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Question by Maria: What is considered formal wear for a woman in Japan?
I am heading to Japan to visit my fiance and his family. My fiance has asked me to bring formal wear to Japan, but will not tell me anything else. He said it is not for New Years and when I mentioned a knee length elegant and sophisticated cocktail dress that I've worn before, he just said that I would be cold which is his subtle way of saying that's not the right outfit. I asked if I should wear a suit, and his response was slightly warmer but still noncommittal. When I pushed him for details he would only tell me it's not for a New Years Party or anything like that, and that it's a surprise. Even after checking about the suit option and the cocktail dress option he just kept repeating, "Just bring formal wear". I know that he would normally tell me so that I could make the appropriate choice, but he really does want to surprise me and so I'm left with that somewhat vague statement. So basically I need someone to tell me what the Japanese definition of formal wear is so that I'm dressed appropriately. Do I need an evening gown or is a suit appropriate? Please Help! Thank you!
Answer by auntie.may40
I think you'd better bring several outfits, such as a conservative dressy suit (think "mother of the bride"), a floor-length black skirt, cummerbund, and fancy long-sleeved blouse (think "evening at the opera"), and a very modest evening dress made from high-quality material (think "military ball"). It'll be an investment, but perhaps you can leave the tags on until your fiancé helps you select which outfit you should wear, and then return the others when you get back home. Plan to bring one pair of shoes you could wear with any of them.
Pearls or gold jewelry would be better than sparkly things.
Japanese women are generally much smaller than American ones, so unless you're very petite yourself, you would have a hard time finding something in Japan at short notice that would fit you. In any case, a covered-up look, with sleeves, a knee-length or longer skirt, and no low neckline, would be appropriate. The Japanese women would probably wear their good kimonos.
Maybe he's planning a formal ceremony of betrothal.
I ran your question by my husband, who's more familiar with Japan than I am. He thought that the "surprise" might even be a wedding all arranged and ready for you to take your vows together so his family can be present. If you even suspect that might happen, bring a long white brocade skirt instead of the black one, with a matching white brocade cummerbund, and white shoes. Red is the other traditional color associated with Japanese weddings.
Get on http://www.google.com/advanced_search and look up information on Japanese wedding customs. There are quite a few good articles.
Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!