Not since Lolita has a fashion or trend made me gasp in delight! Dolly Kei (also called Dolly Fashion or Antique Dolly Style) pretty much embodies everything I love: Antique and Vintage, Creepy and Beautiful.
So...what is it?
Dolly Kei is a japanese fashion inspired by vintage and antique dolls, vintage clothing, Grimm's fairytales, the victorian era, gypsies, romance, goth, and very old clothing styles from eastern Europe. I would say you can even see bits of rococo and Alice influences in it. While there isn't set list of Dolly Kei "rules"due to how new the fashion is, the look is charactorized by layering and volume (think "more is more"), patterns, mixing of textures, fur, embroidery, tapestry, lace, flowers and accessories which tend to be on the large and creepy side. It's not umcommon to see Dolly outfits accessorized with large crosses and other religious relics, vintage toys, or even bones and doll parts. So far as colour-palate is concerned, there's seems to be two schools: light and airy whites and pastels, and deep dark jewel-tones and black. The over-all look is unusual, very striking, creepy, cute, and hauntingly lovely.
In relation to lolita and other japanese substyles:
Dolly Kei is probably closest related to Mori (forest) Girl, and a lot of the time I honestly don't see the difference. Like Mori Girl (and unlike a lot of japanese fashions), there's less focus on brand as the style relies almost solely on vintage and antique pieces, and items that are hand-made and reconstructed. Unique and one-of-a-kind items are very encouraged. It could also be said that Dolly Kei is related to Lolita, in that you do see a lot of influence from victorian, doll and "days of yore" fashion. But unlike lolita, there is less focus on "kawaii" and youth, and the pieces and clothing in a Dolly Kei wardrobe look much more battered, worn and distressed. You want your Dolly Kei pieces to look old. Also, unlike lolita, there is no set hemline. You can have your dresses and skirts mini all the way to floor-length. The same goes for heel height on your shoes. As I mentioned before, Dolly kei doesn't really rely on rules where lolita is steeped in them.
Where do I shop?
In Japan, he store at the fore-front is obviously Grimore, the brain-child of Dolly Kei darling Hitomi Nomura, who a lot of people would give credit for to really popularizing the fashion. A lot of other stores are rising up (Virgin Mary [though they prefer to call the style Cult Party Kei], Nude Trump, Cabaret, Tarock, Rosy Baroque), but Grimoire, with it's museum-like interior and hand selected and recontructed vintage items, still seems to reign supreme. They have started shipping online (you can get Hitomi's hand-made pieces under her "Dolly" label) But really...
You can shop anywhere and everywhere! The beautiful thing about Dolly Kei is that you can literally purchse pieces for your look anywhere. Vintage/antique and consignment shops are probably your best bet, but you can also find items at flea markets, craft stores and other mainstream shops (H&M is great for this).
A few of my favorite pictures:
The lighter colour-palate:
Grimoire Blog (Lots of pics and inspirations, plus shop link)
La Carmina's article on Dolly kei
Adding more links!