All about Japanese girls’ school uniforms! (Part 1)

In Japan, manga and anime based in schools is hugely popular, and the “Japanese school girl” is an iconic image seen everywhere from anime and cosplay, to blockbuster Hollywood movies.

When anime fans start drawing in manga style, they will often start with this classic school girl outfit. But did you know there’s much more to Japanese school uniforms than the famous “Sailor suit” style? It can be easy to get lost without the right knowledge on all the different types, and end up with an unrealistic result.

Let’s take a good look at the countless different styles of Japanese school uniform styles, so we can recreate them accurately in our own work!

What type of uniform you choose can say a lot about everything from the history of the school, to the personality of a character, so this is a must-read for anyone looking to create their own manga or anime!

“Sailor” style

Okay, I said there’s more to the uniform than the Sailor style… but the Sailor style is undeniably popular. The design was taken from European naval uniforms, hence the distinctive collar. In the early 1920’s, schools started using this design for their uniforms, and until the end of the 20th Century, this was the most popular design of uniform for girls in Japan. After that, the popularity began to fade as the blazer type of uniform grew in popularity. But you will still see this sailor uniform used in schools with a long, proud history. Gakushuuin, the school established to educate the children of the Japanese nobility and royal family, still uses this sailor style today.

Blazer style

Here we have the blazer style uniform I mentioned above. This is a more modern design than the sailor style, and has taken over as the most common school uniform design. Newer schools will usually employ this blazer design. Some schools employ famous fashion designers to create their blazers uniforms, to make a buzz among female students, and have even seen a rise in enrolment rates thanks to their popular blazer designs!

Vest style

Most schools that use blazers have a vest version that’s used in the warmer months of autumn and spring, between the winter and summer uniform seasons.

Other designs

There are several other major designs used in Japanese schools, so let’s go through those now!

One-piece dress type

This one piece type is has a long history of being used in “traditional” girls’ schools. You’ll see this style used in popular anime “Kaguya-sama: Love Is War”.

This is an example of how knowing about different school uniform types can really help with your character creation! If you want to create a pampered “rich girl” character from an expensive school, this is the type of uniform you want to put her in!

Pinafore type

This type of uniform is made up of a pinafore worn over a shirt. You’ll see it in anime like “Evangelion” and “Tamako Market”. Characters in this type of uniform have a clear, pleasant impression and a clean-cut, wholesome appearance.

Bolero type

This jacket type uniform comes in a bolero style. Using this uniform can give a character a graceful, well-brought-up impression, and is often seen in girls’ middle schools.

Collarless jacket type

This is a jacket type with no collar, that we don’t often see in anime and manga, but it actually is a very popular style for girls’ uniform in Japan. It is especially popular in high-level schools that allow students to transfer straight to a high-level university. Dress your character in this for a responsible, intelligent and mature impression.

Sailor blazer type

This type of uniform can either be a full jacket designed with a sailor collar, or it can be made up of two pieces – the sailor shirt underneath and the bolero or jacket on top. We see this style of uniform in anime like “Shakugan no Shana”, and Sailor Mars also wears this kind of uniform in “Sailor Moon”.

There we have it! A full rundown of the most popular Japanese school uniforms. Hopefully you have seen how the style of uniform can affect not only a character’s appearance, but their story and personality too!

In part two, we’ll be looking at seasonal uniform styles, and other parts of the uniform like neckties and socks.

Don’t forget to enrol in our online courses at Anime Art Academy for even more information on school uniforms, including detailed tutorials on how to draw each part of the uniform! You can even get professional advice and pointers on your own work. We hope to see you there!

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