Sizing, Cuts and How We Measure

Different Dimensions

Japanese people are on average a little bit smaller than your typical Westerner. Although this is an often-exaggerated cultural stereotype, there is some truth in it – try finding a pair of size 12 shoes in Japan! Therefore, as you might expect, clothing made for the Japanese domestic market tends to reflect this. The difference in average body shape between nations can be seen in this interesting graphic below.

Average BMI International Comparison Nickolay Lamm ©

On the other hand, much Japanese high-end designer clothing is made with an eye towards the Western market. Furthermore, just to complicate matters, many of the top Japanese designers are renowned for experimentation with innovative cuts and over-sizing. All of this makes purchasing Japanese-made fashion a bit of a minefield, especially when buying online. However, have no fear – we at Nippon Couture are here to help!

Comme des Garçons Paris 2014/2015 © 2013 infinitas


Sizing Systems

Japanese couture fashion houses such as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Comme des Garçons, utilize two main sizing systems, although scales differ brand-to-brand.

Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme Size 6

Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake both alternate between a Japanese number-based system and the Western S/M/L/XL/XXL scale. Older pieces from both designers almost always utilize the  the Western system, with more recent items more often than not using the numberemical system. This number-based format has sizes scaled between 1–6 (although 6s are quite rare). Very roughly speaking, Size 1 equates to XS, Size 2 – S, Size 3 – M, Size 4 – L, Size 5 – XL and Size 6 – XXL.

Issey Miyake Mainline Size 2

Comme des Garçons have blessfully kept things simple and tend to just use the Western alphabet-based system, although the scale is not necessarily the same. For example, a Japanese M can fit a little more like a Western S, although it really does vary, depending on how the designer envisaged the piece being worn and where it was made to be sold. For example, Comme des Garçons Homme is a line predominantly sold in Japan, whereas Comme des Garçons Homme Plus and associated lines are aimed more at an international market.

Comme des Garçons Homme Size M



What does this all mean? Well, when buying Japanese clothing online – or any clothing for that matter – it’s absolutely crucial to check measurements to ensure the piece will fit as desired. Comparing measurements to an item which you own that you know fits well is always a good idea.

If you’re buying new from an online shop, most provide a sizing guide, although these can be a little misleading, as these are often based on some fairly rough comparisons. eBay-based sellers like us generally offer some measurements too, but measuring methods do vary and it’s not always clear how a seller has measured-up an item. At Nippon Couture items are always measured in inches, laid flat, seam to seam, and unstretched. See below for diagrams of how our items are measured.

 © 2016 Nippon Couture
How We Measure – Shirts/Jackets

If there is ever any spare fabric to let out the waist or hems of trousers, we will always give an estimate (if there are heavy pressing marks on hems we consider this like there is no spare fabric).


Many couture designers (especially the Japanese early avante-guard) are known for exploring the way in which we wear clothes, often experimenting with over-sized designs. In what could be seen as a rejection of highly tailored clothing, designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, have all experimented with clothing design that subverts conventional sizing.

Yohji Yamamoto Spring/Summer ©2013 Monica Feudi/

I’ve previously made the mistake of having over-sized garments altered to fit. One piece – a dark grey Spring/Autumn Issey Miayke Men jacket – had extra-long sleeves. I loved the look, but the sleeves went over my hands. Without pausing for thought, I had a tailor alter the sleeves to where I usually like my cuffs to come down to (just above the thumb with straight arms). Only on reflection did I contemplate why the jacket’s cuffs were buttonless and how lovely the lining on the sleeves was. I realized that this jacket would have looked great with the sleeves rolled up! Whist I could technically still do this, it would never be quite right. I still love the piece, but I wish I’d had greater faith in the designer’s intentions.

Issey Miyake Men Jacket

It can be a little daunting to wear over-sized clothing. Baggy trousers, big billowing coats, long-cut tees, all require a certain degree of confidence to pull-off. However, for the sartorial dresser, subverting the norm can provide a perverse pleasure.


Issey Miyake oversized coat & parachute pants JP Gaultier Sunglasses  ©

Issey Miyake Menswear Lines

Issey Miyake has been at the cutting edge of clothing design – or, making things, as he prefers to call it – for over 50 years. Miyake’s innovative designs are always future-looking, but beneath lies a foundation of traditional techniques (both Eastern and Western), along with a deep respect for the materials at use.

Issey Miyake 1970  © Claude Charlier

Having studied haute couture in Paris in the 1960s, under the likes of Guy Laroche and Givenchy, Miyake returned to Japan in 1970 and founded Miyake Design Studio Inc. He presented his first collection in New York 1971, going on to debut his women’s main line (ISSEY MIYAKE) in Paris in 1973. He proceeded to launch his first menswear line in 1976, primarily as a counterpart to his women’s line, but then later as its own independent line, ISSEY MIYAKE MEN in 1978.

Original ISSEY MIYAKE women's line
Original ISSEY MIYAKE women’s line

The main two menswear lines you should be looking out for are ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line and ISSEY MIYAKE MEN. For all intents and purposes they are very nearly the same line; indeed, between 1976-1985 I believe they used the same brand label. Early ISSEY MIYAKE MEN pieces can be identified, as they used a distinctive garment label.

Original ISSEY MIYAKE MEN label

ISSEY MIYAKE menswear had its first independent show in 1978. When comparing ISSEY MIYAKE MEN and ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line, the latter is perhaps the slightly more luxurious, due to its close links to the women’s main line. You can spot the ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line pieces as they usually used a black-backed label, with white typeface, whilst the women’s line usually (but not always) used the reverse (ISSEY MIYAKE MEN uses both white and black labels).

ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line
ISSEY MIYAKE women's line
ISSEY MIYAKE women’s line

ISSEY MIYAKE MEN shouldn’t be seen as inferior to the main line men’s clothing, but whilst the former served as the partner to the women’s collection, ISSEY MIYAKE MEN is very much a brand in its own right. Fortunately ISSEY MIYAKE MEN clothes are very easily identified.


There’s one more strand of the main lines we need to talk about: ISSEY MIYAKE WHITE LABEL, which makes both women’s and men’s clothes. Don’t be fooled by the name, ISSEY MIYAKE WHITE LABEL menswear items have black labels (confusing right!) and only the women’s have white labels – just the same as with the main line labels.


In 2012, presumably in an effort to make things a bit more clear, both the menswear lines were amalgamated under the ISSEY MIYAKE MEN brand. Phew!

ISSEY MIYAKE MEN current label

In order to check whether a vintage ISSEY MIYAKE or ISSEY MIYAKE WHITE LABEL garment is a men’s or women’s piece, you need to inspect the product code on the care label. Men’s garments always start with ME.

ISSEY MIYAKE men’s  care label

A.POC (A Piece of Cloth) was a line closely linked to Issey Miyake’s vision of creating clothing from a single thread. Developed in conjunction with engineering designer Dai Fujiwara, the concept was brought to life via the extensive use of computer technology. This label has now evolved into the ready to wear line A.POC Inside. Usually you’ll find both the ISSEY MIYAKE label, as well as an A.POC label on these garments.

A.POC (A Piece of Cloth)

Alongside the main lines we’ve looked at, there is also IM MIYAKE DESIGN STUDIO, which is linked to the parent company Miyake Design Studio Inc. These items are produced for a wider market, nonetheless, there are still some great bits out there to be found.


FINAL HOME, whilst not strictly a Miyake Design Inc. line, was created by one of their designers, Kosuke Tsumara, and distributed by Issey Miyake from 1994 onwards. The line’s core product was a nylon jacket that was able to transform, thanks to a series of zipped compartments and padded cushions.


In 2010 Issey Miyake launched the new, innovative brand 132 5. ISSEY MIYAKE, making clothing for both men and women. The production method employed utilizes old plastic bottles, along with other recycled fibers. The clothes are designed using computer algorithms, incorporating helix shapes which were originally developed by scientists for solar panels.

132 5. ISSEY MIYAKE   © Miyake Design Inc.

In response to the fact that 10% of Pleats Please sales were being made to men, Miyake Design Inc. launched HOMME PLISSÉ ISSEY MIYAKE in 2013. This line offers many wonderful pieces, showcasing Miyake’s trademarked pleating techniques.


ISSEY MIYAKE WATCH produce some truly unique timepieces. Having started in 2001 as a collaboration with Shunji Yamanaka, it has grown to form a permanent collection of 13 different styles, by a host of designers, all of whom share Miyake’s futuristic perspective on design.

Tokujin Yoshioka’s “TO” Watch © Miyake Design Inc.
Tokujin Yoshioka’s “TO” Watch © Miyake Design Inc.

ISSEY MIYAKE PARFUMS is such a success that this is possibly the sector where Issey Miyake is now most widely known. L’EAU D’ISSEY POUR HOMME is one of my all-time favourites colognes – citrus notes, with a little spice for good measure.

L’EAU D’ISSEY POUR HOMME © Miyake Design Inc.

IN-EI ISSEY MIYAKE is a lighting product brand which grew out of the technology developed for the 132 5. ISSEY MIYAKE clothing line. Through his now familiar exploration of geometry, Miyake combines futuristic production methods with the traditional Japanese concept of light and shadow.

IN-EI ISSEY MIYAKE © Miyake Design Inc.

Issey Miyake stepped back from Miyake Inc. in 1997, but has maintained an influential position within the company, and it’s said that nothing gets through to market without his approval. At the present time, most of Miyake’s creative work is based around his role as one of the co-directors of Japan’s first design museum, 21_21 Design Sight.