If you’re a woman who wears anything larger than a size US-10/UK-14/German-40, you’re going to find it very difficult to find apparel of any kind that fits. Not only are the body dimensions proportioned differently here, but the range of clothes of larger sizes are extremely limited. In addition, larger sizes tend to be either very cheap (in more ways than one) or very expensive.
Some basic conditions are that: the designs do not enhance the curves of fuller figures; the cuts are generally boxy and/or loose; and the colors are usually subdued (black, gray, beige, dark blue, brown, white); the patterns often include horizontal stripes and broad floral prints. Trendy styles made for the smaller sizes are simply cut larger for plus sizes, regardless of their suitability for abundant fabric.
To the rescue is actress Naomi Watanabe, the force behind La Farfa magazine, Japan’s first fashion publication aimed at larger-sized women. Ms. Watanabe’s popular Instagram and Twitter account, and public appearances generated lots of interest in both the magazine and her line of plus-sized fashion, PUNYUS, both launched in 2013. Now, being a larger woman, or “marshmallow girl”, is considered appealing, so there is a stronger possibility of more large size options becoming available in the near future. Chubby young females have been dubbed “marshmallow girls” in the media here, and are considered to be “kawaii” (cute). PUNYUS has bright, cheerful fashion with some larger footwear and accessories available. Its target market are the “marshmallow girls”. Distinctive cartoon graphics and funky accessories make it the most lighthearted among retailers of Japan’s plus-sized apparel.
Your shopping basic options are: high-end designer clothes from department stores; mail-order shopping from abroad; made-to-order/hand-sewn. We will address the first two options in this article.
Talbot’s used to be a go-to shop for foreign women, but the local company split from the U.S. parent company a few years ago, and they no longer offer larger sizes beyond a US petite 12.
High-end boutiques and department store brands include Italy’s Marina Rinaldi (a division of Max Mara). Many of Marina Rinaldi’s Japan selections are boxy, but some are body-conscious. There is lots of black, but also vibrant colours among their styles. Staff will order items by request. Sizes are available up to US-26/UK-30/German-58. Footwear is only available up to size US-9.5/UK-7/Italy-41. Boutiques are within major department stores nationwide.
German-based ESCADA’s clothing is known for flattering curvy figures. Colours remain true from collection to collection, and most of the garments are made in Europe. Flagship stores are in Tokyo and Fukuoka, boutiques are in major department stores, and outlet shops are in some AEON Outlet malls. Clothing sizes go up to US-18/UK -22/German-48. A limited amount of footwear is available in smaller sizes.
Department store boutiques include 23ku, Simple Life and Tadashi Shoji in his Aoyama Showroom, Isetan - Shinjuku’s Clover section, Nihonbashi - Mitsukoshi, Ginza - Mitsukoshi, Sogo - Yokohama, Matsuzakaya - Nagoya, Hankyu - Umeda, Hankyu - Nishinomiya, Sendai - Fujisaki department stores with sizes only up to US-14.
Mail order: Amazon.com (Amazon.co.jp has almost nothing in plus sizes, but some items from the U.S. store are available via the Japan store); Evans (evans.co.uk); Nordstrom; Lands’ End; Lane Bryant; Rue 107 ($30 to $40 for shipping); Hey Gorgeous; Igigi ($40 to $50 for shipping); Monif C ($49 for shipping); Kiyonna; Pinup Girl Clothing; Saks Fifth Avenue; Sealed With a Kiss; Torrid; Jibri; Talbot’s (often has shipping issues). Local stores only carry petite sizes 0-12. Forever 21 (Local stores have no plus size options, but occasionally stock footwear up to U.S. size 10).
Catalogs/Online retailers: Cecile, Dinos, Nissen Smile Land, Otto, Rakuten, UNIQLO, Wego, Yahoo! Premium Brand Avenue sell either their own brands or other name brands.
For cos-players, JiG Paradise has produced four costumes for marshmallow girls in size 4L, which is roughly equivalent to US-18/XXL. These are also available on Amazon.co.jp.
Re-J/Jinnee is in Q’s Mall, PARCO, and other locations nationwide. It is aimed at younger consumers. Sizes go from Japanese LL to 4L.
Itoh Yokado’s MISSEL is aimed at mature women sized LL to 3L. Izumiya’s large sizes go up to 5L, equivalent to size US-18/UK-22/German- 48.
Sakazenサカゼン specializes in menswear, but has a dedicated section for larger women. Notable is its selection of Made In Japan clothing and business wear. See on its Queen Size Chart below that it has up to size US-20/UK-24/ German-50.
Shimamura-ya is known for offering larger sized leg wear, footwear, and casual wear. Very inexpensive, and the overall quality is cheap. Sizes go to US-14/UK-18/German-44.
WEGO is found at AEON Malls and caters to both men and women fashion. A limited selection of larger sizes are on hand, and some of the men’s clothing may also be worn by women.
Properly-fitting lingerie is also hard to come by. Bra sizing is unique to Japan. Bras are heavily padded and embroidered, and show through easily. Japanese women wear 2-3 layers of undergarments, even during the hottest summer weather, including camisoles or body shapers and girdles over their bras and panties. Makers such as Triumph and Wacoal sell very different merchandise than what they offer overseas, so you won’t find your favourite T-shirt or minimizer bra here. Your best bet is to buy online or ship from abroad.
Shoes more readily available in larger sizes, although quantities and styles are rather limited and often not youthful.
Men's shoes are an option for casual wear, such as sneakers and sandals. Foreign brands, such as Nine West, Easy Spirit, Crocs, and New Balance, sometimes have larger size options. Local makers Regatta Canoe offer orthopedically-designed larger sizes for both women and men.
Outlets - Mitsui Outlet malls have Diffusione Tessile stores featuring MaxMara, SportMax and MaxMara Weekend up to size US-12/UK-14.
So get your wallet and head to the nearest mall for a new wardrobe this summer!