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Tokyo Street Style: Deconstructed

Updated on January 11, 2011

A guide to dressing up like the fashionable women in Tokyo.

Interested in Japan street fashion? I don't blame you. Japanese women are famous for being fashionable and their distinct original style has influenced many other cultures the world over in recent years. I have had the pleasure of going to Japan back and forth a lot of times and have always been fascinated with how the women there dress for either work or play. They always seem to know how to mix and match their outfits stylishly and effortlessly.

I am now about to show you examples of Tokyo street style and then I'll attempt to deconstruct their outfits so we can ape their look. Sound fun? Well then read on because I have more in store for you.

Photo via www.style-arena.jp.

Have a taste of Japan street fashion - A primer on the evolution of fashion in Japan.

Ever wonder how the Japanese eclectic fashion style came to be? Here's a little backgrounder from Wikipedia:

Japan began to emulate Western fashion during the middle of the 19th century. By the beginning of the 21st century it had altered into what is known today as 'Street Fashion'. The term 'Street Fashion' is used to describe fashion where the wearer personally customizes the outfits by adopting a mixture of current and traditional trends. Such clothes are generally home-made with the use of material bought from the stores. At present there are many styles of dresses in Japan, created from a mix of both local and foreign labels. Some of these styles are extreme and avant-garde, similar to the haute couture seen on European catwalks.

And now, thanks to media and the internet, we need not fly to Japan just to have a look at the Japanese' extraordinary sense of style. Check out the videos below to see samples of how our Asian sisters (and brothers) dress up. The styles range from the chic and fashionable to the...er, outright bizarre (although for some reason they are able to pull off the looks quite successfully!).

Shibuya street style

Get the look!

Shibuya refers to the central business district of Shibuya Ward in Tokyo, Japan which surrounds Shibuya Station, one of Tokyo's busiest railway stations. Shibuya is popularly known as one of the major fashion and nightlife districts of Japan, particularly for young people.

Shibuya is famous for its "scramble crossing" which is located in front of the Shibuya Station Hachiko exit. You may have seen this particular crossing in the movie poster for the 2003 American film Lost in Translation as well as in the third installment of The Fast and the Furious. Shibuya is also the setting for the Nintendo DS games The World Ends with You and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, as well as the Sega game series Jet Set Radio.

Shibuya fashion tends to be an eclectic mix of trendy and high-street fashion, as you will see in the following fun, stylish nippy-weather looks.

(photos courtesy of style-arena.jp)

Let's try getting the look, shall we?

*for a lot less to boot! We all know how expensive fashion is in Tokyo.

Buffalo Plaid Womens Military Hat

Hats and berets seem to be all the rage this season. Check out this imported military cap with an allover plaid print as a fun, bold accent. There's a button tab detail on each side.

RUSTY Amped Womens Top

Instead of picking a regular cardigan, spice things up with a Rusty Amp vest with an allover stripe print and a ruched racerback. Wear a printed long-sleeved tee in a matching color, like the one in the photo below, under the vest. Don't worry about the prints clashing, that's what eclectic style's all about.

FULL TILT Zebra Burn Out Womens Tee

This long-sleeved v-neck tee has an allover burn out zebra print for a sheer effect. Snap button decorations adorn the wrists.

POETRY Tiered Womens Skirt

I noticed that skirt lengths in Shibuya street fashion tend to end mid-thigh so I chose this flirty (but classy and decent) Made-in-USA cotton skirt with three ruffle tiers.

QUPID Melvin Womens Boots - Black

Finish off the Shibuya style look with a comfy pair of Qupid Melvin slouch-leg fringe-top suede boots.

If you like the fashion I've showcased in this section, there's tons more where they came from!

Shibuya street style won't be complete without Shibuya-kei - Listen to these fantastic plastic tunes while sashaying down the street!

Shibuya-kei is a sub-genre of Japanese pop music which originated in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. It is best described as a mix between jazz, pop, and electropop. The word for Shibuya is combined with the Japanese word kei which literally means "system" or, in this context, "style", to form Shibuya-kei which roughly translates to "Shibuya style".

Initially, the term was applied to Flipper's Guitar, and Pizzicato Five, bands strongly influenced by French ye-ye music and its most notable proponent, Serge Gainsbourg. Other influences include lounge, and bossa nova. As the style's popularity increased at end of the 90s, the term began to be applied to many bands whose musical stylings began to reflect a more mainstream sensibility.

In case you're new to Shibuya-kei, I highly recommend that you start with the following. These are a handful of my favorite artists and albums and I chose these ones in particular because I feel that they best convey the mood and vibe of Tokyo's street culture.

Omotesando street style

Get the look!

Omotesando is an avenue, subway station and neighborhood in the Minato and Shibuya wards in Tokyo stretching from Harajuku station, the foot of the famous Takeshita Street, to Aoyama-dori where Omotesando station can be found. It is known to be an upscale shopping area featuring several international brand outlets like Louis Vuitton and Gucci to the more affordable Gap, The Body Shop, and Zara. The street is also sometimes referred to as "Tokyo's Champs-lyses".

Based on the following photos, Omotesando fashion looks younger and relatively edgier than Shibuya street style. Blacks and greys are favored to bright colors but the same mix-and-match aesthetic is apparent nonetheless.

(photos courtesy of style-arena.jp)

Let's try getting the look, shall we?

Splendid 1x1 Long Cardigan Black

Wear this v-neck cardigan over a crisp white shirtdress (below).

RE Collection Button Up Shirt Dress White

Wear this white shirtdress like a tunic under the cardigan (above) and cinch them both with a chunky belt.

Murphy's Daughter Double Hole Belt Black

A tried and true staple done up in rich, soft black leather. This belt will stick with you for years to come.

Grey and Black Plaid Belted Pleated Skirt

Pair the cardigan & shirt tandem with this grey and black checkered plaid pleated miniskirt. You can ditch the belt since you already have one over your cardigan.

Fluxus Nylon Zip Tights Black

Depending on your mood, you can opt to finish off the look with these super hot and stylish zip-up leggings. Wear with a great pair of boots like the following:

WANTED Seek Girls Boots

Optional: You can also choose to accessorize this look with a skinny necktie in a bright color.

Ralph Lauren Black Label Knitted Bright Tie Yellow

If you like the fashion I showcased in this section, you'll find tons more where most of them came from:

Harajuku Street Style

Get the look!

Harajuku is best known as the birthplace of the cutting edge of Japanese fashion. It is an area between Shinjuku and Shibuya in Tokyo and the area known as "Ura-Hara" (back streets of Harajuku) is a center of Japanese fashion for younger people. The term "Harajuku Girls" has been used by English-language media to describe teenagers dressed in trendy sub-culture styles including Gothic Lolita, Ganguro, Gyaru, and Kogal. They also often cosplay (costume play) as characters from an anime, movie, or manga.

As you can see in the photos, anything and everything goes when it comes to Harajuku street style. They follow no rules and in fact, the more oddly mismatched, the better it seems. This style tends to look costume-y so wear at your own risk!

(photos courtesy of style-arena.jp)

Let's try getting the look, shall we?

Christy's Crown Bowler Hat

Let's start with an unexpected twist - a bowler hat. After all, Harajuku style is about expecting the unexpected. This hat is a beautiful piece which screams excellence, elegance, and style.

Pink Plaid Strapless Bubble Dress

The base of our outfit can be this pink and black buffalo plaid strapless dress features three bubble layers and silver tone pyramid stud details at the top. It actually looks like it came straight out of the streets of Harajuku, doesn't it?

Black Faux Leather Bomber Hooded Jacket

Pair the dress with this black bomber-style faux leather jacket for a "street" look.

Black Microfiber Tights

Finish off the look with sheer black tights ...

Demonia Wrap Around Double Strap Boots

...and this pair of 12-holed black boots that feature a strap across the large, rounded toe and a strap that wraps around the ankle/calf with hematite tone buckles.

Optional:

Color Fiend Royal Blue Temporary Comb In Color

If you truly want the Harajuku look, consider a change of hair color. A temporary comb-in dye would be best since it can be washed off in case the results are, ahem, disastrous.

Like the fashion I showcased in this section? There are tons more where they came from:

Accessorize your outfits with these designer bags.

Japanese women love luxurious designer handbags (well, doesn't everyone?) and they're not iffy about spending for what they want at the cost of high fashion. Of course, not all of us can afford that habit so check this space for great deals on designer bags on eBay.

Get in-depth on Tokyo Street Style

Tokyo Street Style Guide - A few guidelines to remember.

If you want to be as fashionable as the Japanese, keep these Tokyo Street Style tips in mind:

1. You don't need to match everything like you're used to. Pair that lilac cardigan with a brown belt then wear your brown boots as a finishing touch. Colors & patterns don't need to match.

2. Accessories are your BFFs! Now's the time to wear those scarves, leggings, hats, bangles & baubles, big earrings, hair clips, etc. Just don't overdo it - you wouldn't want to look like a Christmas tree now would you?

3. Layer different prints and patterns, harmonious colors, and accessories.

4. Long, wavy hair with highlights seems to be in vogue but if you want to keep your hair short, keep it straight and layered.

The right cut can make or break your Tokyo fashion outfit.

And now let's learn from the experts. Follow these links to read more about street style from the fashion authorities.

Shop for good deals on A Bathing Ape items

A Bathing Ape (BAPE) is a Japanese clothing company founded by Tomoaki "Nigo" Nagao in 1993. The company specializes in street wear, operating stores in Japan, including BAPE, BAPE Store, Foot Soldier and the Bape Exclusive store (located in Aoyama, Tokyo). The company also operates Bape Cuts hair salon, Bape Cafe and gallery, Bape Sounds records. There are also stores located in Hong Kong, London, New York, Taipei and Los Angeles. Nigo also founded the women's clothing lines "APEE", and "BAPY", the female "couture" clothing line.

Shop for good deals on Harajuku Lovers items - Find great deals on cute, Harajuku Lovers stuff.

Harajuku Lovers is the name of a designer brand of apparel, fashion accessories, and stationery of singer Gwen Stefani launched in 2005. The concept for Harajuku Lovers revolves around the Shibuya, Tokyo area of Harajuku and the four "Harajuku Girls," Gwen Stefani's Japanese back-up dancers and entourage (Love, Angel, Music, and Baby).

Unlike Stefani's previous fashion line, L.A.M.B., which aimed for a more mainstream demographic, Harajuku Lovers instead tends to focus specifically on Kawaiiness lovers.

Shop for good deals on Tokidoki items - Because kawaii-ness does not always come with a hefty price-tag.

Tokidoki is the Japanese-inspired lifestyle brand created in 2005 by Italian artist Simone Legno and his business partners Pooneh Mohajer and Ivan Arnold. tokidoki produces apparel and other products using art and iconic characters designed by Simone Legno.

Kimono-inspired tops and dresses

The ubiquitous Kimono, the perennial Japanese fashion staple, has been given an update in recent times. Here are some great deals on kimono wrap blouses and dresses.

Thanks so much for stopping by! I'll make sure to keep updating this lens as the seasons change. Meanwhile, please leave a note if you have suggestions of what you'd like to see here next, or simply if you liked the Tokyo Street Style outfits I put together!

Did you enjoy looking at the Tokyo Street Fashion photos? - Do let me know what you think of Japan street style.

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    • profile image

      sydeli 5 years ago

      I love Japan and their amazing fashions! Very nice lens!

    • profile image

      Edutopia 5 years ago

      Really well put together lens. I've always been curious for what passes as chic in other countries and this lens certainly delivered on that curiosity!

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      So this is really a mishmash of clothing trends and styles? Are there any styles for guys? I wouldn't dress like them but I'm interested in seeing their take on street fashion.

    • Sher Ritchie profile image

      Sher Ritchie 5 years ago

      I had no idea that there were so many blends of Tokyo street style - wow! A suggestion for a new post: There's park in Tokyo which has 'corners' and each 'corner' is 'taken' by a particular fashion group. There's the Elvis group, another for 'Japanese style mods & rockers' and that sort of thing. I'd love to see some pictures of those too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Extremely Beautiful lens :) very good arrangement of everything

    • profile image

      Cloudberry 6 years ago

      I'm a big fan of FRUiTS, but I loved seeing the more tame, do-able side -- quite enjoyed this lens. =)

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 6 years ago

      BEAUTIFULLY done lens.. thumbs UP!

    • OrganicMom247 profile image

      OrganicMom247 6 years ago

      They certainly do have their own flair for dress don't they. I like the very eclectic look.

    • puerdycat lm profile image

      puerdycat lm 6 years ago

      Always love to see somebody with a flair! Notice that my favorite fashion sites are largely eastern. Look to seeing more of your fashions. Thanks for this!

    • howdoyouspellst profile image

      howdoyouspellst 6 years ago

      I just came back to bless this lens now that I'm a Squid Angel!! Great job. Really cute fashions. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is wonderful. Great job. I lived in Tokyo for years and love all the places you describe. What a great town for fashion and people-watching!

    • howdoyouspellst profile image

      howdoyouspellst 6 years ago

      This is a great lens!! I love all the amazing tips and photos. Great job, and thank you!

    • profile image

      scar4 6 years ago

      There is no doubt that Tokyo is leading the street fashion, I'd love to try it out !

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You can certainly create your own look in Tokyo!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      Not sure I would wear any of these outfits (would not go down quite so well in a Scottish village) but this was a wonderful read and it's fun to know about fashions in other parts of the world!

    • profile image

      1001Kisses 7 years ago

      Nice topics! I like this articles, I am looking this type of articles and finally I got this, I want more about this articles.

      Thanks for this nice articles.

    • profile image

      totalhealth 7 years ago

      I admire japanese fashion, very unique and stylish, they are not afraid to be bold and unique but still look good.

    • perfumelover lm profile image

      perfumelover lm 8 years ago

      I like the streetstyle sightings photos you included! Would love to see more. Great work. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Your lens would be a great addition to the 'Fashion - Fashion Models' Group

      ( http://www.squidoo.com/groups/fashion-models )

      Feel free to add it anytime!

    • Karicor profile image

      Karicor 8 years ago

      Mabuhay! Interesting lens topic, Japanese fashion seems to be all the rage. I like how you recreate the look, although many of the items would still be out of my price range - but then again I'm not Japanese...

      This lens is off to a great start and I'll help it along a bit by giving you an Angel Blessing! Good luck! ^:)^