Along with French lingerie, Japanese lingerie has one of the most distinctive aesthetics in the industry. And there’s a lot of crossover between the two.
Both countries prefer more decorative lingerie over the plain stuff. They both love to use lace and embroidery. However, in France, these fabrics tend towards the fine and delicate. While in Japan, it’s usually of the conspicuous variety.
That same more-is-more approach goes for most other aspects of Japanese lingerie. For example, they certainly don’t shy away from color! You will come across endless pastels, especially baby pink and pale blue. But also bolder hues, and pieces that combine many colors.
Japanese lingerie is, in general, all about embellishment. Minimalist underwear does exist in Japan, as it does everywhere. But designs that incorporate decorative touches are far more common. Picture a bra as opposed to a smooth t-shirt bra as you can get. Something richly textured, and all about volume. Frills, bows, and appliqués are all common elements.
In Wacoal bras, especially, this adornment often continues up the straps. (Another similarity to the French lingerie style.) And in case one design feature is not enough? There are plenty of sets with appliquéd flowers layered over a vibrant print or pretty lace.
Another area where Japanese lingerie brands go all-in is with padding. A typical Japanese bra is molded, padded, and may well have removable cup pads too.
Plus, there’s a strong focus on creating cleavage! But it’s not the same ‘lifted’ cleavage as in the US and UK. It’s more of a ‘pushed together’ shape. The design of many Japanese bras is to smooth and narrow the ribcage. They push all of the breast tissue inwards, flattening the sides in the process.
Size-wise, Japanese lingerie tends to skew smaller. According to one large-scale study, the average cup size there is an A. Or at least the equivalent to a Western A cup. (Notice how almost none of the bras featured here are available below a B.)
It’s not just that the size selection is limited. Sizes also tend to fit smaller in comparison to the US and UK. If you wear a Western XS, you could need a Japanese M. Bra bands may fit tighter too. So definitely check the size chart!
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find Japanese bras in full-bust cup sizes. Because, of course, full-busted people exist everywhere. They’re just a lot less commonplace. For bottoms, though, sizing choice is often incredibly limited. Sometimes even just a single size.
Loving this fantastical lingerie style? I know I do! Then let’s list some brands to know. First up is Japanese-founded Wacoal, whom I’ve already mentioned. They have several brands under their umbrella. Some of these are US- and Europe-targeted brands such as Freya and Elomi. But in Japan, they include the likes of Salute, Trèfle, Parfage, Studio Five, and Amphi. All vastly different in style to their non-Japanese brands!
Similarly, Triumph makes plainer lingerie for its Western audience. Meanwhile, it treats its Japanese clientèle to beautifully ornate brands Valisere and Premium Design. It also owns, among others, Florale, which is a little more pared-back but still far from dull. And budget-friendly Amos Style, which is also a ‘pretty’ brand despite the lower price point.
Other Japanese lingerie brands to take note of include Peach John, Ravijour, Absorle, and Risa Magli. Not going to Japan any time soon? Shopping online from any of these brands can be difficult if you can’t read Japanese. Shirohato is a good multi-brand retailer to know about in that case. It’s available in well-translated English.
Japan, like France, has a thriving fashion culture. From the unmistakable Lolita style to traditional embroidered kimonos, many of its people treat clothing as an art form. And that influences how the country approaches its undergarments too.
Japanese lingerie offers some pretty aggressive shaping. But the emphasis on fit feels secondary to fashion. It’s really about having fun and adorning your body with wearable art. Even on the most mundane of days!
Let me know below what you think of Japanese lingerie. Have you ever bought any?