The lives of Japanese people became increasingly more regulated as the war dragged on, and the area of fashion was no exception. Glamorous clothes and hair styles were key aspects that fell subject to restraint. Shashin Shuho ran photographs that plainly introduced the types of clothes to be worn and the hair styles that were considered appropriate. Document 1 is an issue of Shashin Shuho that contains an article titled “Good-bye to extravagant married couples,” which provides examples of good and bad clothing and hair styles.

Discussions were held about developing national uniforms to streamline clothing and make items similar to military uniforms. On November 1, 1940 national uniforms for men were established. Document 2 is the original script signed by the Emperor. Document 3 is a “Guidebook for National Uniforms (for Men)” published by the Association of Clothing, which provides details and pictures of national uniforms.

Document 4 isan issue of Shashin Shuho that contains an article titled “National uniforms have been decided.” This article explains the events leading up to the development of national uniforms, provides a detailed description of their features, and encourages people to wear them. The article states that Japanese dress styles of the times were a mix of Japanese and Western fashions great in variety, even criticizing this state of fashion as resembling a “clothing museum.” It claims that this variety exposed people “to unnecessary confusion and burdensome choices.” The article goes on to say that Japanese clothes mimicked Western culture and lacked their own sense of autonomy, arguing that “amid the significant expansion of national fortune, Japan should establish a clothing culture so that it can lead Asian people from an independent and unique perspective that does not follow Western trends.”

The same mindset influenced the development of standard female clothing in April 1942. Document 5 is an issue of Weekly Report that contains an article with detailed pictures of this standard clothing. The article claims that the “basic philosophy behind standard clothes is to make clothes that are suitable for Japanese people and allow them to express Japanese characteristics.” It introduces three types of clothes for different activities that incorporated elements of traditional Japanese garments: ko-type, otsu-type, and “active” clothes.

While male national uniforms became popular to a certain extent, the standard female clothes appear to have not been so widely accepted. Kiyoshi Kiyosawa wrote in his diary on April 28, 1944 “that in a report on women’s clothes, the morning radio program stated that 10% of women today wear monpe trousers, 16% wear national uniforms, and approximately 10% wear trousers. In other words, half of the ladies walking around the Ginza area are wearing war-time clothes. But their clothes are strange and complicated, and in short it appears they really don’t care what about they wear. This is rather unorganized and unattractive, and in my opinion representative of modern Japan.” Document 6 is an issue of Shashin Shuho that contains a photo-spread with the title “These are clothes for the final battle.” It shows pictures of what was considered to be model attire, offering a glimpse at the disorganized state Kiyosawa described in his diary. The accompanying article stresses that “people should stop making new clothes, and instead wear what is available for as long as they can.”


  Special provisions related to national uniforms were also established on June 15, 1943. Document 7 is the original script of the Special Provisions for National Dress Regulations signed by the Emperor.  Article 1 of the provisions states that “for the time being, appropriate materials for jackets and hakama trousers shall be used.”

Kiyoshi Kiyosawa outlined his thoughts on the previously mentioned clothing trends in his diary on July 16, 1943. “The issue of clothes is the focal point of current streams of thought,” he wrote. “The first is fundamentalist thought in which the spirit of people can be seen by clothes they wear, just as a representative from the Shinshu region said. This thought reflects the idea that anybody who cannot dress appropriately will be unable to develop the spirit of air defense. The second is substantialist thought, which believes that there is no point in fussing about petty issues such as how people should dress.” The insights Kiyosawa provides in his diary offer us a multifaceted look at the history of fashion in wartime Japan.


Japan Center for Asian Historical Records, National Archives of Japan