What is Dolly Kei?
Dolly Kei is a japanese fashion inspired by vintage and antique dolls, vintage and antique 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", 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 (akin to mori girl and cult party), 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 Cult Party. Like Mori and Cult Party (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, the store at the fore-front is obviously Grimore, the brain-child of Dolly Kei icon (we could say icon here?) Hitomi Nomura, who a lot of people would give credit for to really popularizing the fashion and coining the term itself. A lot of other stores are popular (Virgin Mary [who prefer to call their style Cult Party Kei], Nude Trump, Rosy Baroque, Cabaret, Tarock, Mad Tea Party), but Grimoire, with it's museum-like interior and hand selected and recontructed vintage items, still serves as the home base, along with her 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 purchase 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).
While dolly certainly isn't "brand-centric", there are some related brands that certainly have a home within the style:
*Dolly, Rathiel du Dolly, and Verum - All Grimoire and Grimoire Almadel "house brands" *Reinette et Mirabelle - most famous for their butterfly and bottle pieces, available through Grimoire. *Vicious Sabrina - Natural Science themed pieces, available through Grimoire. *Incomplete Alchemist - Crosses the lines of both Dolly and Cult Party, available on their own site and through Mad Tea Party. *MeTA - Crosses and plastic doll heads, very much Cult Party but some pieces cross over.
A few of my favorite pictures:
Official Grimoire Website
Grimoire Blog (Lots of pics and inspirations, plus shop link)
TokyoFashion.com - Grimoire
La Carmina's article on Dolly kei
Adding more links!