It simply wouldn't be Dragon Ball without Bulma! Not only is she the spoiled heiress daughter of Dr. Brief, the founder of Capsule Corporation, she's also a child-prodigy inventor responsible for the creation of countless bits of tech and machinery. But more than anything, she's a beloved "first generation" Dragon Ball character and someone who we are all indebted to for dragging Goku out of the jungle and off on an epic quest to find the Dragon Balls!
And despite being around from the very beginning of the manga, Bulma's impeccable style choices wouldn't look one bit out of place in even the trendiest of modern fashion magazines!
From adorable ensembles to men's attire, Bulma's wardrobe has it all.
With adorable miniskirt ensembles, adventure-ready T-shirts, and big, puffy jackets at the ready, Bulma's attention-grabbing style is bursting with originality and a sense of playfulness that have allowed it to boldly stand the test of time!
But I suppose it's time I introduced myself! I'm writer Reina Hikasa, and my work mostly centers around women's fashion magazines. In preparation for this article, I reread Dragon Ball and absolutely fell in love with Bulma and everything about her!
Today, I’ve teamed up with a stylist who also works in women's magazines to explore just what makes Bulma's style so appealing. We're going all out to uncover the secrets of her unique fashion—that continues to look as good as ever even now in the 2020's—as well as why she's constantly fawned over by almost everyone she meets!
Plus, after we've unraveled the mysteries behind Bulma's fashion success, we'll be putting together some Bulma-inspired ensembles with modern twists that all you fashion-minded readers will be dying to try on for yourselves! For anyone who's ever wished they could be as stylish as Bulma, this is the article for you!
*Interview was conducted while maintaining strict coronavirus prevention protocols.
Lending a hand as my fellow fashion detective was renowned stylist, Yui Funato. First off, we started by trying to understand just what makes Bulma's style so iconic!
Stylist Yui Funato
After studying under stylist Makoto Fukuda, studied abroad in LA. Since returning to Japan, she has worked for several magazines, including "ar", "LEE", and "mina", as well as in advertising and television. Gained recognition for her simple, natural styling. In her private life, she's also a huge manga fan.
So, Yui, now that you've taken a look back at every one of Bulma's stylish outfits from the manga, as a stylist, can you share with me your overall impressions?
Bulma is just so trendy!
She somehow manages to seamlessly incorporate slightly boy-ish clothes into her otherwise super cute outfits, always without failing to show off a little bit of skin. No matter what she's wearing, it always seems to be perfectly balanced.
It's amazing to see such attention to detail shine through in the fashion choices of a character in a manga aimed predominantly at young boys!
Another standout characteristic of Bulma's fashion is that she doesn't limit herself to only wearing "girly" or "cool" clothes. She's clearly a fan of mixing up different styles, like wearing men's overalls with a ribbon in her hair!
Bulma with her trademark red ribbon.
When Bulma first appeared in the manga she was only 16 years old, but by the time of her last appearance at the end of the series she was 51 (according to the timeline in Dragon Ball Daizenshuu Akira Toriyama World Volume 7)! I think it's fascinating to see the changes her style underwent as she grew older!
Bulma's style changing with age.
She clearly adopts a more adult style. Even the ribbon, which almost seemed integral to her fashion identity, ended up being replaced with earrings and scarfs. I think what changes the most is the way she utilizes accessories—which she does masterfully, by the way.
That's actually really relatable to a lot of young women. I think there are many women out there who, as they grew up, upgraded the $3 clip-on earrings to more expensive pierced ones.
I have to agree that the way her accessory usage evolves feels very authentic to me. If that's what Toriyama had intended all along...that'd be quite something!
Which brings me to another area I'd like to explore: can we gain any insight into Bulma's personality just by examining her fashion choices?
This is strictly my own personal interpretation based on her fashion sense, but looking at how Bulma values what looks good to her over any rigid notions of 'style' shows me that she's got a lot of confidence in herself.
She actually reminds me a lot of the popular young women today, like TikTok stars with tens of thousands of followers and other big-name influencers.
I see! That might explain why, even now, it's easy to identify with her and just generally find her super adorable.
Modern fashion has far less strict boundaries than it used to. It wasn't so long ago that people felt that they had to constantly sculpt their bodies to be able to wear the popular brands or pull off the latest styles. It was very much that you had to change yourself to fit the clothes.
But for young people nowadays, they're far freer to choose the clothes they like and, much like Bulma, enjoy finding styles that look good to them.
Maybe it was Bulma that kicked off this modern trend of valuing your own style and the diversity of tastes out there in the world?!
Who knows? Maybe Bulma was the catalyst for it all and we just never realized! *laughs*
So we've looked at how Bulma enjoys wearing unique outfits that allow her to express herself, but what are the core features of Bulma's outfits that define her unique style?
Showing some skin—tastefully—is key.
I think we can parse out three main elements of her style. First is Bulma's tendency to 'show some skin', like putting her neckline and arms on display by wearing overalls without an underlayer or showing off her long legs with a pair of short shorts—but instead of pairing the shorts with sandals, she opts for a pair of boots, which gives the ensemble more of a striking and cool energy rather than leaning into a more 'adult' look. Bulma's very adept at creating outfits that show off her skin while also keeping it tasteful!
You definitely get a sense of Bulma's personality by looking at her carefree, "I can pull this off!" outfit choices. They're fashionable and glamorous, but not to the point where other women might think, "Woah, who does she think she is?". They're very modern in that sense.
Bulma making men's items look better than ever.
Another important element has to be 'men's items'! Incorporating men's items into her outfits is also classic Bulma, especially in that "I borrowed this from my boyfriend" kind of way.
But with skillful fashion choices, like pairing a big hoodie with a miniskirt or leaving her neckline exposed while wearing an oversized jacket, she manages to look adorable while highlighting her femininity. Bulma's ability to subvert expectations and play with contrast is just wonderful!
So, perhaps the hoodies and jackets that crop up in the first half of the manga are actually all Yamcha's?! *laughs* I suppose Bulma did set out on a grand adventure all by herself, so it's no wonder she can pull off slightly rebellious looks too. It's almost like including men's items into her outfits actually ends up accentuating her lovable nature.
Bulma using different item combinations to show off her curves.
Lastly, we have 'contrasts in tightness'. Bulma often highlights her natural curves by tying belts or drawstrings tightly around her waist. She's particularly good at selecting the right size of clothing to do this, allowing her to clearly display her full figure.
One style that particularly caught my eye was her sports-casual look (left image). With a tight T-shirt showing off her top half and baggy pants giving off casual vibes, this outfit is perfectly balanced and a prime example of Bulma's high level fashion skills.
It may not be too surprising coming from someone as stylish as Bulma, but it seems as though she really has a firm grasp on the best parts of her body and of her personality, and so aims to emphasize those with her outfit choices.
I completely agree! You can almost feel her self-confidence radiating from her outfits.
Absolutely! But not in the sense that she's showing off or being vain, in fact, her self-assuredness makes her even more adorable! ♡
So in summary, I think we can say that Bulma's fashion stems from the three main elements we discussed: tastefully showing some skin, incorporating men's items into her outfits, and using contrast in tightness.
Having determined the "three elements" that are key to Bulma's fashion, I asked Yui to come up with three outfits to exemplify them.
Since Bulma herself wasn't around to show off Yui's creations, we enlisted the help of top model Yuu Kinoyama to try them on for us! One look at these modern twists on Bulma's iconic style and you'll be riffling through your wardrobe to see how you can create them for yourself!
Jumpsuit: Bershka / Bag: Stylist's personal item / Boots: ZARA
Wearing a jumpsuit without an underlayer for a fresh, clean look! And just like with any good Bulma outfit, it lets our model Yuu's glowing skin steal the show while still keeping it modest!
In the manga, Bulma often speeds around on her motorbike, so the work boots make perfect sense, but switch them out for some stylish low-cut boots and suddenly you've got yourself a modern outfit that's ready to hit the town in!
In the Dragon Ball universe, the miniature purse would be the ideal place to stash a Dragon Ball or two, but for us in the real world, perhaps a smartphone and some lipstick will do the trick! ♡
First off, this outfit is a great way to show off your style. Plus, even though you're showing some skin, it doesn't look too dressed-up and overall manages to strike a great balance. The denim in the jumpsuit being such a washed-out color gives it a really natural feel, making for a super cute outfit!
Tasteful yet bold! With just the right amount of skin on display, Yuu looks just like Bulma! It takes a bit of confidence to wear a jumpsuit without an underlayer, but with the otherwise modest style choices and perfect accessories, this outfit avoids being too brash and ends up hitting the mark! With work boots being a bit challenging to pull off and sneakers giving off a slightly immature vibe, low-cut boots seemed the best choice to bring this stylish outfit together!
Bomber Jacket: SLY / Top: CANAL JEAN / Shorts: H&M
Sneakers: Converse / Socks: Brandless
This outfit was designed to showcase the second element of Bulma's fashion, and so includes a men's jacket. The oversized bomber jacket has been paired with shorts of a similar color, which gives this ensemble a spectacular sense of cohesion!
Taking note of Bulma's effective use of socks in the manga, the socks and shoes rock some seriously vibrant colors that inject that Bulma-esque playfulness into the outfit. Bulma's bold, full-of-life personality is on full display with this one!
Young Bulma's trademark large ribbon and eye-catching braid are a match made in heaven for this outfit!
I love the contrast between the men's bomber jacket and the snazzy socks and shoes! I tend to wear a lot of tomboy-ish clothes in my private life, so this style was my personal favorite! ♡
Proudly wearing men's items as if they were your own is one of Bulma's specialties! For the shorts, I opted for a slightly bigger size to give the outfit a ready-for-adventure feel, as opposed to tighter ones that might draw too much attention to the wearer's legs and curves. Finishing off the outfit with boots risks giving it an unwanted militaristic feel, but sneakers are great to complete that modern, cool-girl look.
Knitted top: ZARA / Knitted shorts: H&M
Shoes: ZARA / Socks: Brandless
This ensemble was inspired by Bulma's use of loose- and tight-fitting clothes to show off her best features. The outline formed by the baggy loose-knit sweater and the tight shorts is central to this outfit's success.
With the top and shorts being relatively simple, the red ribbon and shoes really pop, with the pulled-up socks giving the otherwise girly ensemble a welcome tomboy twist.
Seeing as Bulma's original motivation for hunting Dragon Balls was to find the "perfect boyfriend", perhaps if she was living with us in the real world today, she'd enjoying showing off her best features with an outfit like this one!
This outfit's figure line and each one of the items feel very modern, and I personally think I'd like to try wearing similar ensembles in my private life. I could really see Bulma's fashion being the next big thing!!
This type of outfit that utilizes loose- and tight-fighting garments can be used to great effect by those who have a firm understanding of their own figure and which parts of it they like best. Knitted bottoms are a big trend at the moment, and combining them with the right color choices and a sweater with a classic design was all in service of giving this outfit as much of Bulma's girl-next-door energy as possible!
Also, seeing how much care Bulma puts into choosing her accessories, I feel like she would stray away from buying mass-produced items. That's why I acquired all the ribbons for these outfits from a handicraft shop instead of a regular accessory shop.
The three outfits introduced today all look so modern and trendy that, unless someone pointed it out, you'd almost never guess they were inspired by a girl from a manga that started in the 1980's!
This whole experience gave me a new appreciation for just how good Bulma's fashion looks even today, as well as for Toriyama's talent for dreaming up one iconic outfit after another! Maybe Toriyama has been a fashion guru in disguise all along?!
But now we've come this far, I can't be the only one curious about all the other characters' styles! For those of you who've already read through the manga more times than you can count, I recommend giving it one more read and keeping an eye out for the different characters' fashion choices! Who knows, you might find an outfit or two you'd like to try for yourself!
Article: Reina Hikasa
Started her modelling career aged 12 and has been working freelance since 2015. Currently working as a writer in a wide range of mediums, including fashion magazines such as "ar" and "Nico☆Puchi". Uses her experience as a model to conduct interviews & photoshoots and has a wide-ranging portfolio as a multi-talented writer, photographer, and model.
Model: Yuu Kinoyama
Started her career as an actress and has appeared on stage and in films. Has since expanded her career into modelling and currently models for television commercials, music videos and apparel brands. Gained wider popularity after starring in the music video for Yuuri's "Dry Flower". Owing to the fact she's a talented athlete and a qualified personal trainer, she has also appeared in several sports brands' advertisements.
Photography: Mime Soga
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