Let’s begin with all cards on the table. For me, when it comes to cheapo fashion and bargain hunting, vintage shops and flea markets are just out of the question. I cannot get past the thought of another person’s debris in my newly acquired garments, no matter how many times it’s washed. And don’t even get me started on used shoes.
Germaphobia aside, the “vintage” look really isn’t my style—I lean towards the casual/modern side of trends. However, fashion-forward shops in Tokyo are generally accompanied by exorbitant price tags that my cheapo wallet vehemently rejects. That’s problem number one. Problem number two is size availability—more often than not, Japanese clothing does not indulge a bigger bust or a swinging hip (both with which I am blessed/cursed).
Here’s where GU comes in. In the company’s own words, GU “offers fun fashion at fabulously low prices,” which I back as accurate (minus the cheesiness). This clothing chain is part of the ubiquitous Uniqlo brand (but cheaper), and you’ll often see both stores paired side by side. In regards to sizing, its XS-XXL designations are comparable to those of North American clothing. So, with those shopping-in-Tokyo dilemmas ironed out, let’s take a look at the merch:
You can get a decent winter coat for as little as 2,900 yen! And seeing as Tokyo winters are not really much to write home about, you need not invest in anything too thick or feathery that usually requires a heftier sum of dough. Plus, if you’re the type who toggles between hot and cold, you should consider layering anyway. Which brings me to…
You can get plain tanks, Ts and long sleeves for largely under 1,000 yen.
With chilly temperatures falling, the GU Warm collection comes highly recommended. One of my favs is a plain long-sleeve cotton shirt with a discreet fuzz on the inside, so it feels like you’re wrapped in a day-long blanket.
Trendy tops, bottoms, dresses, cardigans, sweaters, and a slew more can all be found for well under 1,500 yen a pop. There’s usually a good selection of both “normal” and quirky pieces that are representative of unique Tokyo fashion. In the past I’ve picked up t-shirt dresses with cute pockets, dressy overalls and funky-patterned sweaters that have ranked high for compliments during trips back to my home country.
If you dislike business wear as much as I do, and consider it more of a uniform, you won’t want to dish out your hard earned cash for it. They have button-ups from 990-1,490 yen and dress pants for as little as 990 yen.
Room wear and Intimates
GUs has everything from pajamas to leggings and socks, from shapewear to lingerie. Though, a word of advice to you bigger busted ladies out there, you will not come out victorious looking for bras at GU—instead I recommend Wacoal, which carries up to cup size E.
The accessories section is on fleek. Depending on the store, a whole floor can be devoted to displays of shoes (990-2,490 yen), jewelry (590-990 yen), bags (990-1,990 yen) and belts (590-790 yen) to help you complete your fashion look.
You can find GU stores all across Japan, with 24 of them around Tokyo. They’re generally pretty easy to spot in any of the major shopping areas like Ginza, Ikebukuro, Shibuya and Shinjuku, just to name a few. Consult the GU Tokyo store locator to find the closest one near you (link is in Japanese, but Google Translate works wonders).