Bodikon (ボディコン), or often referred to as “Bubble Queen” style post-Bubble, is a style and increasingly a general aesthetic, that was centered around the distinctive style of dress by the same name, the bodycon, (of which its name is a shortening of the pronunciation of the English words "body conscious"), but was not entirely based around the dress, and would come to include the general female fashion of the Bubble Economy period.
The style was most popular in the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s (usually around the period late 1985 to 1991 at the peak of its popularity). This style was influenced by the Japanese economy at this time, as well as the widespread popularity of dance-based nightlife in Japan in the 1980s and 1990s (especially venues playing Italo Disco, City Pop, Eurobeat, Hyper Techno/TechPara, and later House music). There are also parallels with the mid-1980s Japanese trend of the satirisation and exaggeration of American fashion and lifestyles.
The body-conscious fashion presented by Azzedine Alaía at the 1981 Milan Collection was the first of many experimental designs to attract attention internationally. By the mid-1980s (especially from the autumn of 1985 onwards following the signing of the Plaza Accord), Japan had reached its economic peak in what became known as the “Bubble Economy”, and Japanese companies, suddenly with a large amount of money to spend, were known to give generous budgets to the uniforms of female employees, representing at that point the fact a then-unprecedented number of women had entered the workforce. In some estimates, 1/3 of those women worked as an “Office Lady” or “OL” for short. The OL was usually a young woman, usually around 20-25, who kept care of her appearance, performed secretarial work, and was obedient to her male colleagues. They were by intention meant to represent a beautiful image in order to represent the office, often called an “Office Flower”. Combining with the image-obsessed general feeling of the period, as well as the boom of the Japanese city of Kobe as a hub of fashionable young women (in a style called the Kobe-Kei New-Tora) a strong desire for luxury, sexy, daring and flashy fashion grew amongst Japanese women. Ironically, despite an increasing social progress of feminism, Japan had entered an era in which women were trying to regain their sensual femininity. A key selling point of the Bubble Queen/Bodikon style was its sexy appeal, enhanced by the brash sexual style of flattering lines to the body and usage of neon, colourful designs, as well as the booming “Disco” scene in Roppongi, an area of central Tokyo that grew increasingly in popularity. Clubs like the Maharaja chain and later Juliana’s (in the early 1990s) were central meeting areas for those participating the now-mainstream style. The Maharaja chain of discothéques was hugely influential on the style. It was here that the fan-waving trend popular in the aesthetic started, when maikos (young Geishas) would go to the local Kyoto branch of Maharaja carrying feathered fans. Increasingly from 1987 onwards, women would dance in synchronised dance routines called “Para-Para” or more often at this point a hyper-Techno form of it, later known as “TechPara”. Wearing their bodikon fashion, women (especially in Juliana’s) would often dance a mixture of freestyle dancing (influenced by the rave scene in the West) and this new Para dancing, on the otachidai (a kind of platform in the club satircally named after the platform where the Imperial Family would appear, reflecting how the Bubble customer was expected to be treated like royalty) often driving male crowds crazy. The Japanese media covered this extravagant partying extensively, angering Traditionalists in the ruling political party, the LDP, and combining with the lax and sexual atmosphere in the Roppongi scene as opposed to other more formal nightlife areas, created a misguided impression of Juliana’s being some kind of strip club and therefore the fashion as that of strippers, ultimately leading to the demise of Juliana’s.
Additionally, “DC” (abbreviation for “Designer” and “Character”) brands began to take off from the early 1980s, and their youth-led, Shibuya-based stores began to sell Bodikon clothes marketed towards the young and affluent workforce that post-war Japan had produced. These affordably priced clothes began to permeate throughout the country and became a cultural staple of what the “Bubble-era” (The era in which the Bubble Economy took place in, 1985-1991) is remembered as in its legacy by the Japanese. There were also influences of 1950s revival, apparent in the glamorous hairstyles popular amongst Japanese women and usage of furs, as well as the briefly-popular “1950s” Bodikon style. This was most likely caused by the re-airing of popular 1950s movies such as “Kimi No Na Wa” (Your Name, 1953) by NHK in 1985 and 1986. Also called the “New Rich”, “Executive Woman”, and more commonly nowadays the “Bubble Queen” (a combination of “Bubble Economy” and “Disco Queen”, a notable party subculture amongst young women in the late 1980s around clubs in Tokyo and Osaka) style, the general aesthetic faded quickly after the rapid collapse of the Bubble Economy in early 1992. This was due to a variety of reasons, including the sudden loss of a large leisure income making luxury brands unaffordable, the decline of the optimism surrounding the Japanese economy, the closure of many clubs in the Roppongi area, as well as the decline of the company in the centralisation of Japanese life (as partying such as this was hugely based around company hours and often paid for by the company). Also, by late 1991 the style had become increasingly dated, Juliana’s was getting bad (previously mentioned above) publicity, and it had become so mainstream that it began to be viewed as “tacky” and “trashy” by the new trendsetters emerging from areas such as Harajuku and Shibuya, where the short-lived “Shibuya casual” movement sought to remove the glamour of Bodikon, The style had visibly disappeared from the streets by mid-1992, but was still in some kind of existence, especially in clubs, until early 1994 before finally vanishing. However, the influence of Bubble Queen/Bodikon style can be seen in the late 1990s styles of Gyaru, where the party-influenced culture and sexiness appeal is reflected. Additionally, many of the pioneers of Gyaru originally started out dancing in the Juliana’s discothéque, where lots of influence came from.
Make-up included scarlet lipstick, bushy (or generally thick) eyebrows, and wavy long hair. This could include straight or curled bangs, often sitting at the top of the head. Blue eyeshadow was very popular also, and especially from 1989 onwards there was an increase in pink lipstick. This formed part of what became known as the “Wanren” bodycon look and attracted a lot of attention from onlookers.
With regards to clothing, the iconic Bodycon dress was extremely popular. It was almost always a neon or a generally colourful colour, and a mini dress that emphasized the lines of the body, capturing the femininity of the body. However, it was initially only worn in discotheques and disco halls, before later being popularised as fashion wearable on the steeet. Furs and gold jewellery would be worn alongside Bodycon dresses, often with luxury bags (such as Louis Vuitton) and gold chains. There were numerous styles of Bodycon dresses, including the “Sexy Bodycon” style of string-bikinis and transparent dresses popular in clubs but inappropriate to wear on the street, but by far the most popular style was the One-Line style ( ワンレン・ボディコン), which was a little bit more conservative than Western bodycon, but was intended to be a “mature” and “sophisticated” style with a closely-fitting dress, or a suit-set, that was usually in one bright colour and uniform enough to pass for office-wear.
Other pieces of clothing apart from the signature Bodycon dress that formed part of the aesthetic included the “power suit”, often colourful and with shoulder pads. This was considered a status symbol of business success for women, a highly desirable attribute amidst the success of the Bubble Economy. Sometimes a picture pattern, such as a pattern of Tokyo’s neon lights, would be worn on a power suit, but it was not super common. Power suits were worn nearly everywhere in daily life, from job interviews to nightlife to housework.
Miniskirts were also popular, though usually paired with long stockings and gold chains.
Both “collection” brands and the DC brands in the relatively easy-to-purchase price range became popular due to the demand in the student disco party and office scene. In particular, Pinky & Diane was worn by so many people that it was called the "pin-die phenomenon." Reflecting the new-found wealth of the Japanese, luxury goods and their brands were a key part of the aesthetic. At one point, any foreign brand was popular. Often, Japanese women would go to European countries and America, and sometimes Hong Kong if they were “poorer” (by Bubble Economy standards) to shop for luxury goods to wear. These included things from handbags, to necklaces, to even makeup, to the dresses themselves.
- Alpha Cubic
- Junko Shimada
- Pinky & Diane
- Azzedine Alaia
- Louis Vuitton
- ”DC” brands (often these were independent stores and chains)