10 Tokyo Style Tips to Stay Cool When the Weather Gets Hot
Looking Good, Without Breaking a Sweat
July 16, 2021
When dressing for summer in Japan, avoid these fashion and clothing mistakes and learn how to stay stylish even on the most sweltering hot days!
From traditional festivals to cooling down with kakigori (Japanese shaved ice), summer in Japan is an especially charming time of year. But Japanese summers are also known to be brutally hot and humid, and knowing what to wear to stay comfortable is key.© Photo by Ryo Yoshitake
I’ve learned the hard way just how important choosing the right clothing and styling is when the temperatures start rising. I’ve suffered through heat rashes, sweat stains, and resorting to wearing the same T-shirt five days in a row (out of desperation when everything else in my closet seemed too stuffy). From the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve learned some valuable lessons on what to wear during the summer in Japan. Follow these tips to stay cool while looking put together.
1. Choose light undergarments
Opt for light camisoles, and avoid thick or heavily padded bras. I’ve made the mistake of choosing synthetic, non-breathable undergarments that trap heat and moisture, causing skin irritation. Better, more summer-friendly options include simple cotton bralettes (easily found in many stores around Tokyo) and undershirts with built-in bras (try the bra tops at Uniqlo).
2. Keep fabrics light
At times, knitted clothes, such as knitted vest-type tops, have been trendy in Japan even during the summer. However, this is a trend worth passing on. Instead, opt for airy fabrics that cool down the body. Natural fibers such as linen and cotton should be a staple in your summer wardrobe and be on the lookout for lesser-known options such as Japanese washi fabric. To help beat the heat, many retailers in Japan also offer clothing lines designed to wick moisture and keep you comfortable, including Muji’s linen and hemp basics and Uniqlo’s Airism garments.
3. Layer carefully
Staying comfortable in the heat doesn’t always have to mean forgoing layering. In fact, many women in Japan know how to layer during a heatwave with ease. Lately, long overshirts worn over summery tops and comfy bottoms are popular. These shirts are typically left unbuttoned or half unbuttoned, looking (and feeling) breezy rather than bulky. Another similar trend is to take a shirt or cardigan and tie it by the sleeves around the shoulders or chest, offering slightly more coverage if needed.
4. Skip the slip© Photo by Artem Beliaikin
Though midi and maxi-length skirts are a go-to in summer, beware of skirts with slips. Many Japanese shops and clothing brands offer summer skirts that have a modest slip built-in. Though having a slip might seem like a safe choice, I’ve learned from experience that these slips tend to stick to skin, feeling awkward and uncomfortable. Avoid skirts with slips and look for breezier, slip-free options when shopping.
5. Avoid white shirts
Common advice says to wear light colors on hot, sunny days. However, I’ve learned the hard way that white shirts don’t stand a chance during an August in Japan. White blouses and button-ups can look cute, but they’re more likely to end up with unsightly sweat stains than darker fabrics. If you still don’t want to part with your favorite white top, consider “sweat shields” that stick to fabric and block underarm sweat from staining your shirt.
6. Embrace being matchy-matchy
Lately, matching separate sets (think a polo top or T-shirt and shorts, both in the same color and fabric, for example) are especially trendy, and these sets are perfect for summer. For one, they’re easy to find during the summer at both local Japanese shops and international chain stores, and because they’re made to be coordinated, no time is wasted considering what matches. These sets can be found in airy fabrics and hot weather-friendly cuts and styles.
7. Stay in the shade
Protecting yourself from the sun is necessary for your health, as well as for your comfort. And what better way to stay shaded than by using stylish accessories? Choose a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face, or even grab a UV-blocking umbrella that coordinates with your outfit.
8. Stay work-appropriate© Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
I once made the mistake of wearing a sleeveless, low-cut V-neck top to work to stay cool, and while this may be allowed in some workplaces, it wasn’t at mine. Get to know your workplace dress code during the summer months, and embrace Japan’s “cool biz” fashion as much as possible.
9. Rethink tucking your shirt
Tucking in a shirt or blouse can create a flattering silhouette, but it can also raise your body temperature. I’ve noticed a considerable difference in how hot I feel when I tuck in T-shirts and blouses, compared to when I leave my tops flowy. If you decide to tuck in a shirt, assuming it’s not a part of a required uniform, consider only partially tucking it into your bottoms, in order to allow some airflow.
10. Sometimes, one piece is enough
A dress, or “one piece” as it’s called in Japan, may be your most comfortable, breeziest summer clothing choice. I used to be attached to my stretchy, form-fitting jeans, even in the summertime, but now I embrace the comfort of light and airy dresses. Another option is an “all-in-one,” or a jumpsuit-style garment. Some great options are short rompers, short-sleeve jumpsuits, or classic overalls. Make sure to choose roomy options, since body-hugging styles will only trap heat more.
Surviving summer in Tokyo may take a bit more thought and planning compared to other cities but with these tips, it’s still possible to look and feel good during scorching hot days.
What style lessons have you learned? Let us know in the comments!