Japanese Fashion vocabulary

I remember the first time I visited 原宿 (Harajuku) in Tokyo. For those who don’t know, 原宿 is a district in Shibuya, Tokyo that is known as the center of ファッション (Fashion) in Japan. If I had to describe 原宿 in one word, it would be ‘unforgettable’. From brightly colored Lolita outfits to stylish high-end designer clothes, the range of clothing on display is truly unbelievable. 原宿 really does have it all when it comes to ファッション.

Now you might just think of ファッション as the clothes you wear, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Be it shoes, hairstyles or makeup, it all counts as fashion! Let’s look at some of the most unique Japanese styles so strap in, and get ready to read all about the popular fashion movements over in Japan!

Let’s talk Kimono

着物 (Kimono) is the national dress of Japan. Often worn with 下駄 (Geta – Japanese wooden clogs) and tied with an (Obi – Kimono sash), 着物 is a traditional dress that are worn to various events and festivities. However, did you know that there are different types of 着物?

The simplest of these is 浴衣 (Yukata). Worn by both men and women, 浴衣 is quite thin and worn mostly in summer. If you ever get the opportunity to visit a festival in Japan during the warmer months, then chances are the 着物 you see will be 浴衣. Traditionally they’re made in simple colors, but nowadays they often come with more complex designs, often featuring flowers.

Next let’s looks at 振袖 (Furisode). This style of 着物 is easily recognizable by its long sleeves that hang down under the arms. They’re worn for very formal occasions and normally have bright, dramatic designs that make sure the wearer stands out from the crowd. They’re generally worn by girls at weddings or on one’s coming of age day. The sleeves vary in length, but can be longer than a meter in some cases!

Reading this, you might be wondering how to get your hands on a 着物 of your own. The bad news is 着物 are notoriously difficult to put on if you haven’t got any experience doing so. The good news though, is that there are many locations from which you can rent a 着物! They’ll help you change into it, and some even offer photoshoot experiences at local temples and shrines!

What about ストリートファッション?

ストリートファッション (Sutreetofashion) or Street fashion is a term used to describe styles that were made popular not by big designer labels, but by amateur models and stylists. These artists get dressed up and hit the fashion district, normally 原宿. There’s a lot of popular blogs dedicated to this topic, but let’s look at one of the more famous ストリートファッション.

ロリータ (roriita – Lolita) ファッション is a rather unique look that at first you might mistake for something from Victorian England. Floaty blouses and bell-shaped dresses, all finished with as many bows and as much lace as you like, ロリータファッション is all about looking and feeling cute. These girls stand out from the crowd, so if you ever make your way to 原宿, you’ll be sure to find one before long!

Two of the most popular styles are ゴスロリ (Gosuloli – Gothic Lolita) and 甘ロリ (Amaloli – Sweet Lolita). ゴスロリ looks are defined by their dark colours and accessories, with lots of dress designs featuring bats, skeletons and other popular gothic images. 甘ロリファッション is very much inspired by Japan’s popular 可愛い (Kawaii – Cute) culture, featuring lots of pastel colors and large bows.

I’m not making this up…

So, Japanese 化粧 (Keshou – Makeup) is mostly quite normal compared to the rest of the world. Young Japanese women generally take a few tips from S. Koreans, going for a natural look with light 化粧 that emphasizes their features. Commonly, women try to make their eyes appear larger, as they believe つぶら (Tsubura – Round and cute eyes) eyes are very beautiful.

However, not everyone goes for such a natural look. ギャル (Gyaru – Gal) go for a much heavier look. ギャル have blonde or brown hair, dramatic makeup and are often quite tanned. The makeup and clothing style were inspired from 1980’s America, and it certainly shows.

What makes the look even more shocking is that pale skin is considered beautiful in Japan, and has been for over 1000 years. During the hot summer months, you can find many a Japanese woman sheltering under umbrellas, not only to avoid the heat, but to avoid tanning too. A lot of the popular 化粧 used by the Japanese are used with the aim of making oneself look paler.

Is that all?

Of course, there’s plenty of other ファッション out there too. There are always people who want to try shake the ファッション world up, and Japan is no exception. The big fashion brands of the world are popular in Japan just like everywhere else. So, if you ever happen to end up in Tokyo, whether you want to try something traditional, designer or a bit more unique, be sure to check out what’s on offer.

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