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A Shop in Wonderland customer in a dress by Metamorphose.

Nestled on the second floor of a shopping center in Bellaire is Shop In Wonderland, that most unexpected and fantastical shop within a coterie of Asian retail outlets, bakeries and restaurants. This is Houston's darling home of Japanese Lolita fashion, a boutique so precious I found myself oohing and ahhing aloud as I took in the styles on display. Doll-inspired dresses filled the room, some embellished with a delicate lace trim and others were made up of ornate patterns. Each piece reminded me of a different fairytale. I fell down the rabbit hole.

Lolita is an iconic and cultural style that emerged from Japanese street fashion. The clothes typically embody the aesthetic of a doll. Much of it is hyper-feminine and inspired by Victorian fashion, with plenty of frills, ribbons and lace, though the vibe can range from gothic to royal-inspired. It's not a style that Houstonians see too often on the streets. That is precisely why Deneice ‘Trinity’ Leigh opened Shop in Wonderland in 2015.

“Finding Lolita fashion has always been a severe issue for fans outside of Japan,” said shop manager Daniela Michel. “What is worse is not having the capability to feel and try on the clothing. Taking the risk of using shopping services also makes the fashion really difficult to obtain. Having a local store in the states gives U.S. residents a huge help in shopping for Lolita.”

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Michel got into the Lolita look out of curiosity, but soon found that she constantly looked out for unique pieces to add to her own wardrobe. “It is a hidden quirk I have when it comes to fashion and Lolita fulfills it perfectly,” she says. Knowing that no one else has the same pieces created an exciting sense of individualism, which is precisely what Lolita fashion is about.

The boutique acquires all of their dresses directly from Japan. They currently carry brands such as Angelic Pretty, Metamorphose, Atelier Boz, Putumayo and Triple Fortune, ranging in price anywhere from about $100 up to $500 or more. To attract new and aspiring Lolitas, the boutique hosts monthly workshops, holiday events and most recently an end-of-the-year tea party to bring the entire Houston-based Lolita community together. 

“Houston is home to many aspiring and old school Lolitas [and] also possesses many who love Japanese culture,” Michel says. “It may not have yet reached to the level of New York or San Francisco, but plunging straight into the middle of the U.S. only proves that Lolita is far from dying.” 

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