A “recruit suit” in Japan refers to the outfit everyone wears for a job interview (and sometimes for the job too). A far cry from Harajuku style, the recruit suit says professionalism and conformity instead of fashion or expression. The stream of black and gray that congests the trains in the mornings testifies to this.
Almost everybody in Tokyo has a dusty recruit suit stashed somewhere deep in their closet: worn once years ago for a job interview, then torn off quickly and tossed aside for some sweatpants. If you’re one of those people who has to wear business suits everyday, then you probably own three or five such suits that fray and get smelly and dirty easily, leading to frequent shopping trips during which you spend over 30,000 yen for an itchy pencil skirt and a coat stiffer than cardboard. Lady cheapos in that boat will love Sophie. A shop in the heart of the AbAb department store in Okachimachi, Sophie sells women’s suits in Tokyo plus jackets, pants, skirts, and shirts for rather reasonable prices. If you look carefully and catch one of its frequent sales, you can score a full suit for around 6,000yen.
Stacked to the ceiling with racks and racks of clothes, the store offers a wide selection with regards to color, style, and material. Most recruit suits are not sewn for fashion or individual expression, but Sophie provides tasteful options for those who want to look trendy as well as presentable. The jackets and skirts come in the basic colors of black, gray, and navy blue, but you can get one with pinstripes, or one that is more form-fitting. The blouses come in more variety colorwise (as the jackets will pretty much cover them up anyway), so if you want a collar of aquamarine or a peach pink ruffle peeking out your jacket, then Sophie is definitely the place for you.
Generally speaking, a blouse costs anywhere from 2,000yen to 4,000yen, a skirt around 4,000yen, and a jacket from 6,000 to 8,000yen. On regular days, the cheapest recruit suit can cost around 12,000yen. However, if you make it to a sale, the price can drop by 50 percent. Most sales in Tokyo are held on summer evenings, but stores often organize seasonal sales too.
On the other side of the store are suit-like outfits for more relaxed settings: scarves, V-neck blouses, and wide-looped belts attached to print skirts. Perhaps unsuitable for a job interview in a white room with a straight-backed chair, but perfect for a meeting with the boss at the Hilton, or an interview with a fashion magazine. They sell at the same prices as the recruit suits, and are frequently on sale as well.
Watch this next
New Video: A Beginner's Guide to Harajuku
For a look into the unique world of Japanese youth culture and fashion, make Harajuku no. 1 on your list of places to visit in Tokyo.