These 10 stylish Japanese “OL” summer-appropriate looks are good even on off-duty days

Conquer the year-round sweltering Summer temperatures in Singapore with easy-to-style yet fashionable pieces the Japanese office ladies love to sport on a daily basis!

With just these 10 wardrobe staples, you’ll be able to create multiple stylish and office-friendly looks without having to break a sweat about what to wear on busy mornings. Best part? These can also be improvised for a chic brunch look.

Read on to see which pieces are worth investing in (as well as styling tips) to be the best dressed version of yourself when heading out.

1. Wide-legged trousers

If you’ve been loyal to the pin-straight, tapered pants because it makes you look slimmer, think again. Choose airy, wide-legged ones that aren’t only more comfortable, they also don’t cling to your legs, highlighting the parts you don’t want to show. However, make sure to select ones that end at or above your ankle (and not drape and hit your shoes) so as to have a clean and stylish silhouette rather than a sloppy one.

You can even choose from different fabrics like linen to beat the heat, or heavier cotton blends for a more formal look, as well as different colours (although Japanese OLs often prefer lighter pastel colours) to suit the occasion.

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Single Pleated Pants

Update your wardrobe with this basic black pair! Because of its versatile colour and breathable shape, you’ll be able to sport this anywhere and anytime, with a classic button up or your favourite graphic shirt on the weekends.

Did you know the pleat on the front of this one has the added benefit of giving an illusion of a longer and slimmer look too?

Available at Pomelo at S$39.

Belted Wide Leg Pants

If your office has a more relaxed dressing code, try these light coloured ones instead. In a classy beige and refreshing mint shades, let this pair take centre stage by pairing it with a simple top, such as a T-shirt, or a solid coloured blouse, and you’ll have a put-together look in no time and with virtually no effort.

Retails on Pomelo now for S$31.20.

2. Maxi skirts

Alternatively, opt for a more feminine silhouette with long skirts if you have a date night later that day, but still want to look work-ready. Choose smaller prints and pleats for a more romantic, girly look. While a white or similar coloured button-up blouse is a no-brainer, Japanese OL favourite pairing, try a more unique style by matching your skirt with a super trendy padded shoulder tank, or a one shoulder top.

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Dorothy Perkins Lilac Floral Print Ruffle Midi Skirt

Channel your inner romantic with this fluttery, tiered skirt with pink and purple florals all around it. Plus, it has an elasticated waist, so you can wear it to a sumptuous brunch without any discomfort!

Retails for S$49.90 on Zalora.

Lace insert pleated midaxi skirt

If you’re not big on patterns, try this black lacy maxi skirt instead. Instead of floral patterns, the asymmetric hemline and lace panel help make this skirt an extra unique one.

Retails for SGD70.99 on ASOS.

3. Pastel button ups

A staple in every working individual’s closet, choose light coloured blouses in shades like pastel pink, blue, orange, and even white over dark ones to beat the heat while still looking office-appropriate. Opt for more breathable materials like linen and cotton instead of silks and polyester that look chic but can trap heat.

The key to making your button up look effortless, stylish, and not too proper? Unfasten a button or two, or loosely tuck the bottom of the shirt into your bottoms! On the other hand, if you want to look extra polished, simply pair your shirt with a bottom piece of the same colour.

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Foxcroft Fitted Non-Iron Shirt

Since the button up is such a versatile and everyday piece, it’s the one you should invest the most in. Ensure you choose one that isn’t too see-through (typically found in polyester or rayon blouses), and one with a tucked in waist for a more feminine and not overly boxy shape. This one from Foxcroft even has a material that doesn’t require ironing for convenience!

Retails on Nordstrom for S$118.42.

Everlane The Silky Cotton Relaxed Shirt

Made with quality, extra soft (and ethically sourced) cotton for a lived-in and more comfortable feel, these are slightly oversized true to the Japanese OL style, which can be dressed up with a simple blazer, or dressed down with shorts or jeans.

From S$56 on Everlane.

4. Cardigans

Often donned by Japanese working ladies, cardigans toe the line between formal and casual so it goes with any outfit. To make it more office-friendly, though, choose classic colours such as white, navy, tan, or black, and go wild with the details instead!

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OVS Pockets Cardigan

With contrasting trims reminiscent of French luxury label Chanel’s famed cardigans, this one comes at a fraction of the price and is made of a stretchy viscose fabric for comfort.

At S$48.90 on Zalora.

ONLY Lucy Long Sleeve Cardigan

Versatile and cozy, layer this over a blouse or a T-shirt, or wear it on its own tucked into a pair of trousers. The knit texture and gold button will add extra pizazz to your look without being too OTT.

At S$18.90 on Zalora.

5. Milk tea colours

This is more of a must-have colour amongst Japanese OLs rather than an article of clothing. Try this trendy and popular neutral for a change rather than your tried-and-tested black and white clothes to spice up your wardrobe. Expensive looking and surprisingly easy to pair with, choose bags, loose blazers, blouses, and even trousers in tan and camel colours for a new look.

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Pomelo Purpose High-Low Halter Top

When in doubt, choose tops that have a higher neck for a safe-for-work, conservative look that is popular amongst Japanese working women. To keep your look from looking to drab, choose a top with an interesting detail, like this one that has a longer, flowing back. Pair with a pair of trousers in a similar shade (like this pair at S$32.61) for a effortlessly classy look in seconds.

Retails on Pomelo for S$35.20.

Ultimate Linen Suit

An easy way to rock this popular shade is with a loose blazer! Rather than a fitted blazer that can look too formal at times, liven up your outfit easily by throwing this one over your shoulders when it gets chilly. There’s even a petite version (S$53.36) for “fun-sized” individuals too!

Get yours on ASOS now for S$25.94.

6. Patterned scarves

Rather than statement necklaces or eye-catching bags and shoes, the classic Japanese OL often opts for patterned scarves when looking to level up their outfit in a pinch. It has an added benefit of keeping you warm in an air-conditioned environment, and can be worn in multiple ways, such as around your neck, at the base of your ponytail, and wound round your bag handle!

Ensure you choose a smaller size (and not a shawl) to keep your look clean and simple.

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Women’s fashion scarf

If you aren’t ready to invest in a pricey silk scarf just yet, test the waters with these first. At an affordable price of less than S$5 each, you can even buy multiple to match different outfits!

Available at Shopee for S$4.91.

Pomelo scarves

In a wide range of styles from solid tones to ones with coral flowers and dainty constellation prints to suit every dressing style, Pomelo is the place to search if you’re seeking an affordable scarf with decent quality.

From S$7.20 on Pomelo.

7. Dark wash jeans

Another must-have in your wardrobe that is really worth investing in is a pair of well-fitting denim jeans! To emulate the Japanese style, choose a pair with a darker wash (indigo or black) for a more formal look, and pair with a loose, feminine blouse to balance the casual denim out.

Tip: for a more expensive look, always choose denim that’s made with a very high percentage of cotton (95% and above). While it may be uncomfortable at first, cotton wears down over a period of time and moulds to your body flatteringly than those with a higher percentage of elastane (or other stretchy fabrics) that cling to your legs instead.

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Everlane denim

It’s important to choose a cut that suits your body type; opt for a mid-rise if you have a shorter torso, or a flattering high-rise if you want to lengthen your legs. With a large selection of fits like the classic skinny jeans and the roomier straight-leg jeans, you’ll find one you love from Everlane.

From S$67 on Everlane.

8. Feminine blouses

Want to take the button up up a notch? Both office and after work plans appropriate, don’t be shy with incorporating the girly laces, ruffles, and embroidery into the mix, and dress it up with a maxi skirt, or down with a pair of your favourite denim.

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Halogen Lace & Crepe Top

With a touch of lace on the top half, this sleeveless and airy blouse is perfect for both work days and weekends alike, depending on how you style it.

From S$35.38 on Nordstrom.

Frill Tie Back Blouse

Despite the intimidating frills at the shoulder, this square neck top is actually very flattering as it elongates the neck. Pair with your favourite dainty necklaces or earrings and a streamlined bottom such as tailored trousers to keep the focus on the statement top.

Retails on Pomelo for S$27.20.

9. Neutral toned bags

Although statement bags are all the rage on the streets in the West, the Japanese prefer to keep theirs lowkey with simple shapes and silhouettes, shades like black, white, and tan being the most popular. For a more expensive look, invest in a leather bag, or choose good quality PVC bags if you prefer to put your money somewhere else.

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Chloe Medium Aby Tote

Treat yourself to a high quality option like this one, which is practical and large enough to fit most laptops. The uncomplicated tote design is definitely workplace approved, although the gold hardware on this bag adds a touch of glam without looking like you tried too hard.

Get this on Reebonz for S$1,370 before it’s sold out, or browse through other similar options on their page.

ALDO Canical Large Tote Bag

Or, get this similar looking one from ALDO at a fraction of the price of most luxury brands. Made with a sturdy polyurethane material for a leather-like look, its generous size also allows you to fit in all your work necessities.

Now S$111.90 on Zalora.

10. Pointed toe shoes

To complete their effortlessly elegant daily looks, pointed shoes are the go-to for the stylish Japanese. Whether it’s a pair of sky high stilettos or comfortable flats, pointed toe shoes elongates your silhouette for a longer, leaner look.

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Everlane 40-Hour Flat

A hardworking flat true to its name, this one is padded at the insole, and is made with 100% super soft Italian leather for a shoe that feels as good as it looks. Choose black for a classic and versatile look, or taupe for a leg-lengthening illusion.

At S$168 on Everlane.

Sacha slingbacks kitten heel

With a chic slingback and pointed toe combination, these expensive-lookings shoe even has a gold hardware heel for a durable and unique look.

Get yours on ASOS for S$64.99.