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Fashion has been a feature of shōjo manga (girls' comics) since the beginning of the genre in the 1950s. However, the topic has received scant scholarly attention. This is possibly due both to fashion's ubiquity and to the bias that things like dresses are merely "feminine vanity." Yet exploring the varied uses of clothing in shōjo manga has become even more important with the rise in popularity of female manga artists.
This article focuses on a popular work from the 1990s, A White Satin Ribbon (Shiroi saten no ribon, 1994). Created by Iwadate Mariko, the manga tells the story of a girl's infatuation with her grandmother's lace feminine dress, which she sees as an embodiment of "shōjo (girlish) identity." I argue that, by combining tropes from romantic fairy tales, notions about aging, and discourses about shōjo, Iwadate's manga enacts a complex and more nuanced version of girlhood that is constructed and embodied through a dress. While many female artists have aesthetically objectified shōjo manga, Iwadate subtly subverts the fulfilment of the desires of both the protagonist and, by extension, the readers. I propose that Iwadate's manga offers a platform to critique the role of fashion in evoking emotions of desire, affection, and jealousy.