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Camisoles Come to the Fashion Forefront

May 25, 1998

Many Japanese fashion magazines are featuring camisoles extensively in their 1998 spring and summer issues.

The camisole, once considered solely as underwear to be worn under a woman's blouse, has come out into the open to take the Japanese fashion world by storm. Women are working it into their wardrobe in various ways, matching it with slip-like skirts and covering it with see-through tops. The camisole has been profiled in almost every Japanese fashion magazine, and department stores, troubled by otherwise sluggish sales, are heavily stocking this sure seller. While young women's fashions come and go, the number of women wearing sheer clothes in public seems to indicate a deeper change in how they perceive their bodies.

Underwear Hits the Streets
The popularity of this style is such that at a spring 1998 fashion show staged by two major apparel makers, around 70 of the 100 new items displayed were camisoles or longer slip dresses. With their thin string shoulder straps, camisoles bare plenty of skin, and their use of lace at the hem and chest make them even more like lingerie. The fashion depends heavily on exposure--the pieces are often used in layers with other gauzy garments or coupled with underwear that the wearer is willing to show to the world.

The camisole style first surfaced in the spring/summer collections previewed last autumn in Milan and Paris. Elements of the style were picked up by designers both in Japan and abroad, leading to a wave of camisole fashions in women's clothing departments. One department store in downtown Tokyo has tapped into the boom by establishing a "camisole center" with an extensive lineup of goods.

The style was a hit once before, in the mid-1980s, when the fitness craze drove people to jogging trails and aerobics gyms; they wanted to show off the healthy bodies they had built. Even more revealing clothes became hits thereafter--micro-miniskirts, "body-conscious" tight dresses, and bared midriffs--but these styles were seen mainly among a select, fashion-conscious group of women. The camisole boom now sweeping Japan, involving clothes that are less overtly revealing than previous styles, is gaining popularity among a wider range of wearers, including women in their thirties and forties.

Confident, Cost-Conscious Wearers
Camisole fashions have become so popular that some makers are dedicating 70% to 80% of their lines to the pieces. Recent fashions have been almost universally embraced by younger wearers. For example, bleached hair, miniskirts, and boots sported by one entertainer became so popular several years ago that it was almost difficult at one time to spot a girl in her late teens without that look. Many see this phenomenon as indicative of a variety of societal shifts.

On the subject of the rising popularity of the "lingerie look," one fashion critic has this to say: "This style of clothes has been around for more than a decade, but it is only recently that younger women have overcome their resistance to self-exposure and the fashion has become widespread." One sociologist explains this as a change in women's attitude toward their bodies: "As these women have come to control their bodies through dieting and beauty treatments, they have grown prouder of their healthy skin and slender figures and begun displaying more of themselves. Before, these women felt they were being looked at by men, but now they are taking the lead and making themselves seen."

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Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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