Thursday, 30 June 2011

Shopping in Japan #1 : Workwear

This is the first of a series of installments about shopping in Japan. The series will be completed with a piece on how to pack for Japan...

So you are packing for Japan and you want to know what can be bought there so you can avoid extra costs at the baggage check in? Well, I would like to share with you some tips on shopping in Japan and perhaps we might learn some things about dressing in Japan along the way...

hot for teacher

Japanese women are small and petitie so it can be difficult for some Western women who are physically larger than the Japanese, or just simply taller than them, to shop for clothing which fits and is appropriate for both the work place and the weather. Here are some tips… 

I currently work at a high school where the dress code is fairly strict so if you follow these guidelines, you can’t go wrong. It is important to keep a few things in mind while making your purchase:
  • Low-cut tops are a no-no. Cleavage is strictly inappropriate in the workplace. You should show no more than an inch or (if you are daring) two below your collarbone. If you decide to wear that low-cut top after all, invest in a camisole you can wear underneath which covers you up.
  • In the summer time, you may be tempted to wear a sleeve-less blouse or tank top but showing your shoulders is also frowned upon in this culture. At the very least, you should wear capped sleeves but this is also pushing the bar. Aim for sleeves which reach halfway down your bicep to be safe.
  • Knee-length skirts are okay. You should aim for the skirt length to hit at or below the knee-cap. Try not to show too much skin above the knee (a little is okay). A-line and pencil skirts are very popular here. Anything made from a light material like silk or cotton will be a god-send in the summertime when you arrive.
  • T-shirts and jeans are for the weekend, not the staff room (unless you are in the P.E. Dept., which you are not. You are in the English Dept.)
  • You will need one suit for formal occasions, including suit jacket, slacks and dress shirt or blouse. Slacks can be substituted for a nice pencil skirt.

A basic workday outfit should be slacks/trousers or a nice skirt (as described above) paired with a nice shirt/blouse/sweater.

There are a many places where you can purchase attractive clothing for the workplace. Uniqlo offers smart-looking affordable range of workwear in larger sizes for Westerners. Keep an eye out for their range of dress shirts made from UV protectant materials. The Suit Company has many outlets in the greater Tokyo area with an emphasis on ‘Cool Biz’ clothing for the workplace, which basically means look neat and presentable but remain nice and cool at the same time. There are some H&M outlets in Tokyo, particularly the one in Shibuya, with an impressive range of fashionable workwear. You can pick up cute tops from just about anywhere that you can use to mix and match with other staples in your wardrobe.

Here’s a tip: If you receive too many compliments from your workmates on your outfit, its probably an indirect way of them saying that your outfit is a little inappropriate for work. Try harder next time! 

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