General Do’s and Don’ts

Each school and office is a little different, but we thought it’d be helpful to show you some general guidelines that should be safe no matter where you are placed!


Sleeveless shirts are unacceptable at schools and offices, and should only be worn with a cardigan. That said, the summer months are often too hot for multiple layers, so we strongly recommend just sticking with a single layer with longer sleeves, or buying the lightweight cardigans at Uniqlo.

Capped sleeve shirts can be worn at school, but any more shoulder skin showing would require a cardigan. This style is good if you know you’ll need your formal blazer that day because you won’t be too hot or stuffy with extra material.

This shirt is 100% okay most of the time. Perfect for the hot summer days when you don’t want to be wearing too many layers, this kind of shirt is also easy to add layers to once the weather gets colder in fall and winter.



Pencil skirts, while fashionable and completely appropriate in our home countries’ workplaces, are too tight for most Japanese workplaces and are also impractical for all the bending and moving around ALTs do in the day. The Japanese-style pencil skirts are tailored and flare off slightly at the bottom so they’re not figure-hugging, and are usually only worn at formal events like graduations.


The skirt to the right is a bit too short to be worn at school or the office as pictured here. Worn with tights or leggings, though, and it becomes quite acceptable. We would stay away from anything shorter than this in general, though some schools are a bit more lax than others.

The below skirt is definitely appropriate for school, offices and formal occasions. It’s not tight, doesn’t flatter the figure in an indecent way, and falls below the knees. Uniqlo and GU are well-known for selling skirts this length in both heavy winter materials or light, gauzy materials. So, unless you have particularly long legs, don’t worry if you don’t have many skirts this length. You can find plenty here at great prices!


Denim or blue jeans are universally unacceptable. However, some ALTs do get away with black, gray, navy, or khaki-colored denims. If in doubt, just spend a couple weeks observing what your coworkers are wearing to see what is okay.

In an office environment, dress pants are the most acceptable. Girls can get away with capris in the summer months, but guys are still expected to be wearing long pants.

ALTs who work at elementary schools have a bit more leeway with their wardrobe, as they spend a lot of time playing with the kids during recess. Loose, black sweatpants/room pants look similar to dress pants and cost much less to replace should they get ripped or stained. 😉