The Lolita's Pillow Book- Brief Musings On The Fashion

I am a little bit obsessed with The Pillow Book, which is a book written over a thousand years ago by a woman named Sei Shōnagon, who was a lady-in-waiting to the Empress of Japan. Thousand year old Japanese literature doesn't exactly sound like the most exciting read, but The Pillow Book isn't just a story, it's the personal journal of a very real woman. Despite how long ago in the past she wrote down her thoughts, catty and snarky and sincere and heartwarming thoughts, they're still resonate with us when we read them today. To compare her to a more commonly known historical figure, Marie Antoinette springs to mind.

I have a copy of The Pillow Book that I've had for a few years now, and I keep it in the bookshelf beside by bed and pick it up and skim through it periodically and it always seems like there's something new to read that I missed in previous readings.

Things that give you pleasure- Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book
An except from The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon
If you've never read the book (and I would really recommend you do!), it's generally set up with a brief header or an idea and then followed by a list of things related to it or a talk about an event that happened or just her opinion on the topic. You often hear The Pillow Book compared to a modern day blog because of this! Especially with how frank and even bitchy some of the topics are. While some are hauntingly romantic recollections of dreamy events, others are snarky comments such as how unfortunate it is that moonlight and snow are wasted on commoners, and lots and lots of talk about boys and gossip.

I would like to do something that I have been planning to do on this blog for a while, and take a few of Sei Shonagōn's topics and create my own list related to them. This is a bit of a silly and trivial thing to do with a very important piece of historical literature, but Sei Shōnagon has been a master of silly and trivial for over a thousand years now, so I doubt she would mind very much. Or alternatively, she would have minded an awful lot and would have snarkily added it to a list of "annoying things".

Things that make you feel nostalgic
  • Bell sleeves
  • Very ruffly rectangular headdresses tied under the chin
  • Knee socks with a ruffle on top and little bows on the side
  • Eyelet lace
  • Baby the Stars Shine Bright's dress tags
  • Finding an old website with a picture you used to envy when you first got into Lolita

Things that make your heart beat fast
  • When you're brushing your hair and all of the sudden the brush gets caught in the lace on your dress
  • Seeing the mail carrier walk towards your house carrying packages
  • The last minute on an auction
  • Getting lost going to a meetup that you don't know many people at
  • When you run into another Lolita you've never met before when you're out and about

Awkward and embarrassing things
  • Stumbling in platforms at a meetup
  • Knocking things off of table tops with your petticoat
  • Accidentally opening your parasol too close to a person and knocking it into them
  • Misidentifying a brand
  • When one sock falls down while you're walking and you don't have anywhere to stop to pull it up, even worse if it's a long OTK and you have to lift up the hem of your skirt to fix it.

Infuriating things
  • Seeing the little orange "we missed you" slip in the mail box while you're waiting for a package, even though you were home all day and didn't hear a knock on the door or the doorbell ring.
  • Reserves selling out withing minutes, while you're sitting around still waiting for the shopping cart to load
  • Livejournal downtime
  • Lectures by people who don't have any interest in wearing the fashion on why you're wearing it wrong
  • When people try to tell you what the word "Lolita" means

People who seem enviable
  • Seeing pictures of people's large closets
  • People who live near to brand stores
  • Hearing about a friend's trip to Closet Child in Japan
  • When other people's perfect hair gets mistaken for a wig
  • Anyone who has your dream dress, even if it's the only dress they own

Things that look fresh and pure
  • The tissue paper around a dress you bought new from a store
  • The deep slightly luminous black of a brand new black dress
  • Unworn shoes without any scuffs still nestled in their shoebox
  • A brand new curly wig still in its wig net
  • A flawless Shiro Lolita coordinate
While I was searching around for how The Pillow Book has inspired other bloggers (And it has! In so many different ways!), I stumbled across this, a Twitter account for Sei Shōnagon. I was quite confused by it at first, wondering what exactly I was looking at at first, I thought it was just a totally average Twitter account that happened to be using that name, but then it dawned on me. These are exactly the sort of things, and even the same tone, that Sei Shōnagon mentions quite frequently in the book. Something like this just goes to show you how The Pillow Book's topics have translated so well over the centuries.

I would encourage anyone to pick up this book, but if you don't have the time to add a new book to your reading list, I would love to see your versions of these types of lists! If you happen to make a similar blog post with these own list topics, or even similar other ones, I'd love to see them. Who knows, in a thousand years they might still be read!


  1. I enjoy reading that book every year in summer for about 12 years now. It became soemwhat of a traditon to me.

    Though I don't think that Marie Antoinette resemebles this very high cultivated lady at all, I'm happy that you like this book ^^

    1. That sounds like a really awesome tradition!

      They're definitely very dissimilar! Sei Shonagon reminds me of her in that they were both upper class ladies who are famously known for being very relatable today. While Marie Antoinette was more known for being a bubblehead, Sei Shonagon being more known for being snarky. I would definitely choose Sei Shonagon over Marie Antoinette any day of the week though!

  2. I have never heard of this book, but I'd love to find a copy and try it out. I agree with a lot of your lists. Especially the 'Misidentifying Brand' and 'The Perfect Shiro Lolita Coordinate'.

    1. I actually first heard about it because it was mentioned in passing in another book I was reading! I looked it up and bought it on a whim and have loved it ever since!

  3. I read 'The Tale of Murasaki' a while ago and have had 'The Pillow Book' on my reading list for a while! It seems really good and I'm happy you're inspired by it. I love the topics you've wrote about and thing it'd be a good thing to continue - some of it reminds me of Lolita First World Problems! I think 'The Pillow Book' will have to be moved more near the top of my reading list!

    1. It's a really fun read! The best part of it is you can just pick it up and start at any page you want and skip around if you just want something to while the time away for a bit.

  4. It makes me so happy to read about your love of The Pillow Book! I first read excerpts in class in college, then got the whole book from the library, and now I own it. I wrote my own pillow book once as a gift for a friend--an endeavour both challenging and satisfying. I wonder if I can still find it...? I'll have to look around my computer!

    1. It's always awesome to find another person who's read it :D It's such an amazing book and I always feel like more people should have read it!

      I love that you wrote your own! I swear it's like the most inspiring book I've ever read, so amazing how one woman's brief thoughts from a thousand years ago can still inspire people today.

  5. Oohhh your lists are sooo relatable! Haha. Especially all the awkward and enviable things ^_~
    Really interesting post! Thanks for sharing. I should see if I can find this book somehow.

  6. I love those type of books! I'll definitely make room in my reading list for it. :)

    "Lectures by people who don't have any interest in wearing the fashion on why you're wearing it wrong"
    That really is infuriating! I guess some people just really like bossing people around, even if it's about something they don't really know anything about. :/

    I think I'll make my own blog post inspired by this one! I love making lists!

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