Baby, the Stars Shine Bright - About the Store and Where to Find BTSSB Outside of Japan
Baby, The Stars Shine Bright is one of the most famous Japanese lolita clothing brands in the world. Established in 1988 by Akinori Isobe and his wife Fumiyo, this clothing line (known as BTSSB for short) is known for its amazing Sweet Lolita clothing concoctions which are uber fluffy, frilly, feminine, and fun!
If you have seen Kamikaze Girls, you know about Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. If you have been to Japan (or Japantown, or an anime convention elsewhere), you may have seen the brand being worn out and about. If you have never encountered BTSSB before, you're missing out! Think doll-like dresses, complete with crazy dessert, kitten, and super-girly motifs, lace, and fluffy petticoats, huge bows, large platform shoes with frilly high socks, and ultra feminine, heart and bow-shaped or adorned accessories.
More information on Lolita style
The album that inspired the brand's name
An excellent resource on various Japanese fashion subculture - Sweet Lolita included!
About Baby, The Stars Shine Bright
Baby, the Stars Shine Bright was founded in 1988 by Akinori Isobe with his wife Fumiyo. The name was inspired by the name of an album by Everything But the Girl, an English pop band.
BTSSB sells clothing in the Lolita fashion - specifically Sweet Lolita, which is decidedly more cheery and feminine than the darker and slightly more prevalent Gothic Lolita, with lots of pink fabric, hearts, kittens, and sweets motifs. BTSSB clothing is typically worn best in sets - it is not enough to simply buy a dress, blouse, or headband - everything is designed to work together. A complete BTSSB outfit typically requires a blouse, dress, headband, shoes, and socks, plus a ring, purse, and perhaps a sweater for good measure.
BTSSB made its way into the mainstream - or at least became recognized by an international audience - thanks to the 2002 novel Shimotsuma Monogatari (known in English as Kamikaze Girls) by Novala Takemoto, which was later adapted into a manga and movie of the same title (I haven't read the book or manga, but I own and adore the movie and highly recommend it).
The brand was originally located in Shibuya, Tokyo, but expanded to have locations in Osaka, Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Kintetsu, Utsinomiya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, and Fukuyama. There is only one BTSSB store in Europe - Paris, to be specific - and though the New York Kinokuniya occasionally sold BTSSB products, the only official store in North America can be found in the New People complex of San Francisco's Japantown.
Prices of dresses, headbands, purses, and other accessories by this brand are typically high, so if you are walking into a Baby, the Stars Shine Bright shop for the first time, prepare for sticker shock! That said, these pieces of clothing are quite unique - certainly different from pretty much everything else you see in shops these days!
Fun Details About BTSSB Stores in Japan and the United States
BTSSB shops in Japan are a blast. The ones I have visited have been amazing - like most small clothing boutiques in Japan, they're absolutely plastered with fascinating things to buy, and one or two fully-dressed shopgirls will be happy to assist you with selecting or trying on outfits.
Just visiting a shop is exciting, even if you don't buy anyting, because it is fascianting to look at the clothing and accessories, plus see the shop girls all decked out in petticoats and massive frills, along with any devotees who make their occasional pilgrimages to the shop to buy more clothing (and of course, they arrive fully decked out, too).
When I bought something at a BTSSB in Osaka, the shop girl walked me out to the door of the shop after carefully bagging and stickering the purchase I made, then bowed at the door and handed me my bag in what struck me as a rather elaborate purchasing ritual. It was a lot of fun.
The San Francisco-based Baby, the Stars Shine Bright is a bit different culturally, but it's still a great place. It's nicely decorated, in a great location, and has nice, plush dressing rooms. Though there are more "tourists" present just gaping at clothing and the gussied-up shopkeepers, it is still fun to browse through the merchandise and see the "true" shoppers who arrive in their full-on Sweet Lolita outfits. The one downside to this American shop is that there are lots of signs everywhere telling people to not take photos and the like, which is sad, because (1) it would be fun to photograph the place and (2) it is sad to think that people have been treating the shopkeepers like zoo animals, since I imagine that's what prompted the signs in the first place.
Where to Find Baby, the Stars Shine Bright
As mentioned above, BTSSB has many locations in Japan.
When it comes to getting Baby, The Stars Shine Bright clothing outside of Japan, things get difficult. The one current European shop is in Paris; the one current North American shop is in San Francisco Japantown.
That said, if you are far from Paris and San Francisco, there is still a chance that you can find the brand for sale. If there are any local anime conventions, chances are you might find a dealer present who is selling some BTSSB clothing, as well as other Sweet and Gothic Lolita Labels, such as Manifesteange Metamorphose temps de fille. You might also check at Kinokuniya stores (as mentioned above, the Kinokuniya in NYC was known to sell the occasional BTSSB accessory) or other stores specializing in imported Japanese brands.
You can also purchase BTSSB clothing directly from the BTSSB website. Use Google Translate to read the page if you cannot read Japanese - it's not a perfect solution, but it still may work.
Other online sellers of imported Japanese goods also sell BTSSB clothing, but if you are buying online, I suggest going with the direct source.
More Information on San Francisco's Japantown
- Cool Shops in San Francisco's Japantown - A Japan-filled SF Afternoon
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