Seifuku (Sailor Suit)

The history began at the beginning of the 17th century in Europe. In those days, the sailor suit was made, of course, for sailors. Especially in 1628, the Great Britain Navy introduced the suit as a uniform.

At 5 years old Prince Edward (subsequently Edward VII) was depicted in a painting dressed in a sailor suit. Because of the cuteness of the painting it became the fashion after 1840 to dress young boys and girls in sailor suits.

Again in Europe after 1910 you can see many photos of children in sailor suits. At the same time, Japan was in the era of Taisho, and democracy began to grow. Women’s status in society improved slightly and they stopped wearing typical Japanese clothes (Kimono), which was a symbol of old tradition. At the same time many schools introduced the sailor suit as a uniform because of the current fashion in Europe.”

The sailor suits (sera fuku, seifuku) you may or should have seen many of times in all types of anime/manga. Uniforms can be required at many Japanese public and private schools. Every school has its own particular style, and some uniforms have even been created by top Japanese fashion designers. These uniforms are also very practical as they are not very expensive when compared to regular clothes since they are mass produced and are made of very sturdy long lasting material. School boys after elementary school have worn uniforms with an army look. “Sailor suits are rather popular in Japan in the 2000s, mostly as school uniforms but also as a basic style. A lot of little boys wear them, but more girls do, up through highschool and even adult women wear them.”

It seems that it has become common for schools to do a model change of their current desing of the seifuku. I’m not sure what the reasons behind this, but some changes are very small to a complete redesign.

Seifuku have a special meaning for a Japanese person. Their school uniform becomes a symbol of their growth, a reminder of some of their greatest memories, and a trophy of their childhood. Japanese students absolutely love wearing seifuku, contrary to what most Americans would assume; in fact, many girls choose the school they go to based on the school’s seifuku. As a result of this importance, the seifuku commonly holds a special place in Anime.

Another reason why the seifuku possibly has become popular and still around is of course the obvious answer is that it is to fuel the multi-billion dollar school girl pornography industry and drive salary men wild with desire. The Japanese have a name for their schoolgirl fetish, buru-sera. The term buru-sera comes from the word buru, which is the Japanese term for ‘bloomers’ (IE. panties)’ and sera, meaning ‘sailor’ from the standard Japanese schoolgirl outfit. Japan equates youthful innocence with eroticism, a notion supported by the hundreds of buru-sera magazines in print in Japan, most of which feature young models dressed as schoolgirls giving readers (viewers) tantalizing looks at their cotton unmentionables. It was even a short-lived trend to sell panties in vending machines along with a photo of the girl that wore them. These vending machines mostly appeared in porn-drenched Chiba City in Chiba Prefecture. There is even a cultural phenomenon in Japan known as the kou-gyaru (kou=’high’ from ‘high school’, and gyaru=’girl’), known in the West as kogal. Kogal girls are characterized as being borderline prostitutes, girls in their teens and early 20’s who dress in school outfits and use their youthful looks to swindle rich, older men for money, drugs, and sex. While it’s probable that a fair number of kogal lived up to this media-hyped stereotype, overall the phenomenon (which appears to have reached its apex, and is now in decline) was pretty benign.

Most Japanese school uniforms had been “traditional style”, sailor blouses, eton suits, and so on. But later 1980’s, one private girls’ senior high school in Tokyo changed its uniform into “modern style”, and then it won grate popularity. Since then, many private high school and some public high school changed their uniforms into the modern style. But many public junior high schools’ uniforms have been left the traditional style. Every school which has school uniforms has two kinds of uniforms, summer cloth and winter cloth. Summer clothes are worn in a period form May 1 to the end of September, while winter clothes are worn in another period, from October 1 to the end of May. In addition, many schools have regulation gym clothes, school bags, shoes, socks, winter coats, indoor shoes, etc.

Traditional Summer Uniforms:

A suspender skirt and a blouse is often adopted for school girl’s summer cloth. Its suspender does not suspend the skirt: skirt is fastened a waist snap. So the suspender is either an only ornament, or a part in order to hang together with a blouse. A skirt suspender is mostly detachable, but removing the suspender is generally banned by school regulations. A vest, a blouse and a skirt is very popular cloth for Japanese school girls’ summer uniforms. A collar of the blouse is round, angular or sharp. Its skirt is fasten with a waist hock and eye, and is often hung on a bottom hanger set under the blouse hanger. But in some area or some schools, a suspender skirt is worn for the uniform. A Jumper skirt and a blouse is one of the most traditional cloth for school girl’s summer uniform. A sailor blouse for school girl’s summer cloth is white. its tie is mostly red, blue or “year’s color”, identified by student’s enter year, among red, blue, and green. A sailor blouse of some schools has an embroidery, which is mostly either two letters of “JH”, shorten of “Junior High school”, or school emblem. A skirt of a sailor blouse for junior/senior high school girls is fasten with a waist hook and a eye, and is often hung on a bottom hanger set under the blouse hanger. But in some area suspender skirts are used for the uniform, and you can see a letter of X, a suspender, on student’s back.

About Traditional Winter Uniforms:

An eton suit, a coat without lapels, is one of the most popular uniforms for junior high school girls’ winter uniforms. A white blouse, a vest and a skirt (suspender skirt or non-suspender skirt) or a white blouse and a suspender skirt is mostly worn under eton suit. Blazers are adopted as modern style uniforms, but are also as traditional style uniforms. Traditional blazers are plainer than modern ones. A vest or jumper skirt is worn under traditional blazer. under it, a white shirt is mostly worn. Boleros are one of traditional winter uniforms. Some boleros have their collar, while some do not. A jumper skirt or a vest is mostly worn under the bolero,and under it, a white blouse is worn. A sailor blouses for winter uniforms is navy blue. Its tie mostly red, blue, white, or “year’s color”, identified by student’s enter year, among red, blue, and green. A sailor blouse of some schools has an embroidery, which is mostly either two letters of “JH”, shorten of “Junior High school”, or school emblem. A skirt of a sailor blouse for junior/senior high school girls is fasten with a weist hook and a eye, but in some area their skirts are jumper skirts or suspender skirts. And in some area a white shirt or a white blouse is worn under the sailor blouse.

Modern Style Uniforms:

Modern style clothes for school uniforms seem to be with no individuality; it is sufficient to show an only typical example. A winter clothes is blazer and skirt. A skirt is either plane gray or tartan. A summer cloth is mostly one of following three kinds: a knitting vest, a vest witch pattern is the same as the skirt, or a jumper skirt whose waists are opened. The third one may be rather a modern suspender skirt than a jumper skirt.

Resources for material:

Marguerite Site – Illustrations of Schoolgirls’ Uniforms

East Asia Center Newsletter, April 2000

Seisin Webpage

Seifuku Channel

N. Tonosaki’s Personal Station

SSU Visions of a Dream

Destroy all monsters:
Everything you always wanted to know about asian culture, but were afraid to ask
By: Musashi