What to Wear: Japan

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Striking a balance between stylish and conservative can make packing for Japan difficult. If you stick to these few rules, you’ll be well on your way to making a fashionable statement on your next journey to the land of the rising sun.

Keep your cleavage covered. Japanese women are very sensitive when it comes to showing off their décolletage. The rule of thumb is: if someone can see down your shirt when you bend over, it’s too low. Obviously, the trendier areas aren’t as conservative, but it’s always good to err on the side of caution.

Pack sensible and stylish shoes. You will be walking around a lot, and while five-inch heels will likely help you blend in, save your feet the pain during the day and invest in some fashionable sneakers. I went with a pair of Jimmy Choo sneakers. See how I wore them here. Not your style? A pair of converse will also do the trick. Not a sneaker fan? Just remember to keep the heel low, or even better, nonexistent.

Show some leg. While locals are likely to keep it conservative from the waist up, you will see women showcasing their gams. Short shorts and miniskirts are perfectly acceptable for just about any situation (outside of the office, of course).

Be a little adventurous. Have a cool piece of clothing that’s a bit too aggressive to wear back home? No problem. With the Harajuku mindset, anything goes in Japan. If you find yourself strutting through Ginza, don’t be afraid to oversize everything, wear crazy graphic prints, and pair heels with pajamas. Just remember, the best accessory is confidence. If you’re lucky, the hoard of fashion photographers who camp out on Omotesando might even photograph you.

Ditch the kimono. While it might be fun to dress up for an hour or two, leave the traditional looks to the professionals. Aside from the fact that walking around in flip-flops with socks on is obnoxiously hard, kimonos are tight and uncomfortable. Ladies, just think about the effort to go to the bathroom…

Check the weather. Summers in Japan can be unbearably hot, and winter temps are known to fall below zero. The last thing you want is a suitcase full of sweaters when you should have packed shorts. If you’re going during Spring or Fall, include light layers. Traveling during the rainy season (May – July)? Be sure to pack an umbrella and some jellies.

If you’re going to pack just one thing… make sure it’s an LBD like the Alexander Wang one above. Plans change, opportunities arise, and as it is in the states, a little black dress is always appropriate in Japan.

2 thoughts

  1. Really helpful post for any traveler, and also super interesting just based on cultural differences alone! So interesting that cleavage is generally considered off-limits while showing some leg is a-okay…guess that explains all the kid-oriented anime with girls in shorter-than-short skirts (I’m looking at you, Sailor Moon)!




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