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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

就活 (Shuukatsu): Buying a Suit

As part of my 就活 (Shuukatsu; job hunting), I decided to buy a suit.

Wait, I should probably start with "I decided that I'm going to go job-hunting in Japan", right?

Yeah, probably. So, I decided, since I'm in Japan, and because I want to practice business Japanese, that I should try to get a job in Japan. So, job hunting.

As an aside, Shuukatsu is shortened from 就職活動 (shuushokukatsudo), but the first time I saw this, I had no idea what it mean, and basically asked "why are people trying to live?" (In Chinese, 就活 means "To live"). Well, at least someone explained it to me :p

Anyway, as far as I know, Shuukatsu isn't supposed to start from year 3, but it does anyway. Third year students like me try to get internships, which are supposed to help you get an offer of employment. Sites like Rikunavi (リクナビ) are used, but before I even go for interviews, I need a suit. (Well, I did an internship last year, and went without a suit the whole time, but it was for international students, so I think they were more relaxed with me)

So I asked around, and found out just how strict Japanese standards are. The length of the skirt (and when to wear a skirt - and when to wear pants), the height of the pumps, the colour of the suits, it's all in the unwritten rules. Tofugu had a pretty good article about it, but I'm really not here to debate about whether I should or should not get one. The rules aren't going to change for me, and anyway, I'm not going to assume that I should get special treatment just because I'm a foreigner. So off to get a suit I go.

When I asked around, the shop that most people recommended was Aoyama (青山), not to be confused with the place in Tokyo. It's a chain selling clothes, and as far as I could see, mostly clothes for office wear. I was told if I got a cheap suit, it should be a little over 30,000 yen. As it was, I spent quite a bit more than that.

I went to the Tenjin branch, and I think in one or two minutes of me walking into the ladies section, the staff was here. The first thing they had me do was put on this white shirt:

And off we went to look at suits!

The first suit I looked at was the most popular suit, and really expensive. 41000 yen for a three piece set (blazer, skirt and pants).

Skirt on first, which actually felt pretty comfortable
This suit basically has a skirt and a pants, and I actually liked it the best. Here are the photos so you can see for yourself:


Pants. I was making this weird face by accident, so Baymax is now my face
The second suit was the cheapest. The suit, without pants (so, skirt and blazer), but with a white shirt, bag, shoes, and stocking was 28000 yen. So around what my senior was telling me, price-wise. Unfortunately, it didn't feel really comfortable, and it didn't really flatter me.

Maybe it was after comparison with the first suit, but yeah, I didn't like it so much.

The last suit was 32000 for the blazer, skirt and pants, and ok, price was in the middle, but it was my second choice too.

Now that I've tried on all three suits, it was time to decide! The salesgirl helped me crunch some numbers, and then, it was time for me to call my family and talk about my budget.

Looking at information and thinking
According to the information from Aoyama, what a lady needs is:

  • 2 suits (2 blazers, 2 skirts and a pair of pants)
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 3-5 white shirts
  • 1 bag
  • Stockings (multiple)
  • 1 belt (for the pants) 
And possibly some other stuff. Anyway, if I got all the recommended items, even with 50% off the second suit, it would have come to 76000 plus. Way too much. For the record, my senior recommended:

  • 1 suit (1 blazer, but 2 skirts and 1 pair of pants)
  • A few shirts
  • 1 pair of shoes (I think?)
  • 1 bag
It's entirely possible she assumed I knew I'd need a belt and didn't say it. 

In the end, I bought 1 suit (the 32000 yen one), and added a 14000 4 piece set consisting of 1 shirt, 1 bag, 1 pair of shoes, and 1 set of stockings. The total cost was about 46700 yen, including tax and alterations.  

My purchases ended up being a pretty huge bag

And if you're wondering, here's the bag and shoes I chose (I was given a "budget" for each, which was slightly higher than the 28000 suit+set one). The shoes were supposed to be about 5cm, and it's a good thing I didn't pick them myself, because they felt much lower to me. So yeah, going to the shop that sells the right things was a good call for me.

Aoyama also has student discounts (10%), and a student card, with I think 20% discount on single piece items and 10% on set items. There are two cards, a free one, and another that costs 1250 yen a year from the second year onwards (but you get a 3000 yen voucher each year, apparently). I took the free one because the second one came with a credit card function and I did not want that.

So there you have it, my suit buying experience. I'll be blogging about the rest of my shuukatsu experience as I go through it. I think the next shuukatsu post will be about internship hunting(:

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