Stacey pretending she has the amazing style of Corin and taking over the fashion section for a day!
One of the rituals/pains of being a parent in Japan is the endless ceremonies that you have to attend, with one of the most important being the graduation and entrance ceremonies that mark the end of one school career and the start of another. Graduation ceremonies are pretty common in other countries, particularly for high school and increasingly elementary school but in Japan, these ceremonies extend all the way down to kindergarten and daycare. There are certain rules that are generally followed for ceremonies here – please see Erinn’s fabulous guide to ceremonies.
But one question that comes up in our group is “HELP, what do I wear??” Not that I consider myself an expert on fashion or ceremonies, but last year, I had the pleasure (?) of attending five graduation and entrance ceremonies and as I work in a school, I have to attend ceremonies so here are some rules I’ve learnt or picked up along the way.
Stacey and her family at the elementary ceremony
As with most things, if in doubt, wear black. It is always handy to have a simple black dress and jacket in your wardrobe for various occasions. At most private schools, black will be what is worn. As a staff member, we are told that this is what is required. I think beyond this, you need to make a judgement call based on what kid of elementary school or kindergarten your child attends and the area you live in. Our elementary school is in a well-off area, with lots of power mamas so black was the way to go for our son’s graduation last year. And the parents I see going to the kindergarten ceremonies also wear black or dark colours. For the elementary school graduation, I wore a black dress with a black jacket over the top.
Daycare is little more relaxed although dark colours still seem to be the norm. At my younger son’s graduation last year, there was a mix of coloured suits and outfits – I wore a black suit with a purple top underneath. These were mixed and matched clothes from my wardrobe and I was worried it would look it, but it was fine. The attention was all on my gorgeous graduate!
At the daycare graduation
Another issue is the hosiery. For daycare, I wore black stockings; elementary school skin coloured stockings. I felt it a little heavy being a column of black and has black stockings are the rule for funerals here, I think skin coloured is the way to go, but again, do what you feel comfortable with.
All clothes worn were mostly those bought in Australia, on trips home I recommend investing in a nice black dress that is versatile to wear to various occasions. If this is not an option, try Nissen for suits, or check out larger department stores which will often have clothes in larger sizes if this something you require.
As for accessories, the “rule” that is known by all Japanese women but not written anywhere, is that pearls are what are worn to graduation. So if you want to fit in, a string of pearls is the way to go, if you want to stand out (which you probably already do!) wear as you like. I wore grey pearls to the daycare ceremony, and no necklace and diamond earrings with a green brooch to the elementary ceremony.
Graduating children will be given a corsage to wear but it’s not required that mothers wear one – most do though! I didn’t for graduation, it didn’t match my outfits and wasn’t the look I was going for.
And the final accessory, a bag big enough to carry your slippers in (as you will have to get out of your nice shoes and ruin your look with slippers!) and presents that the graduating students will be given. I found this more of a necessity with daycare graduation than the elementary school one. Don’t forget to add the tissues because there will be tears!
I think the key is to be yourself and be comfortable. It’s your child’s big day and while it may seem a hassle to dress up, it’s lovely to celebrate a big milestone in your child’s life, yourself as a mother and a great opportunity to get some pictures you will treasure forever.
Mum to three very loud boys and wife to a patient Japanese man, I'm Australian and moved to the Kansai area in 2012. Aside from navigating all the craziness of being a mum in another country, I work semi-full time and try to keep my sanity! Of course I clean but I don't cook!