Wednesday, September 27, 2017

An Introduction to Mori Kei

In all of my years writing a Mori focused blog, I have yet to make an introductory post to Mori kei. This is because until recently I just didn't feel the need to. There were already hundreds of blog posts about the subject, and they covered it pretty extensively. However, most Mori blogs are starting to shut down or become inactive, so I think now is a good time for me to compile everything in one place so that none of it is lost. So, without further ado, here is an introduction to Mori kei.


Mori kei, first known as Mori Girl, was created around 2006 when a Japanese woman named Choco made a Mori girl community on Mixi (Mixi is similar to Facebook). There had been a few girls who had been wearing the style in Harajuku (the Japanese fashion district) before this, but Choco gave it an official name and created a list of rules for the style. These rules were a loose guideline, and not even the original Mori Girls followed them completely, but regardless, they gave a basis for what the style was and wasn't. "Mori" is a Japanese word meaning "forest", so the original style name was, essentially, "forest girl". The style later developed its second name, Mori Kei, kei meaning something close to "style", by those looking to make it more inclusive. It also spurred some sub-cultures, such as Hama Kei (ocean style), Yama Kei (mountain style), Dark Mori GirlMori Gyaru, and Mori Boy. However, none of these styles compared to the popularity which Mori Girl would eventually develop.

After the creation of the Mixi and Choco's list, Mori Girl quickly began to gain traction as a popular street style in Harajuku. Many street snaps appeared within the year in popular street snap magazines and on street snap websites. In addition, it soon made its debut in fashion magazines as well. Publications like Spoon, Mori Girl Lesson, and Fudge began to produce issues dedicated to the Mori style and became another basis for what the style was and was not.

(The cover page of Mori Girl Lesson Number 5)

(The cover page of a Mori Girl edition of Spoon)

Mori also found its way into media, with artists like Popoyans wearing the style and creating music inspired by it, and the anime Honey and Clover, who had a main character who wore the style.


(Honey and Clover)

Mori Girl brands also began to pop up around this time. Wonder Rocket, one of the most highly recognized Mori brands, opened its doors to Harajuku in 2007, and online shops, such as DearLi, began to appear as well. By this point, Mori Girl had become one of the most prominent Japanese fashions, rivaling those such as Dolly Kei, Cult Party Kei, Lolita, and Decora, at one point or another.

(Wonder Rocket's original store)


Some of the early "Mori girls" in Japan were interviewed in this short video. The English is very broken, but I think that the way the interviewer explains Mori is very charming, and worth a watch.

Mori Girl began to fade as a street style around 2013-2014, with street snaps beginning to slow before disappearing altogether. A lot of prominent internet Mori personalities began to deactivate their blogs around this time as well, and a lot of smaller brands disappeared. In addition, Mori officially made its exit from Harajuku in this period, with Wonder Rocket making the switch to more mainstream fashion instead of Mori catered pieces, and later closing its doors in 2017 (although its sister store Momo still remains open selling mainstream fashion pieces).  However, the fashion is still alive, although the numbers of participants have diminished greatly. Nowadays, there are still some active Mori girls in Japan, but the majority of active Mori girls are now in the international community.


Mori Kei fashion has a lot of variation. However, there are a few basics that almost always remain constant throughout the style.

1) Natural Fabrics

Mori fashion focuses on natural themes, so it is no surprise that the favored fabrics are natural as well. Things such as cotton and lace are quite popular choices, although other fabrics that may not necessarily be considered natural in composition can be used if they appear natural in looks.

2) Natural colors

The colors most often found in Mori are creams, whites, and browns. However, that doesn't mean that all colors used in Mori are beige. For a bit more variety, colors such as natural greens, lighter blues, and light pinks are popular. Patterns are acceptable as well, with florals, nature prints (such as leaves or deer), or small stripes being the most common.

3) Layers

Mori is all about layers! This is the one thing that defines the style and never changes. Whether it is simply the appearance of layers or 15 articles of clothing, the silhouette is what matters. Layers are usually asymmetrical, and a common way to achieve the silhouette is to layer multiple dresses and skirts, or for a more boyish silhouette, baggy pants and lots of shirts, scarves, and sweaters can be used.

4) Natural Hair

Hairstyles in Mori Kei are generally conservative. They can be as short as pixie cuts, or rather long, but generally, there are no unnatural hair colors or large shaved areas of hair. However, there are Mori folk who do wear their hair in more wild styles, which can also work with the fashion. However, the traditional Mori hairstyles are rather simple.

5) Minimal makeup (or none at all)

The general rule for Mori Kei and makeup is that your face should look as natural as possible. Rosy cheeks are a popular touch, as well as natural lip colors and minimal eye makeup. Some Mori Folk prefer to ditch makeup altogether. There have been cases where people have worn more intense makeup looks, such as fawn inspired makeup, but the general rule is the less makeup the better.

6) Nature-themed accessories

Mori accessories tend to focus on natural themes: a mushroom necklace, rose earrings, flower crowns, and other similar motifs. Gold is the most popular metal used, especially when it looks weathered, although silver can be used as well. Overall, mori accessories are simply meant to carry on the forest theme.

7) Practical shoes

Mori girls tend to like shoes made of natural material, or shoes that would work well in nature. For instance, boots are a popular choice of shoe. Shoes are often round toed as well, and usually have no heels, or a small practical heel.

Like most fashions, Mori has seen a lot of fluidity over the years. As I've talked about on this blog before, many people have interpreted the style in new ways, and they continue to do so. However, the majority of mori fashion does follow the points listed above pretty consistently.


Mori Girl does not have any set lifestyle. It exists simply as a fashion style. However, there are some hobbies and activities that fit in well with the aesthetic, so many Mori folk have used these ideas to create their own versions of what the Mori lifestyle might be, with each of these ideas differing from one another. However, there has, since the beginning, existed a sort of attitude within the Mori kei community that lingers to this day. I could try to sum up this idea of "Mori lifestyle" myself, but I always find myself drawn to an old post by the classic Mori Girl Blog, which says it much better than I could ever hope to.
"In her own quiet way, the mori girl is an individualist. She does not care that the world may live differently from her. She lives consciously and chooses her own lifestyle. The mori girl often looks whimsical or quirky. When she shops, she buys something based on how it makes her feel, rather than on how fashionable or expensive it will appear to others. While she may enjoy the company of others, the mori girl loves her own company and indeed has embarked on many of her most memorable adventures alone."- Mori Girl Blog
Additional Information:

A lot of the original information on Mori came from blogs and websites that have since closed, so it's almost impossible to cite anything on this topic (which is an absolute nightmare to a History major like me). However, I felt it important to put all of this information here all in one place even if I couldn't properly cite things. I do have some other resources you can check out if you're interested in learning more about what Mori kei is. Dear Miss Kellie, Moss Marchen, Naomi N' Doll, Mori Girl Blog, and Bling Tree G have all made some great overviews of what Mori is. There is also a Mori boy checklist similar to Choco's checklist for Mori girls if you are interested in that.

As always, if I've missed anything you feel is central to what Mori Kei is, please let me know. Also, if I've completely butchered any of the facts, please let me know that as well so I can correct them. I hope you enjoy this overview of the style. If you're new to the style, I hope this has given you a clearer idea of what the style is, and maybe sparked your interest! If Mori is an old hat to you, then I hope that maybe you've learned something new that you hadn't known before!


  1. Love this, and wish my timing had synced with its heyday! Sort of feel like I'd been doing the Mori thing in the 90s, and then skipped it, or missed it, in its official creation. Glad you're still blogging!

  2. This is a beautiful introduction, very thorough, thank you! It had me sighing the way I always do when Mori touches my soul!
    I hope you won't mind if I link to it in my (hopefully upcoming soon) Mori challenge series?
    xx Katie.

    1. Thank you for your kind words my deer! I don't mind at all! Send me a link to it once you've started! I'd love to read it :)

  3. Thank you for posting this, it was a thing I was asked and didn't know how to answer haha
    It is very interesting.

  4. I don't know how relevant this is 5 years after this was posted, or in 2017, but I remember that mori girls, when they wore skirts, either the skirt or one of the many layers of the skirts were ankle length. That's what really made the style stand out to me and look ethereal, and very special and foresty, like they were part of a forest - I guess because it was so different from what I had seen before. Mori girl arose from the people, a style people made up. I never saw shorter skirts until manufacturers got wind of the style and, I guess, tried to make it more "accessible" to a larger audience by making skirts at a more ... I guess you could say, comfortable length. I've even seen manufacturers try to make short shorts and sell them as Mori. To me, this was not from the people, it was from the manufacturer who didn't create the style, and I did not consider it mori to be honest, because it didn't have the same laid back and sort of ... I don't know the word for it... quality like the girls were trees-like, or I guess like from another world where they live in trees. ... Unless the dress was one unit instead of an independent skirt, was thick fabric, and down or a bit passed the knees. With layers. The layers and the length. That's really what stood out as mori before it became more popular and well-known. "Everyone can have their own interpretation" yes I know, but the interpretation didn't come from "the people" it came from I think store owners who didn't really get it and wanted to sell more stuff. So that's why I kind of don't consider it the same thing or that it has the same visual impact.
    I guess because mori girl and all varieities already exist, if you look back on them, it doesn't make the same .. impact I guess as when it first started out and had never existed before. because... that was some impact seeing anyone dress like that actually in person, walking around, not like ... in a play or movie. I had not ever seen that before - it was really kind of shocking, but the look is so overall laid back. I guess it was shockingly soothing. lol. It really did invoke their image of a forest. - No hate, just trying to say what it was like then and there, and the differences of sources of the look as having an impact on me. And that I think if you were really going to try to recreate this look, long skirts would be important to be aware of to really, really get the look down.
    Thanks for taking the time to read this and make this blog entry, also. It is very good.

    1. oh yeah, also at the time. There were burgundy mori hair looks (burgundy hair was popular in some parts of Japan around that time, actually a couple years I think after mori came up so i do remember one with dip dyed burgundy and the rest of the hair was brown) and also deep green, but managed to look "natural" with perms or waves - although those aren't natural on Japanese hair. Neither is brown. These other colors weren't as common as brown. The thing is that, it was before these kind of "party girl/boy" celebrities in the US started to dye their hair colorfully, and before it was mainstream - in the US, you couldn't go buy a box dye of dark green, for example, or pink or anything, like you can now - that was from celebrity stylists trying to make their celebrities relevant from more obscure looks, but by the time they got it, then the rest of the country, it was mainstream and passe - already over and out. Once something is mainstream, it kind of kills it. Mainstream is different from "a lot of people liking it" - mainstream is manufactured and approved, it isn't as cool as a movement from people, a ground movement. For Mori back then, one could dye one's hair an unnatural color, but it really wasn't locked into the same connotation as it is now, especially in the context of Mori. Like, the colors they chose were natural looking even if they weren't natural. They still look like they came from nature. I just remember this one mori look that was really great with dark green hair and little flowers, but the photo shoot was outside and it really did look different from how I think of green hair or dyed hair now, esp in the US. It was different.
      But yes, the overall majority of Mori hair at the time was in the browns. I guess you could be a blonde Mori girl if you wanted. And honestly I do not think you are really into the mori aesthetic but trying to combine different aesthetics if you are doing unnatural colors you can't find in nature. I don't mind including different view points, but at some point you are no longer within the definition of something, it becomes a cross or mixed aesthetic. Which is cool, like mixing preppy and punk, I remember that from high school, looked great. But it is no longer either preppy or punk, it's a hybrid - it doesn't change the definition of the original, even if someone tries to redefine the original - then they are just mislabeling their created look.

    2. haha okay my last spam of this post, i promise. i meant with the long skirts, that they had to be layered uniquely like the mori look. Otherwise it's just a long skirt or dress, which isn't unusual. It was the combination of the layers and length. So many layers, and new textures from the layers. In Japan they have a type of knitting that is a combination of knitting and crochet, so that would be an impressive addition. Opaque layers, transparent layers. Honestly the layering was beyond me - I couldn't have done it - but it created such a cohesive look.
      Cool times...

    3. Thanks for reading the post and your enthusiasm in commenting! I'm having trouble understanding some of your sentences, but I think I understand the main points. I just wanted to encourage checking out mori magazines and especially Choco's book, and also old street snaps. (We have many of them scanned on the mori magazine archive :) A lot of these were created before brands were really a thing. You will see a lot of variation in how mori outfits are created there, from skirt length, to how many layers are used, and even colors used, both for clothes and hair! Mori is a style with a lot of variation, and that's one of the things many of us in the community love about it. Thanks again for taking the time to read my post!