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Japanese Plus Size Fashion Norms

plus size japanese woman

What styles are considered fashionable for plus size women in Japan? Can plus size women be fashionable? Are there any clothes that plus size women 'shouldn't' wear? Are plus size women objected to more fashion rules compared to other sizes?

What's considered fashionable for Plus Size women in Japan seems counter-intuitive to those of us who grew up plus-sized in North America through the 90s and 2000's. When I think about fashion rules I have flashbacks to TLCs 'What Not to Wear' and countless listicles in Cosmo magazine. Rules focused on choosing items that were "flattering" (ie: slimming), and pieces, colors, and cuts were thrown together with this being the main focus. Using clothing to hide the body and make yourself into an optical illusion was how plus size women were told they could be fashionable. Yikes.

Japan comes with its own fashion "rules" for plus size women's fashion.

1. Be Confident Wearing Your Unique Style

You don't have to be mainstream to be considered fashionable. Japan has strong thrifting and fashion subcultures; if you already have a look you're confident with, don't go out of your way to fit in.

It's normal to feel the pressure to fit in, but it's not necessary to do so. A lot of people feel an immense pressure to fit in completely with locals and totally change their personal style. You don't need to change who you are, so wear what makes you happy and carve out your own look. If your look is "extreme" in comparison to people you see around you, you will get some stares.

2. Don't Show Too Much Cleavage

Japanese fashion is generally more conservative than Western fashion. Showing cleavage isn't done in most day-to-day trends, or in most professional settings. For evening wear, you can find some lower cuts for smaller sizes, but among plus size evening wear, covering the chest is the norm.

For practicality purposes, a high neckline prevents a lot of potential embarrassment day-to-day. Lower-cut tops can easily expose your chest when you lean forward (ie: every time you bow). Since bowing is a daily occurrence for residents, it can just be a hastle to have to remember to hold your top up every time.

As a guideline, when you bend forward (as you might if you were to bow), your cleavage shouldn't be in the other person's line of sight.

A lot of what is available in plus sizes in Japan doesn't give the option for low cuts unless you have an alternative style. Mainstream shops and trends tend to keep things at collarbone level.

3. Short Skirts

You're going to have to dig deep to find local Japanese brands that sell mini skirts or short dresses in plus sizes. The most common skirt lengths in plus-size fashion are tea-length, or just below the knee (depending on the style). Brands like Punyus (streetwear) and Gold Japan (club wear for plus size women) do carry shorter skirts, but for the most part, long skirts are the norm. If you're a skirt fan just be aware that shorter cuts are harder to find (and rarer to see out in public).

4. Oversized Clothing & Layers

Oversized and 'shapeless' clothing are mainstream hits. Everywhere you look you will see women of all sizes wearing drop-shoulder cardigans, long dusters, fluttery blouses, and a lot of balloon sleeves. A lot of pieces have no definition around the chest or waist and aren't cinched with a belt.

The objective is to create a silhouette that compliments your body, rather than accentuating the body. For plus size women, looser clothes are more common than anything that shows the figure. A lot of Japanese plus size tops aren't fitted and are designed to drape from the chest.

Layering goes hand-in-hand with the oversized clothing trends. So many Japanese fashion looks are achieved through layering. My personal favorites are t-shirts under dresses and decorative collars under sweaters.

Both of these styling options can take time to adjust to if you're not used to seeing yourself is looser clothes, but look amazing when executed well.

5. Embrace Traditionally 'Feminine' Details (if you want to)

Japan seems to love soft, delicate women's fashions. A lot of lace, frill, pastels, earth tones and flowers. You will see these details every season, year after year.

Overall, plus size fashion trends don't deviate much from smaller sizes in terms of colors or patterns. You'll be able to find seasonal colors in every size. Ultimately, the biggest difference between plus size and smaller sizes are the cuts of the clothing available. Plus size clothing, in general, is longer, looser and covers more of the body.

Plus size bodies in Japan still face a lot of criticism in fashion, and a lot of rules for women's fashions are still steeped in the idea that modesty is connected to a woman's professionalism, attractiveness and personality.

Recap: Japanese Fashion Norms for Plus Size Women
  • Have confidence in whatever you're wearing and wear what makes you look and feel good.

  • The objective of a lot Japanese fashion aesthetics is to create a flow and vibe with outfits; the focus is on the overall look, not necessarily hiding/exposing your body.

  • Don't show too much cleavage.

  • Don't show a lot of skin in general.

  • Oversized/loose clothing is fashionable for women of all sizes.

  • Skirts are always in fashion, though plus size women generally wear longer lengths.

  • Japanese fashion loves 'traditionally' feminine details; frills, lace, pastels, earth tones. Try whatever fits your personality.

  • There will be times when you are expected to dress like those around you (especially in school or professional settings).

  • Don't feel too pressured to fit in with the crowd, don't be afraid to make a statement with your fashion choices.


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