This post is inspired by my recent outing in Sugamo. I passed women dressed for entrance ceremonies and women dressed for funerals, and I knew exactly which event they were heading to based on their choice of clothing.
Learning how to tell the difference and how to dress appropriately will save you a world of embarrassment!
To start, if you’re worried about committing a fashion faux pas in Japan, you might actually be making a huge mistake without realizing it.
Wearing a black dress with a flattering neckline, a single-strand pearl necklace, opaque tights, and basic pumps is perhaps (one of) the worst fashion mistakes you could possibly make in Japan!
You might think you’re trying to make a “great impression” at your new company or at your child’s school by matching your formal attire (礼服 | reifuku) to Japan’s conservative attitudes.
But, in reality, everyone around you is probably wondering, “Who just died?”
Take a look this outfit:
She’s got the “no makeup” makeup look going on which matches her understated attire. There’s no way anyone could find her outfit offensive.
Right, except the outfit above is mofuku (喪服) mourning dress, or standard funeral attire in Japan.
(You might also notice that Japanese celebrities wear similarly somber outfits when making a public apology or court appearance.)
Let’s take a look at simple changes you can make to your wardrobe so you’ll be ready for any formal occasion like a Japanese wedding, graduation, or company or school entrance ceremony.
Ideally, you want to stay away from black, and likewise red and white (for weddings). Instead try navy, forest green, wine red, cream, or pastels.
If you simply must wear black, consider the following:
I stress the importance of fabric as this is what makes formal wear different from funeral attire. The black fabric of mourning clothes will have little to no sheen or luster to it.
Next accessorize with one or two (three max) of the following:
Long, double strand of pearls
Avoid simple styles and try:
Updo with tendrils
Reverse braided bun (my favorite!!!)
As with the material of your dress, you can also play around with the material of your shoes. Suede, embossed (p)leather, and tweed are great choices.
Sheer tights (in black, navy, or brown; sheet tights with simple rhinestone embellishments on the ankle are a great way to make a statement if your shoes are “simple”)
Finally, finish your look with a smokey eye in shades of brown & neutral lip. Or, go for coral lips with pink/nude eyeshadows.
More on being a woman in Japan: