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What Do I Wear There? Study Abroad in China, Israel, & Japan


What do I wear there? Study abroad in China, Israel and Japan

For this week’s site-specific Study Abroad post, I’ll be focusing on three countries in Asia: China, Israel and Japan.

Want info for a different country? In case you missed my previous posts, see What Do I Wear There? Study Abroad, Study Abroad Fashion FAQ, What Do I Wear There? Study Abroad in the UK and Ireland, and Study Abroad Fashion in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

Before I share all of the awesome information some wonderful CF readers (as well as some of my own friends) have given me from their experiences, I want to make two quick notes:

  • All of the information here is taken from advice I have received–it is not a binding set of rules for how to dress in these locations! These are simply some helpful suggestions on what articles of clothing have proved most functional and worthwhile for those who have traveled abroad. However, for this article, it is important to note what is and is not appropriate to wear in these areas, as they tend to be more conservative than what most readers may be used to.
  • Because of the nature of these posts–which are trying to cater to such a large crowd of people going to all different places within each of these countries–I am forced to generalize. However, I do understand that fashion is different not just in the different countries but also in the different regions of each country. Therefore, please feel free to correct me or add more detail in the comments if you think your specific location within these countries follows different fashion “rules” or subscribes to a different way of dressing!

Now, on to the advice!


China has been one of the places to watch in the fashion industry lately, as the street style there has proven to be very inventive! Style in the cities of China ranges from a “cute” look–one source suggests going for graphic tees and layered jewelry for a day-to-day look, to a more urban-chic look with darker tones and slimmer silhouettes.


Either way, the overall Chinese look is very feminine and put-together, meaning sweats and baggier, “grungier” clothes are very uncommon!

Both of my sources in China claimed that skirts and dresses are significantly more popular than jeans, even during the winter. Therefore, layering is essential to staying warm! Cozy winter accessories like leggings, patterned tights, scarves, and fun hats are also a must.


However, one source currently visiting China says it is also important to remember that style in China–much like anywhere else–is very different from the city to the more suburban areas. The style is less fancy in the suburban areas, where he claimed he saw “jeans and parkas” on most young women. Therefore, be sure to pay attention to the area you will be staying in when you pack your suitcase!

Regardless of how you choose to fuse Chinese fashion with your own personal style, it is important to note that the culture in China calls for discretion in how much skin you show. As one source told me, “Don’t be too revealing there…you have to respect both yourself and the local people.”


CF reader Elsa actually lives in China and was kind enough to send over the pictures you see in this section from the International Fashion Academy (IFA Paris) in Shanghai to show us Chinese street style at its best! Elsa works at IFA Paris, which is “a multi-disciplinary fashion school that offers undergraduate and graduate programs in design, technique and business on its campuses in Paris and Shanghai.”

IFA has over 900 students from around the world and aims to “provide young fashion professionals with the skills and attitude necessary to become leaders in international fashion & luxury companies and, at the same time, to strongly encourage its graduates to lead the way in shaping the next generation of fashion design.” Thanks so much to Elsa and IFA Paris for letting us use these pictures!



My  ever-stylish roommate Ashley (center) and fashionable family members at dinner on a summer night in Israel

The most important thing to remember when packing for Israel is the climate, as it is generally very warm there and you want to make sure you pack accordingly!

My source said that Israeli fashion is “very relaxed”–think shorts, jeans, tee-shirts, cardigans, and flowing maxi dresses and skirts. She claimed that the style there is much more about comfort and adhering to the climate–there were significantly less “flashy” pieces being worn for both a casual day and a night out.

In general, the Israeli culture calls for slightly more modest attire. Therefore, try to stay away from super tight or revealing tops, as well as super-short dresses, skirts, and shorts. One tip I received was to carry a cardigan along with you on hotter days when you want to wear tank tops, as this way, if you do happen to want to travel to a Holy site, you can throw on the cardigan for a more appropriate outfit!

As with the other areas we have looked at, be sure to bring plenty of pieces you can layer so that you are prepared with any weather. My source also suggests bringing along a wide-brimmed hat to protect you from the sun on those super hot days, as well as to look into purchasing “Naot” sandals once you get there, which are extremely popular and comfortable warm-weather footwear there.


Japanese model
Photo Credit

Just like with China, Japanese fashion has really made its mark on the global fashion scene. With trends like the “Lolita/Gothic baby doll” look or even–as my Japanese source mentioned–“dressing like a princess,” the Japanese are certainly not afraid to take fashion risks!

Of course, you do not have to go for one of these extreme looks to be stylish in Japan. As with China, I was cautioned to stay away from “slouchy” attire, as well as flip flops. Jeans are also less common here, as the street style (especially in the cities) is dressier than what many of us college students may be used to for a casual day. As my source says, if you do wear jeans, “pair them up with a nice top and heels” as opposed to a tee-shirt and sneakers.

Concerning the modesty issue, you can pretty much follow what as said about China. Basically, stay away from anything that is low-cut or “clingy,” as well as shorts and skirts that are very short.

A great tip from my Japanese source is to “always bring socks” in case one of the places you go requires you remove your shoes. If you expect to go to any tea ceremonies, the same source says to “bring socks and nice pants or a nice long skirt that you can kneel in or have your knees inside for a long time.”

Unfortunately I did not receive any pictures of Japanese fashion, but I did check over on, and they have some great examples of fabulous Japanese fashion! Also, I found the above shot on Flickr. If you have any info on Japan or photos of street style, tell us and link to your photos in the comments!

My Study Abroad Sources

My sources for this week really went above and beyond at helping me out, so I wanted to say thank you to them for all of the amazing tips and pictures I received! The advice and images you see above are all courtesy of Ashley, Brea, Elsa, John, and  Meredith.

Be sure to thank them in the comments as well! They all took out so much time to help you guys from their experience.

What Do You Think?

Do these tips fit in with your travel experiences? Have you noticed these trends in these Asian countries as well? Do you have any additional tips that you think are important? Do you know of any other websites or shopping spots that are great for those going to any of these countries? Tell us in the comments!

Also, keep the e-mails and comments coming for advice for other countries! I will be continuing the series with more site-specific advice next week for Scandinavia, so e-mail me at whatdoiwearthere AT gmail DOT com with any tips!

Posted on on December 11, 2009 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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32 Responses to “What Do I Wear There? Study Abroad in China, Israel, & Japan”

  1. 1
    December 11th, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    As someone who lived in Israel for a year and visits regularly, I have to say that Israel is NOT hot all year round. You may not get a blizzard everyday (ok, you won’t) but that doesn’t mean you won’t need a winter coat and warm boots- you will! I mean, if you go far enough north, you can even ski in Israel!

    I lived in Jerusalem and then in Be’er Sheva (a big city in the south) and both places got pretty cold come the winter. It’s definitely a misconception that Israel is warm year round. Honestly, even in the summer, it gets pretty cold at night if you’re out hiking in the desert.

    I would also make sure you have a few long skirts to wear to holy places like the Western Wall and some of the more religious neighborhoods. Covering your shoulders is not enough, you need to wear a skirt that covers your knees or else you’ll feel uncomfortable.

    Additionally, it’s definitely not true that the entire country is more modest than here. Tel Aviv is basically the NYC of the middle east, and you can wear whatever you want there…While many Israelis are very modest, others tend to don a more euro-trash look. I also think you might get laughed at in a big floppy hat. I’ve never seen them worn by Israelis.

    You definitely need a good pair of sneakers for hiking, and colorful scarves are a must.

    Hope this helps!

  2. 2
    December 11th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I have been to Israel and the article is totally right about the attire. However, if you are going in the winter or early spring it does get a little chilly especially in Jerusalem so pack according.

  3. 3
    December 11th, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    i gree that asians tend to have cuter style :) we like wearing dresses and skirts much more than the americans, and this is especially obvious in winter haha.

    and i’d also say staying away from extremely low-cut tops, but many girls actually wear really short skirt and shorts…so it’s ok to show some legs! asian countries like china, korea, japan and taiwan are much more open now.

    for japanese style, i recommend reading the magazine ViVi! it has all the hot trends in japan. so before you go there (or even china and taiwan, since japanese style is really hot in these two countries,) i suggest you to grab a ViVi magazine and people there will love your style! ;)

  4. 4
    December 11th, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    I must say after living in China for 5 + years, that while your tips for China help, here’s more on the fashion in China:

    Skin: use your common sense, which means nightclubs/bars in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing still have a dress code of “do show skin”
    However, if you are visiting a temple/gov. office do dress conservatively and cover up. The same idea as attending Church in America with your family and what you would wear for that.

    In addition, there is one typo found in the spelling source “souce” right before the lien about revealing skin.

    China has become very open fashion wise in the last decade, so there is no such thing as “having to be feminine”. I don’t know who the sources are for this China fashion paragraph, but I must point out that right now edgy androgynous looks are in. Too feminine and girly is out. Ever since one teenage singing sensation LIYUCHUAN gained huge popularity in China, every girl is following the short hair/edgy/androgynous trend, especially in big cities.

    Also, hairstyles wise, Chinese girls do not like the whole volumizing thing and prefer tidy sleek hair or neat curls. Perms or straightening hair at salons is very normal and cheap in China.

    Another tip for shopping in China:

    Many earrings are not nickel free and vendors do not understand if you question them about it. Please be careful when buying earrings. Bargaining is the norm unless otherwise stated or if you’re in a department store.

    Clothes usually need to be HANDWASHED if purchased from boutiques/small stores so do not put them in the washing machine unless you want them to dye your other clothes/or shrink.

  5. 5
    December 11th, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    If youv’e ever felt like wearing a really mad theatrical outfit out but didn’t quite dare the place to do it in Tokyo is Harajuku, particularly around the station. It’s really well known for being full of outlandish and amazingly dressed people. I definitely recommend googling Harajuku or Fruits Magazine (Harajuku street style photography) even if you’re not going to Japan.

    I also really agree with the advice about wearing socks as in most Japanese households it would be considered quite rude to wear outdoor shoes inside the house. Also many people sit much closer to the floor rather than on knee length chairs so I recommend not wearing anything that will ride up or be uncomfortable sitting cross legged etc.

  6. 6
    December 11th, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    I agree with Lena Michelle, read Vivi or Can Cam for fashion inspirations. When I lived in Japan I always wore flip flops, maybe because it was really hot where I lived.

  7. 7
    December 11th, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    This is so true. I’m from Hong Kong and our style is so different from American style.
    I think everything said about Chinese and Japanese style is SO true. I never wear jeans, but if i do, i wear heels wtih it. I wear dresses and skirts all the time and do not own sweat pants.

    To me, American style is very laid back, to the point that it is sloppy and messy.

  8. 8
    December 11th, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    In Japan, sitting with legs crossed is very masculine – since politeness is so important, it’s better to sit kneeling with the posterior area resting on the ankle. Posture is huge – fidgeting is unsavory, also crossed legs when sitting in a chair is very informal and casual, only to be done with close friends.

    Also, remember that in Japan you’ll be bowing, possibly low enough to form a right angle with your body, so low cut shirts are not a good idea for that reason, since it will be very easy to see down them!

  9. 9
    December 11th, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    What everyone has said regarding the asian fashion scene is true. I would like to add that long cardigans paird with flirty shirts is pretty popular. Short shorts are also popular paired with long tights or knee high socks and big slouchy shirts/blouses are also a safe go to. If you prefer to wear pants go with slacks, it has a cleaner look. Don’t be afraid of patterns and a little juxtapose. Converses are the ideal sneaker wear. If you have colorfull or DIY’ed converses bring them. Don’t over do it it’s about porportion. Asian clothing tend to have a lot of character when paired together. If you have a designer bag bring it.

    Regarding hair in Japan, it’s a little different than in China. Most know or are aware of the “scenester/emo” cut, with the bangs swished to the side and heavily layered or spiked ends. That originated in Japan. Not everyone sports it obviously, but it is quite popular. Basically anything goes with hair there.

    -Also, if your going to Japan make sure your shoes are clean and your feet are well pedicured- it’s the first thing the Japs notice about a person to them it says alot about your character and habits.

  10. 10
    December 12th, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Thank you so much for this! Having the pictures helped especially. For another article, would you consider doing Morocco? One of my friends is going there next semester, and she’s freaking out; another one of my friends is going to Russia, so if there’s any interest…and I would also like to throw Australia out there, even though I’m not going till next year :) I really love this series, thank you.

  11. 11
    December 12th, 2009 at 1:12 am

    This is perfect! My friend is going to study abroad in China and I’m definetly sending her this link. We were just talking about this the other day!

  12. 12
    December 12th, 2009 at 2:56 am

    As for Israel – Naot are actually not that popular amongst young people…well they are not really that fashionable. Gladiator sandals are very popular though, so you should get a comfortable pair.

  13. 13
    December 12th, 2009 at 4:12 am

    well actually I’m half japanese and I go to tokyo every year, what I realised that the clothes most people in japan wear really differ from city to city. for example, in tokyo, even revealing tops and short skirts won’t really make you stick out like a sore thumb, they’re much more open to western culture and it’ll commonplace to see other girls wears revealing outfits, but if you’re heading to other parts of japan, maybe not so much.
    for tokyo, good shopping spots would be Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku perhaps?
    The clothes sold in Harajuku are a good representation of Japan’s gothic lolita scene, maybe there won’t be much to buy there, but it’s definitely interesting
    Shinjuku and Shibuya are great places to shop, the stores there cater for all different types of styles :)
    Also, one very common trend in japan is pairing shorts with over-knee socks or legwarmers with heels, so it’ll be an interesting look to try if you’re there.
    Most women in japan, especially tokyo have a very strong sense of style and always look well put together, so be sure to not to look sloppy when going around tokyo.
    However, do note that in some places, more conservative outfits is a must, especially if you’re heading to a temple or something of the sort :D

  14. 14
    December 12th, 2009 at 5:25 am

    About the post on China, I live in Shanghai and while I agree with most of your article I do have to say this. In my school a lot of people wear sweats. Also, it often gets so cold here (especially during January) that its incredibly stupid to wear leggings during the winter, sometimes even that isn’t enough. I do have to say though that the weather is really unpredictable, just last week it was freezing cold, maybe 40 degrees Celsius but the week before that it was sunny and hot, and this week its in between, so you have to be prepared for that. And finally, about the short dresses/low cut tops, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. Sure throughout the day its good to stay away from too revealing clothes, but at night it’s completely different. I have seen many local Chinese girls in bars and clubs with tiny skirts and low cut tops, sometimes even skimpier than that. So I would have to say that it doesn’t really matter, however I live in Shanghai and I don’t really know about other places in China, especially more rural places.

  15. 15
    December 12th, 2009 at 6:23 am

    I think you should’ve put a disclaimer before this post, saying that since these countries are general trendsetters, that following these is “not a hard and fast” rule.

    That being said, my friends from China (and the rest of East Asia in general) dress eclectically, but they always show their style through preference of fabric, texture, color, and mixing of slouchiness/tightness. They are much more colorful than the Eastern Europeans you see on lookbook though, and WHIMSY is a HUGE part of their style. Don’t be afraid to be quirky, because you’d be “inauthentic” if you weren’t!

    That being said, look on the website, which is one of the first websites to specifically stock popular styles from China, Japan, and Korea. They also have a store open in San Francisco, for anyone that lives nearby. I think their sizes are one-fits-all, which can considered from 0-6-8 I think.

  16. 16
    December 12th, 2009 at 6:31 am

    I’ve been living in Japan for the past year and they love heels! has Japaneese fashion down to the T. Oversized shirts, flannels with a pair of leggings and a pair of heels is pretty much the norm there.

  17. 17
    December 12th, 2009 at 10:43 am

    can you do an article on Hong Kong?
    I’m studying thee in the spring!

  18. 18
    December 12th, 2009 at 11:19 am

    These articles have been very helpful to me; I will be studying abroad next Fall and traveling all over Europe is daunting knowing I can only bring 2 bags!

    Could you do an article about Austria (where I’ll be living) and that general area of Europe? Austria/Switzerland/Germany, those types of places.

  19. 19
    December 12th, 2009 at 11:23 am

    I wouldn’t know if these tips are accurate or not as I’ve never been to any of these places. I’ve noticed the Chinese and Japanese trends in various magazines because it’s been gathering a big fashion following. I have no recommendations for where to get clothes in these countries as I’ve never been to any of them.

  20. 20
    December 12th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    When it comes to finding Japanese street style photos online, is the best website I’ve ever come across! Under the Tokyo Street Style tab, you’ll find hundreds of photos of the stylish residents of five different cities: Harajuku, Shibuya, Omotesando, Daikanyama, and Ginza (there are no snaps from Tokyo, ironically, but the snaps the site regularly posts provide more than enough inspiration).

    This feature also gives you the opportunity to compare the general street style aesthetics of the different cities – for instance, you can tell that people in Harajuku dress very boldly and colorfully, and in Ginza, girls tend to dress with a more ladylike flair.

    The English translation of the site isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t make the site any less fun. It has tons of other fun features, so check them all out!

  21. 21
    December 12th, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Something to note about Japan:

    I was an exchange student in Japan a few years ago and conservatism is key in regards to dress! From my experience, things that cover more are more socially acceptable. Not to say you still can’t be stylish, but don’t be too revealing.

    *BATHSUITS* Two pieces are not acceptable. Invest in a one-piece if you’re planning on going to the local pool!

  22. 22
    December 12th, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Do one on Dubai!!!!!!
    Please, please, please.
    Or the UAE in general.
    Would be very useful.

  23. 23
    December 13th, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Thanks for all the additional advice guys!

    Iris– I actually do have a disclaimer up at the top saying that! I absolutely understand that just because one is traveling to another country they should not have to completely change their personal preferred style. However, one of the things I have found especially fun for myself writing this posts is getting inspired by all of the trends from around the world! I also think it helps for someone who is packing to see weather-wise and culturally what is the norm and acceptable for an area.

    Thanks again for all the additional comments guys, they’re all so helpful for people who are going to these places!

  24. 24
    December 14th, 2009 at 1:29 am

    Can you please do one on Eastern Europe? I’m going to be studying in Prague for the entire academic year for 2010-2011, and I’d love some advice!

    I always really enjoy these articles, because they’re not about losing yourself in a new culture, but focusing on how you can still remain yourself while not sticking out like a sore thumb. They’re always so well done.

  25. 25
    December 15th, 2009 at 6:47 am

    I really think your blog is cute, but you have no idea what your are talking about here. As for China I cannot say because I have never been. But I grew up in Irael, and it is a VERY glamorous place! Its all about tons of makeup tight clothes high heels, dyes hair! And my husband is Japanese, I have lived there too, and although there is a very femenine girly side to their fashion, they are also very into the boyfriend look! Id say dont write about things you dont know! I do love your outfits with links though!

  26. 26
    December 17th, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Hi, I live in NYC and I’ve been reading your studying abroad posts and your What to wear posts! Love them by the way but I was wondering what do wear to go ice skating since I’m going tomorrow and after several years of doing this, still don’t konw how to wear cute clothing while ice skating. What do I wear there and other winter sports like skiiing?

  27. 27
    December 23rd, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I really enjoy all your articles but was a bit disappointed not to see more on the Harajuku girls in this one. Lots of Asian girls rock this look, mixing and matching crazy prints and retro accessories. One source says that in Japan, women dress less to flatter their bodies than to please themselves and to look cute and playful. In fact, a whole article on this look would be really great!

  28. 28
    January 8th, 2010 at 7:29 am

    This is a marbles blog, you really provide a fantastic information who are going to study abroad in china or japan, it’s great work.

  29. 29
    January 27th, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Check out for Tokyo street style looks! It’s updated weekly :)

  30. 30
    May 21st, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Is Israel actually considered part of Asia? I didn’t think so….

    A side note about Japanese fashion: Gothic Lolita and a lot of the other wild “street fashions” are actually very underground still and not all that commonplace, especially during the week.

  31. 31
    May 22nd, 2011 at 11:55 am


    Yep, Israel is part of Asia! I know it doesn’t seem like it should be, but when you think about it, where else would the mid east go? Some of it is Africa but most of it is Asia.

  32. 32
    August 10th, 2011 at 6:15 am

    shopping in Tokyo is often organized around the train stations, which sort of evolved to become their own shopping districts!! youth fashion is vibrant in: shinjuku, shibuya, harajuku, ikebukuro, odaiba; the old department stores and well known name brands might feature more in ginza, omotesando, roppongi, yokohama.

    it’s easy to be fashionable in japan and the clothes aren’t too expensive. japanese girls tend to have a very put-together completed look so take your inspiration from the streets!

    also, try the food!! :D

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