Manga Special: Part I
These Books Made Me is proud to welcome guest writers to highlight the topics explored in our Manga episodes.
This week’s episode is a special episode on the most recognized manga in the magical girls genre -and probably the world — Sailor Moon! It was a fun exploration of a character not written by a Western author. However, that isn’t to say it didn’t have Western influences, and in this blog post we’ll explore the intersection between Sailor Moon and Western couture fashion.
Sailor Moon creator, Naoko Takeuchi, is a big fan of high fashion and it showed in her concept art and final designs for Sailor Moon characters. She was really good about putting characters in outfits by designer houses that best fit their personalities. Below are some favorites:
The most iconic high fashion influence was Princess Serenity/Neo Queen Serenity’s dress. It was inspired by this 1992 Spring/Summer Dior dress, which is on display at the travelling Dior exhibit, currently at the Brooklyn Museum. Dior as a brand fits both Princess Serenity’s (of the past) and Neo Queen Serenity’s (of the future) aesthetic as it is sophisticated enough for royalty and quite literally timeless. The dress also fits Usagi’s soft and princess-like personality, and it looks Greecian inspired, which adds to the ethereal goddess-like image Usagi will one day embody. The pillars of the old Moon Kingdom maybe didn’t stand the test of time, but this dress sure does.
Another iconic look borrowed from high fashion is Black Lady’s dress, which seems heavily inspired by a YSL dress. Black Lady, as fans of the manga may know, is the evil form of Chibi-usa, who is known for her cheery and childlike persona. To best depict this darker persona, Takeuchi drew a lot of inspiration from the pictured YSL Opium Campaign featuring Kate Moss- the tagline for the campaign being “sensuality to the extreme”. While it’s not immediately evident in the manga’s depiction of the dress, Takeuchi included a concept photo in her now rare and highly sought out Sailor Moon artbooks of Black Lady in a similar pose to Moss and with a similar color scheme. She took creative liberties by giving the dress a more sheer look and creating a higher neckline. But, it’s still effective in conveying Chibi-usa’s turn into Black Lady as an exploration of her sensuality and maturation, which she had been denied of as she is a 900-year-old trapped in a child’s body. Probably coincidental, but it’s not lost on me she took inspiration from a “minimodel” Kate Moss ad for Chibi-usa (Mini Moon).
Takeuchi seemed to have been a big fan of Mugler, as she used a lot of their pieces as inspiration, and even outright took some of their designs for some of her characters. While there are a few instances where a heroine is wearing Mugler (Hotaru in a concept photo in Sailor Moon Artbook), she seems to favor the designer for villains. And that makes sense. Mugler in the 90s was very innovative, daring, and a little dark. It was unconventional for sure, and their designs definitely look fit for villains. My personal favorite is Koan’s look during the Sailor Moon R arc, but others include Queen Beryl’s dress and Berthier’s bodysuit.
One of my favorite concept photos in Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon artbooks is Setsuna/Sailor Pluto in a Chanel Couture dress from 1992. Setsuna being the oldest of the Sailor Guardians gives off a more sophisticated and mature vibe. It, too, gives off a timeless feel and what better dress for the Sailor Guardian of time.
Lastly, it’s maybe not a direct influence, but it always seemed like Takeuchi got the inspiration for Sailor Moon’s brooch and the Sailor Guardians’ accessories and transformation pens from Vivienne Westwood and La Croix accessories. I’ll die on this hill.