What Not To Wear Fall 2010 (Ladies)

Winter legwarmers out at a store in Hiroshima (Photo by Siobhan Sullivan)

by Siobhan Sullivan

Autumn is just about here and we will all be shedding our sweat-drenched summer clothes for cozier fall wear. In an inverted awakening from hibernation, we are stirred by the fall breezes and awaken to my favorite time: cold weather shopping time! However, if you are a fashion-conscious JET, or just happen to be taller or bigger than the average Japanese woman (it’s not that difficult to be), clothes shopping in Japan can present many challenges. The challenge I would like to address is a phenomena that has and will afflict many JETs: Depersonalized Apparel Disorder (D.A.D).

This disorder is characterized by a feeling of unreality, that your clothes do not really belong to you, but instead they belong to a fashionable Japanese lady that can pull that outfit off way better than you ever will. You may find yourself being attracted to fads that you know would not be acceptable in your home country and have a wardrobe with multiple personalities. Delusions of grandeur are apparent in severe cases, believing your Japanified style will offer you placement in the next AKB48 off-shoot. In an effort to help those with D.A.D. (I am also in recovery), here is a list of Japanese trends not to pick up this fall/winter season. It’s all about prevention.


A fur stole encircling the neck of a kimono-clad woman in the fall/winter is a classic Japanese image. Unfortunately, this traditional accessory has been perverted by modern fashion trends. Now, it seems that when the temperature drops, young women and host boys transform into werewolves. This fall and winter, fur will be lining super-short shorts, peeking out of knee-high boots, riding atop scrunchies and hats, and even performing feats as a Clydesdale-inspired legwarmer. However, Japan is not alone as this trend will be raging overseas in the form of fur vests and outerwear. Unfortunately, Japanese fashion has taken it to another level of hirsute.

Japanese store mannequin featuring fox tail, fur leg warmers, and fur stole (Photo by Siobhan Sullivan)

I now warn you of a trend that I thought had died in the year 2000 with Ayumi Hamasaki’s “Evolution” single, but it has resurfaced from the fashion graveyard: the fox tail. While you walk down Hondoori you may see fox tails swaying from the handbags or belt loops of young women; do not be alarmed by the changelings. The fox tail, known for its trickery, has appeared to have bewitched many Japanese fashionistas. Beware!


Fox tails for sale in Hiroshima (Photo by Siobhan Sullivan)

If you are looking for another trendy item to keep you cozy during the cooler months, a circle scarf is a convenient and fashionable option. Japan has finally picked up this trend (it was seen in South Korea last winter) and you can find it in stores such as Spinns or We-go around Chuo-doori in Hiroshima City. The great part about this item is that it slips on easily so you don’t have to worry about tying your scarf perfectly every time.  

Over-the-knee or Over-the-edge?

Have you ever wandered into the side streets of Nagarekawa and noticed that some hostesses clearly mistook their lingerie for regular clothes? Well, try not to get your knickers in a bunch when you see girls outside the shady places of Hiroshima wearing what looks like thigh-high stockings. They are affectionately called over-the-knee socks, but they can be scandalous in nature. The trick for this trend is not necessarily avoiding it (they are featured in the shop windows of Zara and Parco), but adhering to the golden sock ratio. It goes as follows:

Over-the-knee socks look the most flattering when they hit a couple centimeters above your kneecap. Go ahead and wear your knee-high boots, ankle boots, or brogues and pair it with mid-thigh length shorts, skirts, and dresses. If you’re not very tall or have shorter legs, this is the best option for you.

For the more daring trendsetters, try thigh-high length socks. Avoid short jean shorts or mini-skirts and opt for bottoms that decrease the amount of thigh exposed for a peek-a-boo effect. Bottoms paired with thigh-high length socks should also have a loose silhouette; never tight. Another way to keep this version out of the hostess club and onto the runway is to wear sheer black tights underneath the socks.

Girls wearing over-the-knee socks in Shinjuku, Tokyo (Photo by tata_aka_T)

Tabio (http://www.tabio.com/) is a great hosiery and sock chain store that can be found in many department stores around Hiroshima. They have many different types of colors and textures for over-the-knee socks so don’t be afraid to stray from basic black. Lastly, I firmly caution you from wearing tartan or plaid skirts with this trend, unless you’re trying to look like your students for Halloween.

Razor thin

If you haven’t received the all-star treatment that Japanese salons provide, please book an appointment immediately! Going to Japanese salons is a great experience where aromatherapy, head massages, and attentive care are the norm. However, those of us with long hair or fine hair might remember your sudden break from tranquility as your stylist brought out a set of thinning shears that you thought had gone extinct. Many Japanese people have naturally thick hair and they like to reduce the volume by requesting thinned-out hair or high-layered hairstyles. While many times a thinned-out hairstyle fresh from the salon looks great, as your hair begins to grow you will notice a greater propensity for split ends and a mullet-like shape.

Razored haircuts in Shibuya, Tokyo (Photo by colodio)

While mullet hair may look fascinating on hosts and hostesses, you probably don’t want to be able to blend in with that crowd. However, if you want to keep thickness at the ends of your hair, show your stylist a picture of your ideal cut and say “髪の毛を空かないでください (“Kami no ke wo sukanaide kudasai”). Fortunately, styles with full ends and long layers are becoming in-fashion here. Check out Rasysa (http://www.rasysa.com/), a great source for the latest hair trends in Japan. The site is in Japanese, but the many pictures on the site make it navigable even if you can’t read Japanese well. Many of the hair terms are katakana words as well, which have a similar pronunciation to their English equivalents, so think of it as an opportunity for Japanese study!

So remember, ladies, D.A.D. is real, but preventable. Truthfully, I often feel inspired by certain Japanese trendsetters that roam around in platform stilettos, fur legwarmers, and mini-shorts – but mostly for their confidence, not for their choice of clothing.