Can fashion define a generation or is it transgenerational? We ask, they answer, you decide.

Growing up as a Japanese American, the differences of opinion regarding various subjects and current events across different generations intrigued me. These differences in opinion would lead to thoughtful insight and lessons learned from my grandparent’s nisei generation, as well as intense arguments with my parents, the sansei generation.

Whether it is lessons to be learned or passionate debates, I think that we all can gain something from a new perspective. This series looks to offer perspective through the lens of three different generations of Japanese Americans concerning one topic. June’s topic is “Fashion,” and we have 3 generations giving their opinions on what makes their choice of threads unique. First representing the Gosei generation, we have Chet Oshima. Next for the Yonsei Generation, we have yo!media's very own, Megan Nagasaki. Last, but certainly not least, we have Dee Ishida giving us a Sansei perspetive.


What is your name? Age (decade is fine. IE 20s, 30s, 40s)? Generation?

Gosei: Chet Oshima, 21, Gen-Z/Gosei

Yonsei: Megan Nagasaki, 27!, Yonsei

Sansei: Dee Ishida, 79, Sansei

What role does fashion play in your life? How important is that role?

Gosei: Fashion is definitely not the thing I concern myself with the MOST out of everything in life, but in general I prioritize aesthetics over most other things. As vague of an answer as that is I definitely have been caring about color combinations and my general silhouette more as I get older.

Yonsei: Fashion feels like a seemingly small role in my life, but it is something I think about multiple times a day, whether choosing what to wear, finding inspiration online, shopping for items to add to my wardrobe, etc.  

Sansei: Fashion plays a very Important role in my life. When I put something on, even if it is something casual, I need to feel good in it. Even during covid, I would take the time to dress up daily and put effort into my outfits. I think what you wear makes you feel better about yourself.

Describe your personal style in 3 words?

Gosei: Bisexual Grandpa-core

Yonsei: Comfortable, minimalistic, city? 

Sansei: Trendy, Feminine, Colorful

When did fashion start to play a role in your life? [Do you have a memory of when you started caring about your fashion appearance? Describe that memory or time in your life]

Gosei: Once I started working as a studio manager when I was 19, I started feeling like I had to dress more professionally/cooler. This generally opened up my eyes to dressing with more purpose. I also had to wear a white shirt and black tie everyday for a month this year and it’s really changed my opinions on where a tie is appropriate (literally for any occasion).

Yonsei: When I was in preschool, I had some bold looks I look back on and love: a bright pink Barbie velour skirt/sweater set with leopard trim and a black leather jacket/skirt with a cheetah headband. We’ve had some style ups and downs since then, but I feel like I’ve generally cared about my fashion appearance for as long as I can remember. (What we won’t talk about is my basketball shorts + Roxy tank top/Paul Frank tee era at the end of elementary school)

Sansei: Fashion has always played a role in my life. When I was a little girl, I remember dressing up in my mom’s old clothes. I remember loving to play dress up. I even remember before kindergarten my cousin and I would always play around in our mother’s heels and other clothes. These are memories that I fondly remember that involved fashion.

Who is your fashion muse?

Gosei: I don’t have a specific muse, but I would say that if I end up looking like a Yu-Gi-Oh character by the time I stop putting on new clothes, then that’s a pretty good outfit.

Yonsei: Matilda Djerf - she’s created her own line of clothing, but that style of laid-back, vintage-inspired, well-fitting basics that pair in different combinations is on my fashion “vision board,” so to speak.

Sansei: I don’t have one fashion muse, because I like to switch my style around. I do like Audrey Hepburn’s style because I like that era of fashion, but I also like more contemporary style as well. There are a lot of different styles that I like.

What is your favorite fashion decade? (20s 30s 40s etc)

Gosei: I like how everyone wore suits that made people look really long/lanky with really short torsos. That was a really cool cultural moment.

Yonsei: I’ve always had a fascination with 40s style — preppy prints/fits, trousers, skirts/socks, neutral colors, etc. When looking through photos of Japanese Americans in that era, despite the unfortunate realities of incarceration, I’ve always been inspired by both men’s and women’s fashion of that time.

Sansei: I really liked the fashion style when I was in high school, so around the late 50s. I loved dyed to match sweater and skirt combos. I also had socks and shoes that were color matched as well. I also liked the 60s with gogo boots and Rudi Gernreich fashion style.

What are the 3 clothing shops you frequent most often for your fashion choices?

Gosei: Goodwill (cheap), Tee Shirt Warehouse (general blanks), and my Gichan’s closet (vintage)

Yonsei: Thrifting/vintage, & Other Stories

Sansei: My number one and very favorite is White house, Black Market. For more casual stuff I like DKNY sport. I also like everyday things from Macy’s department store.

When you put together your daily style, how do you choose what you wear? [How do you build your daily look? I.e. I pick my shoes then build a look off of that choice typically from bottom to top]

Gosei: My shirts generally dictate what color I’m going to try to pull off that day. I have a pretty large collection of colored button down shirts which gives me a lot of flexibility in terms of color combination and styling. Second are the shoes, and then I fit whatever hairstyle/pants looks the best with the shirt/shoe combo.

Yonsei: I will almost always feel most comfortable in pants, so that’s usually where I start. I generally evaluate my schedule/day to determine which shoes make the most sense, and then depending on the weather or occasion, I’ll generally choose between a cropped tank, graphic tee, or sweater.

Sansei: Most of the time I start with a top that I want to wear. I do a lot of dancing and go to dances and typically I let the top dictate the outfit. The top will help dictate how I want to look. I feel as though deciding on a top first helps to fit the occasion’s formality, weather/temperature, and comfort. It will also help to set a baseline color to build the rest of the outfit.

What is one retro style that you want to bring back, or is already coming back?

Gosei: Loose ties seem to be making a come back and I’m very for it, if you’re reading this article, go wear a tie out one day. Everyone looks good in a tie, you just have to find out which kind and at what length suits your profile the best!

Yonsei: 70s style is coming back and I’m all about it: flares, monochromatic sets, bold prints, knee-high boots. The cherry on top would be if more and more people got into disco music, too.

Sansei: I liked the gogo boots with mini dresses. I feel like those high top boots have been back in style and will continue to be in style for the future. I kept my boots from the 60s and I still have them and wear them out from time to time.

Chanel once said, "before you leave the house, look in the mirror, and take on thing off". Zac Efron also said. "when I am stylizing, it's all about accessories". Whose quote do you stand behind? [And why?]

Gosei: My Japanese-American sensibilities instinctually tell me to take off an accessory, but recently I’ve been trying to ignore that voice because accessorizing makes you hot; it’s a scientific fact. 

Yonsei: I'm not great when it comes to accessorizing— I only wear a single gold bracelet that was my grandma's and maybe some gold stud earrings that I don't take off even in the shower. I do love a good cap from time to time, but I'm not very skilled at knowing how to elevate with accessories (although I wish!) So, somewhere in the middle, leaning toward Ms. Coco.

Sansei: If anything I’d probably lean towards accessorizing. I like adding a belt or a scarf to an outfit. I do like to change it up a little though when I accessorize. For example, when I was in Hawaii, I found an infinity scarf that was a really interesting textile and pattern and I repurposed it into an obi style belt. I like to use accessories in unique and different ways.

What is one look/style you like but you don't think you could personally pull off? 

Gosei: I think if I tried to dress like these Y2K kids on tiktok I would look like a “B-grade cosplayer at a convention in the midwest”. 

Yonsei: I have a quiet admiration for sneakerhead/street style.. I’ve dabbled a bit, but I have a hard time diving headfirst into committing to some of the looks that I think look so cool.

Sansei: I wish I was younger because I like clothes that the younger girls wear. I like shorter cut skirts or shorts and think they’re fashionable, but they have to also be tasteful. Sometimes these young girls can take it too far and show a little too much and it crosses a line of being distasteful.

What would you like your fashion style to say about you? What do you think it actually says about you? 

Gosei: I would like my outfits to convey that I can talk to you either about  scaling a business 

Yonsei: I would like for it to say something along the lines of, “she looks like she’s enjoying the pieces she’s wearing.” I think my style reflects that—I often find myself gravitating toward things I feel comfortable in and that I find interesting or cool, whether it’s “in” or not. 

Sansei: Since I have always appreciated fashion, I enjoy the confidence that fashion brings for me and I feel like it makes me a confident person. I do think that others around me also can tell that I am an outgoing and confident person due to my fashion style. Regardless of if the clothes are expensive or not, I think people should wear things that make them feel good and confident. 

Is there such a thing as bad fashion?

Gosei: Yes… ripped acid washed skinny jeans, a flanel, and Raybans glasses is the only combination that I would say is objectively terrible. There’s something about how inauthentic the “cool’ factor is that rubs me the wrong way.

Yonsei: I think there is such a thing as bad fashion trends, but at the same time, everyone is entitled to their own choices! In the age of social media, it feels like everyone’s a critic. Even if there are specific tastes or styles, the concept of “bad” or “ugly” is super subjective.

Sansei: Yes there is bad fashion. Bad fashion is when you don’t care about what you look like and your clothes are sloppy and unkempt.

What responsibility does fashion play in the drive of a consumerist society? How do you think individuals can try to minimize that impact?  

Gosei: Fashion is the element that can exist in almost every type of media, and because of this is constantly being displayed/advertised. Because of this I think it’s a great way to tell what’s generally aesthetically acceptable at a given time. But because of this constant demand as well as incredibly quick fashion cycles, I think people should understand the environmental impact they’re having through the clothes they buy. That’s why I generally try to recycle clothing when I do buy it, just to make sure that good clothes don’t end up in the trash.

Yonsei: Fashion is unfortunately one of the biggest perpetrators of consumerist society :( between the concept of “trends” or “seasons,” there’s always the next best thing that needs to be bought/sold. Individuals can make small changes in their habits like trying to reuse existing clothing, seek out secondhand before purchasing new, donating instead of throwing away, not supporting fast fashion brands that are known to exploit resources, and just ask yourself do you need to purchase an additional item?

Sansei: I think it has a large role in driving a consumerist society, but mainly to younger people. Older people already know their style. I think it's the kids that are driven by fashion and what the media says they should wear. I am not sure how to minimize that issue when they are younger and want to look like everyone else. I would suggest that they start finding their own identity and stop paying so much attention to what everyone else is wearing.

If you could give advice to someone as it pertains to their fashion style and it's relationship to self identity, what would it be?

Gosei: Start small but make sure that you think you look GOOD when you’re leaving the house. It’s like training a muscle and gradually over time you’ll be able to try things you’d never thought you’d ever wear. It’s kind of like a game so don’t forget to have fun with it, because if you’re uncomfortable it’ll translate to your outfit.

Yonsei: Be patient! It’s taken years for me to finally enjoy my style and invest in pieces that reflect more of what I actually want to wear. I’ve had a hard time fitting into one specific style, but I’ve realized that no one is holding me to that expectation but me. All that matters is that I feel like it’s a representation of me—everything else is just a bonus :) 

Sansei: I would say people shouldn’t be afraid of stepping outside and dressing outside of their comfort zone. I would suggest to them to just try something a little more out of their comfort zone. I feel like people get stuck in whatever style they’re used to wearing. People should be open to trying new things. I think color is a good way to explore the edge of that comfort zone. I would say just try on something that wouldn’t be in your normal style and to add some color to your wardrobe.

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