which both indicate energetic and young school girls, are also very popular. Pastel colors are required because they create child-like cute fashion vibes.
Also, notice that Kawaii-style clothing shouldn't be revealing too much. They fit body shape perfectly well but they are less related to sexy elements.

Kawaii makeup

  • Use a light coverage foundation that looks natural
  • Kawaii style tends to favor lipsticks to be light and indistinct. Remember not to match lipsticks with heavy, swanking, and obvious colors.
  • When you're putting makeup on to be Kawaii, you will want your eyes to be big, round, and energetic. Use light and pastel-colored eyeliner and colorful eye shadow to create that feeling
  • Make sure your nails are neat or painted in light colors

kawaii makeup

Kawaii Accessories

kawaii accessories bracelet

Nowadays, there are many ways to express your Kawaii hobbits. How about some Kawaii stuffed animals? Come to PlushThis for some cute Kawaii stuffed animals! We not only have the best fabrics, stuffing, and outstanding industrial manufacturing, but we also have excellent Kawaii designs. The designs are diverse, cute, and adorable; and they will fulfill all your needs, whether for decoration or for cuddling.



The article introduces Kawaii culture thoroughly and elaborates on the development and different historical factors. Also, the article guides several ways to be Kawaii and how to fit into the circle. Last but not least, don't forget to come over to PlushThis for the cutest stuffed animals!




Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Holiday Sale Plushies :)

Great news!

Offer 1: PlushThis is currently offering buy 1 get 1 50%off on everything. Promo Code: BESTGIFTS

Offer 2: Get Free shipping over $39.99 worldwide.

All two offers are applicable at the same time. 

Valid from December 1, 2023 - January 10, 2024