With restrictions easing up around the world and cases falling, it is no surprise that more and more are making their way back into the office, adapting a new mindset not only in employees but companies too. After the past ‘pandemic-ridden’ years where the lines between work and life have been blurred, we see a new leaf turning in the dress codes in Japan where many companies are loosening their dress codes to be business casual, rather than strictly business.
More specifically, over 50% of Japanese women (in a survey of 464) noted that their workplace dress code was ‘business casual’ – but what exactly is business casual? We explore its defining factors as well as some tips and tricks in solving popular workwear dilemmas that women in Japan are facing.
Throughout the years, especially recently, the Japanese work environment has evolved at a rapid rate due to more efforts made towards SDGs and because of work life changes brought forth by COVID-19.
‘Cool Biz’ and its latter counterpart ‘Warm Biz’ are two campaigns with the concept of implementing more casual dress codes for summer and winter, introduced by Japan’s Environment Ministry. This meant people were finally able to wear short sleeves in the summer and sweaters in the winter, rather than the traditional suit and tie set-up. By simply tweaking the dress code to fit the seasons, many companies were able to cut their electricity bills typically used on AC units throughout the offices.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses switched to remote working where dress codes became more comfort-central and casual, to even non-existent for days without video conferences. These concepts and more have pushed the idea of ‘business casual’ in Japan to be more popular and accepted by bigger companies. Although the definition of business casual varies with each business, here are a few rules that many Japanese women follow:
- Wearing neutral colors to not disturb the workplace atmosphere, with exception of the “50% rule” – avoiding outfits where more than half of the total coordinate consists of vibrant colors such as red and yellow.
- Avoiding overexposure of skin by covering decolletage, shoulders, and above the knees.
- Finding the right fit of clothing that is not too loose but not too tight where the bodyline is visible.
- Looking formal enough to feel confident meeting clients and attending conferences.
Here are a few examples of popular business casual outfits based on a survey of 400 Japanese businesspeople around Tokyo, conducted by Monitas. D (Shirt + skirt or trousers) and E (dress) are the most prevalently seen amongst Japanese businesswomen in Tokyo, and G (casualwear) is the most popular style that they wish to see become more popular and accepted in the office. The list above is carefully followed with every single combination, including the use of muted colors and appropriate coverage for the workplace.
According to Biz Hits, the most popular workwear dilemma Japanese women are facing is the monotonousness and the lack of versatility of business wear, as well as the stress of having to coordinate a different outfit every day. Especially with the new ‘business casual’ implementation, more freedom means more choices, which may be a challenge at times.
Mix and match with a Mermaid Skirt
That’s why opting for a small selection of easy to mix-and-match pieces that offers versatility without raising eyebrows has become popular within the business casual scene. With nuanced color staples you can build multiple looks from, you can get the most out of the same item and save yourself time in the morning. For example, the kay me Midi Mermaid Skirt is the perfect companion to create business casual looks! By keeping the bottom of the outfit a neutral solid color like Khaki, it adds possibilities for what can be worn on top while both keeping the 50% rule and providing coverage down below the knees. For occasions that call for more formality, the skirt can be paired with its matching jacket for an instant suit-like appearance!
For those looking to inject more color into their business casual style, opting for a light toned skirt like Beige with a colored top keeps the style fresh yet still sharp, or choosing Pink not only complements a range of skin tones but brings a soft and elegant hue to the office environment.
Easy, breezy with a Docking Dress
Another suggestion would be wearing docking dresses, which cuts the time of deciding an outfit without compromising versatility. Take our White x Gray Docking Twist Dress for example; this dress can be worn on its own, cutting decision-making time down to mere seconds. Throw over and button up a cardigan on top to transform the dress into a skirt-like appearance. And of course for unexpected guest visits or for presentation days, the dress can be coordinated with its matching jacket for an instant suit ensemble! Docking dresses are perfect for those looking for the ease and comfort of simply slipping into a dress with the appearance of a skirt and top. By coordinating the right outerwear for each occasion, docking dresses can drastically change their appearance from chic and intellectual to soft and welcoming!
Or for a dress with a casual-chic touch that plays with textures, our Sophie Faux-leather Docking Dress not only looks sharp, but makes getting ready in the morning even faster – simply slip in and zip up!
Add a splash with colored Pumps
Of course, another challenge that comes with dressing business casual is footwear. Even with the office dress code becoming more lenient and comfort-oriented, allowing flats and lower heels, many Japanese women still opt for heeled pumps for fashion and feeling more confident at work. However, a concern that many women faced when wearing pumps was how tired and achy their feet became especially after a long day at work. To combat this without compromising the chic style pumps add to an outfit, we recommend pumps designed with extra cushioning and support, like our Puni Puni Pumps collection! Our lightweight pumps have been specially designed for comfortable support and features 10 times the amount of cushioning compared to other brands. Made specifically for working women in mind, these shoes will keep you feeling comfortable and fabulous from morning to night! Although our Puni Puni Pumps are available in 29 shades, why not venture from adding a splash of color to your ordinary business casual outfit to add subtle personality?
With the shift of workwear dress codes becoming more casual, it may seem intimidating at first to make sure you are not dressing too casual, or not enough. Crafting outfits with a larger range of freedom could be overwhelming at first so it’s always best to take inspiration from women around you, or even women you look up to. Here at kay me we wish to be there every step of the way as you step up to looking your best in business casual attire. With our incredible selection of clothing, shoes, and bags, you’ll find your unique business casual style in no time!