How to: Dress For Asian Summers

Summer is upon us! While I am currently in Canada, I can remember just how difficult I found the last two summers in Japan, especially since I suffer from heat exhaustion very easily, and did not pack well at all. I know that in the coming months, there will be lots of people moving to Japan, South Korea, China, and other Asian countries over the summer. The humidity you will be facing might be beyond anything you’re use to. While it might be easy to assume that you can just get away with tee-shirts and shorts, putting a bit more thought into your summer wardrobe will help mark the difference between a tourist and a local.

1. Stand out for all the right reasons
No matter where you go in Asia, you are going to stick out. The  visible minorities in Asian countries is usually well under 2%. As a comparison, Canada is sitting at about 20%, and in major urban centres, the number is sky rocketing. You WILL stand out.  So, if you go in with the knowledge that you are going to be stared at and draw attention, you will suddenly be much more aware of how you’re dressing. Walking the streets of Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Seoul are not the same as walking around downtown Toronto. People are much more aware of how they dress, their style, and what it says about them. Now, think about the first impression that your branded tee-shirt and shorts says while you’re amongst these cultures that love fashion and brands.
If people are going to stare, give them a good reason to! Have fun, indulge in a style you would never try at home. Go big, or go home.

2. Cotton: The Fabric of our lives
Make sure that all of your clothes are made of light cottons. You want a fabric that is absorbent and can breathe. The humidity can sometimes be like a wall that you walk through, and you have to accept the fact that you will feel drenched the second you’re outside. Wearing clothes that can absorb and breathe will make being outside a bit more bearable.

3. No tits and ass
Asia is so completely the opposite to Western countries sometimes, it takes a while to be use to it. The ideas of what is considered “sexy” is very different over there. The shirts aren’t as low cut, and cleavage isn’t common. A lot of this could be because Asian girls really have very little in regards to cleavage and an ass, and so why show off what you don’t even have? What they do have are legs, so while that cute, low cut shirt might not be completely appropriate, if you can pull off the short shorts, go wild.

4. Layering is a good idea
Long ago, when I was young, naive, and stupid, I thought that the multiple layers that people wore in Japan were absolutely crazy. It turns out, I just wasn’t layering right.  Say you REALLY like that cute, low cut shirt mentioned in point 3. If you can find a cute, light weight tank that can go underneath, it will help tame any neckline you’re worried about, and also help you blend into the fashion on the streets! Layering different tank tops, or a tank or tee under a sun dress is really common in places like Tokyo, so you can easily make your current summer wardrobe work with a few extra tank tops.

5. Easy, breezy, beautiful~
Go as light and breezy as you can go. Really, females can’t ever go too cute while overseas, because the girls can get really girly. Indulge in your feminine side. Light, floaty tops are key. Bring as many dresses and skirts as you can, because it will probably the coolest thing you could wear. You really don’t want clothes that will be snug and cling.
If you normally feel uncomfortable in dresses for various reasons (like your legs or something), remember point 4. Leggings, cycle or jogging shorts make things quite comfortable and can make you feel more secure about yourself in a dress. I recommend looking in the activewear department. American Apparel have a lot of different colours. Take advantage of the fact that you can get away with the bright colours in Asian countries.

6. Research!
Like I said in the first point, be aware of the fact that you are going to stand out to begin with. Do you want to be the person standing at Shibuya crossing, wearing a pair of Bermuda shorts and a teeshirt with no shape that came from a promotion, looking very much like a tourist? Or do you want to be the one turning heads for fitting in while standing out? If you know you’re going to be buying clothes for your trip, check out a few of the major brands in the country. Here are a few brands that can be found in various parts of Asia:


Personally, I always found that Old Navy’s clothes were very close to the styles found in Uniquo, and so would be a good place to start. Or, if you have the budget to allow for it, indulge in some obviously marked name brand items. Name brands speak volumes, and it is common to see women toting bags marked with all the high end labels. Labels don’t equal fashion though, so don’t be overly concerned about having those labels. Dressing cool and comfortably is the key.

Good luck, and have a great summer!