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  ©

Yohji Yamamoto Menswear Lines

Yohji Yamamoto is the fashion world’s Batman… Both are renowned for their billowing blacks, they share a disregard for the well-trodden path, instead choosing to define their own way, and of course, they both personify effortless cool. It’s no wonder then that over the years, just like his comic book counterpart, Yohji Yamamoto has attracted his own band of dedicated fans across the globe.

Yohji Yamamoto 1981 © Takeyoshi Tanuma

In 1972 Yohji’s started Y’s, his first women’s ready to wear line. Many of the original Y’s pieces were fairly androgynous in design and you would be forgiven for mistaking some for menswear. This can make the business of buying vintage Yohji a little confusing at times.

You can spot the early Y’s women’s line, as the labels look like this
Original Y’s women’s line

Yohji presented his first menswear collection (Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme) in Paris in 1984, having launched his women’s main line, (Yohji Yamamoto), back in 1981. The Pour Homme line is home to Yohji’s most experimental and high quality pieces – the stuff that you’ll predominantly see in his catwalk shows. This is where many of his most quirky, iconic and desirable items can be found.

Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme
Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto Costume D’homme generally tends to offer slightly more conventional design, whilst maintaining the wonderful feel and quality one associates with Yohji. Personally I love the suits in this line: beautifully crafted, wonderful subtle detailing and lovely loose cuts.

Yohji Yamamoto Costume D’homme

Y’s for men was an attempt to create a slightly more accessible clothing range. It was made up of the kind of items you could wear day-to-day, whilst still staying true to the Yohji design ethic, of bellowing cuts, dark shades and fine fabrics. It’s a great shame that, due to over-expansion and poor financial management, this line came to an end in 2009, when Yohji Yamamoto Inc. went through a period of restructuring.

early Y’s for men label
early Y’s for men label
later Y’s for men label

There were a few off-shoots of the Y’s for men line. Y’s for men SHIRTS – as the name suggests, mainly (but by no means entirely) dealt with shirts, in much the same way that Comme des Garcons SHIRTS still does to this day.

Y’s for men SHIRTS

Also, Y’s for men red label, a line designed in collaboration with Michiko Suzuki in 2006, inspired by the emotions of ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’.

Y’s for men red label

Additionally to Y’s for men, and somewhat confusingly, there is also Y’s men’s label. If you recall, Yohji’s first creations were launched under the Y’s label, which was at the time only a women’s line. Y’s has since expanded to make both men’s and women’s clothes under the same label, so it can be tricky to identify which is which. I’ve bought items that said Y’s for men on the tag, yet the label on the garment just says Y’s, so when buying second-hand, you really need to know what to look out for. For the Y’s lines, my advice would be if the product code starts with an M then it’s almost always a men’s piece.

Y’s men’s white label
Y's men's black label
Y’s men’s black label
Y’s men’s brown label

As well as the black Y’s men’s label pictured above, there’s a different line: Yohji’ Yamamoto Y’s ‘black label’. This branding, expressly using the name Yohji Yamamoto, perhaps suggests that he had a greater hand in designing these pieces himself, although I’m not sure if that’s the case or not.

Yohji Yamamoto Y’s black label

Yohji Yamamoto Y was an Italian-based extension of the suit production line, launched in 2005. Despite having since having been discontinued, there are some great suits, ties and other accessories still out there to be found if you search.

Yohji Yamamoto Y
Yohji Yamamoto Y

Amongst the more rare lines you might come across are: Yohji Yamamoto Gothic Homme – a late 80s/early 90s line, with stark gothic influences – the women’s version of which is still running; Yohji Yamamoto Impermeable Homme – a late 80s line, mainly coats and outerwear; Y’s at work – a limited range of workwear; Y’s for living, which sells furniture, household items and bedwear; Yohji Yamamoto Jeans – high quality denin line made for the US/European markets; and Y’saccs, operating between 1986-2001, housing some of Y’s miscellaneous goods (watches, ties, bags, etc).

Yohji Yamamoto Gothic Homme

In 2011 Yohji Yamamoto Inc. launched S’yte, a fairly small, internet-based casual clothing line. Some great pieces, perhaps aimed at an entry level Yohji consumer.


Yohji Yamamoto REGULATION men debuted at Paris fashion week 2013. This line is said to be inspired by uniform and made “for men who love and pursue freedom.” Described upon launch as containing “the clothes the designer would like to wear, appealing not only to the existing fans but also to the potential customers of slender build.”


As well as the in-house lines, Yohji has collaborated many times – perhaps most famously with Y-3, the luxury street style brand made in conjunction with Adidas. The Y stands for Yohji (or is it Yamamoto, or both!) and the 3 represents the iconic three stripes of Adidas. Growing out of an earlier collaboration, Y-3 is one of Yohji’s most successful ventures and is still going strong to this day.


Another more commercially geared collaboration saw Yohji pair-up with Hong Kong fashion house A.A.R. (At All Risks) to produce the lines Yohji Yamamoto AAR D’Urban, and AAR Yohji design studio. The fabrics aren’t quite what you’d find in Yohji’s high-end lines, but there are still some gems to be found and at fairly reasonable prices too.

Yohji Yamamoto AAR D’Urban

COMING SOON, described as a ‘super casual capsule collection’, launched in 2008 by Yohji Yamamoto and Italian design licensing company Sinv Spa. Yamamoto Inc’s then CEO Keizo Tamoto heralded it as “a more affordable line aimed at young consumers looking to trade up from streetwear to more elegant pieces”.

Screen shot 2015-11-03 at 22.48.03

Yohji Yamamoto has produced footwear in all his main lines. Alongside Y-3, which makes a wide range of footwear, other notable collaborations have been produced with Dr Martens and Repetto.

Yohji Yamamoto X Repetto

Lastly, also worthy of note is the luggage and accessories collaboration between Yohji Yamamoto and Italian-based Mandarina Duck – Y’s Mandarina. How else is the dedicated Yohji consumer expected to travel in style?!

Screen shot 2015-11-03 at 22.55.42
Y’s Mandarina