The appeal of the anime “short skirt plus long leggings” look

Skirts blowing in the wind is always a nice touch.

Not too long ago, while I was showing my mom a video of May’n and Megumi Nakajima’s Budokan concert, she made an interesting comment about their outfits. She said that she found the combination of a miniskirt plus long boots, tights, stockings, etc., to be an attractive look. This got me thinking about what an expected, and almost overly generic, appearance this style has become for the average anime female character…

Apparently even in winter skirts prevail. Yuki must be cold…

We know that the main reason the standard clothing for anime girls is school sailor uniforms is because that’s what real school girls actually wear in Japan. Unless the characters aren’t students in Japan, chances are their most common outfits will be their school uniforms. But with this fact aside, I also believe the “short skirt+long leggings” look to be appealing.

Yui’s one of the few whose leggings cover all of her legs. Ritsu and Mugi op for the shorter sock size while Mio is about average for the style.

I’m the farthest thing from a fashion expert, but after giving it some thought, my own interpretation is that such a style accentuates an attractive part of the body – the knees and the lower thighs. This area is the most dynamic part of the lower body and has the most curves (at least, of the parts that are appropriate to show in public anyway =P) The shape and light skin color of the lower thighs below the fluttering of a skirt, contrasted with the (usually) darker toned leggings coming up to at least the knee, makes this part of the body stand out more. If the skirt came below the knees, or if the leggings were too short or not there at all, the rest of the legs would be emphasized rather than just this one part.

Like Yui, Miyuki’s leggings cover all of her legs. The rest of the Lucky Star girls have the average style.

You’ll rarely find an anime girl below the age of 18 without this style. I wonder who it was that first came up with this standard look for Japanese school girl uniforms. My mom said this style of a miniskirt and long boots was considered quite “sexy” in the 60s. Of course, back then it was considered slutty to have your bra strap show, so I’m not sure if that’s a good comparison. But regardless, it seems strange that Japanese school girls, who are conveyed as pure and “de-sexualized” at that age, should have uniforms designed with such a short skirt.

Nagi’s high boots rather than leggings produce the same effect. Tsugumi and Zange’s could be a little longer.

Perhaps the skirts simply look shorter in anime for the sake of otaku appeal. Or perhaps it just looks unique to me since I don’t live in Japan and the “socks worn no higher than the ankle” look is what I’m used to.

Yuri’s leggings are about as high as you can get without covering all of the legs, which I think looks better actually. Kanade’s length is perfect, though I don’t think the white leggings look as good as dark colored ones.

Whatever the reason for this style becoming as common as it has for Japanese school girls and anime girls, I’m sure lots of fans will agree on one thing – that a fluttering skirt, more dynamic and aesthetically appealing than shorts, accentuating the curves of the lower thighs and knees together with the long leggings…with the added bonus of a breast knot, tie, bow, etc., on the chest and some choice of hair piece on the head, together with the usual detail of hair in anime, all of which blow dramatically in a breeze – make for quite an attractive design for a character.

I think Shana’s my favorite example of this. Then again, she has one of my most favorite character designs overall anyway ;)

31 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Scamp says:

    Zettai Ryouki

  2. Zettai-Ryouiki!

    I must confess… I really like that look too!

    I think the color contrast helps accentuate and focus the viewer’s attention on what I humbly consider one of the best parts in human female anatomy: The legs.

  3. Yumeka says:

    I agree, and the fact that animation can give any girl a “perfect” body helps ;)

    And I still can’t believe I’ve never come across the term “zettai ryouki” in all my years as an anime fan. Seriously, what the heck.

  4. Merve says:

    Never heard of the term either.

    I’m from Turkey and just like Japan, we wear school uniforms through elementary and high school. The main difference is we wear button down shirts rather than sailor tops. Turkey is also a “conservative” country, so formally, the skirts of the uniforms are knee-length. This doesn’t stop a great generation of girls, especially in high school, from having mini skirts as part of their uniform. I’ve seen a couple of friends of mine wear skirts barely enough to cover the necessary parts, so it happens. They just get the skirts tailored and further pull them up by folding the belt line :)

    And almost no one would wear ankle length socks because… It doesn’t look good? In winter everyone wears leggings that cover the entire legs because it’s cold, but even in the heat of the spring and fall, most girls would wear knee-length or half-knee length socks. Socks are serious business, the most popular (and rich) girls are known to wear Burlington exclusively: http://www.burlington.de/gb/women/women-legwear/women-legwear-knee-highs.html

    In short, this is just the norm and it’s so natural to the people that I doubt anyone would consider why it’s the case or the sex appeal or anything. I suspect this is pretty much the case in Japan too, from my experience with social similarities between the countries. So I wouldn’t read too much into why this look exists in anime, because it’s just how the look is in real life.

    • Yumeka says:

      Cool, thanks for the info about Turkey.

      We don’t wear uniforms in American unless it’s a private school. I had to wear them at my private middle school, but it was pretty lenient and there was no “rule” for socks/leggings (I was the only girl who didn’t wear a skirt, LOL).

      The style in America seems to be the opposite…I’ve noticed the “no sock” look has become popular in recent years, and I rarely see leggings go beyond the ankle unless it’s some kind of unique outfit. I haven’t been to many states so maybe it’s a California thing – since it’s so hot here, the less clothing on the body the better.

  5. Mystlord says:

    I was actually wondering when the term “Zettai Ryouiki” was going to come up in your post :P

    I guess I’m just one of those strange people who don’t really understand the obsession around the style. Then again, I’m not really attracted to legs anyway, so whatever. But if I were to posit a reason as to why it’s popular, I think it’s because it’s an exciting look. It’s just SO DAMN CLOSE to something truly inappropriate, and we like that tease. There’s a reason why it’s called “Zettai Ryouiki” and not something else :P

    • Yumeka says:

      Seriously, how does everyone know this term yet I don’t recall coming across it in any of the hundreds of anime web sites I’ve visited or conversations I’ve had in the past eleven years. Unbelievable.

      Ah, that’s a good reason for why it’s appealing. Close to being ecchi but not quite, thus it can appeal to both those who do and do not like ecchi.

  6. Snark says:

    “You’ll rarely find an anime girl below the age of 18 without this style.”

    And that right there is why I’ve come to hate zettai ryouki and all it stands for.

    “But regardless, it seems strange that Japanese school girls, who are conveyed as pure and “de-sexualized” at that age, should have uniforms designed with such a short skirt.”

    Personally, I’d disagree. These characters all seem very sexualised, especially given how whole industries have spawned to meet the demand of people wanting to jerk off to them. It’s just that in Japan, pure and innocent is what’s considered most arousing >_<

    • Yumeka says:

      Well, it is what Japanese school uniforms really look like, and anime is just reflecting that. From my years of studying Japan in college, I believe it’s more to portray the attractive, cute, and innocence of being a “shojo” (young girl) – you can get a feel for her beauty without the naughty parts actually showing.

      And what I mean by not being sexualized is that, for example, moe characters like those in K-ON!, Lucky Star, Azumanga Daioh, Shakugan no Shana, etc., are not depicted in any sexual situations in the canon of their respective series. They may have overt cuteness and school girl crushes, but it doesn’t go beyond that. The most we’ll see is perhaps some slightly ecchi promo art or products like dakimakuras. Their sexualization mostly comes from fan made things, doujinshi and fan art especially. Thus, there’s sort of a dual thing going on, with the creators depicting the characters as one way, and certain fans fantasizing about them in another way.

      • Snark says:

        I get where your coming from, but can’t fully agree with you.

        Take for example, the infamous Mio panty flash from the first season of K-On, where her panties was substituted with a presumably similar patterned rice bowl.

        That was the directors clearly practicing a less in more philosophy in titillating their viewers rather then simply showing them her unmentionables…which ultimately resulted in idiots the world over buying overpriced rice bowls >_>

        Now I realize there’s still an argument to be made that the characters aren’t been made to behave like sluts (which honestly, I would prefer. At least it’d be honest), but I really can’t agree that the creators are aiming to portray them all that innocently either.

        As an aside, I’ve added you to my blogroll :)

        • Yumeka says:

          That example in K-ON! is a rarity in shows like that. 90% of the humor comes from the non-sexual quirks and cuteness of the girls. I honestly don’t mind a little fan service humor as long as it’s not shoved down my throat like in other anime.

          But yeah, all anime is at least partially a commercial product, and if stuff like that sells, they’ll slip it in. But that doesn’t mean all of the audience that enjoys shows like K-ON! is precisely looking for that aspect.

          Even though you disagree with me, you added me to your blogroll. I guess I should feel flattered =)

          • Snark says:

            I too don’t mind fanservice, in fact, I quite enjoy it. But if there’s gonna be fanservice, I’d rather it be adult titties shoved into my face rather than the underage crap that’s all the rage these days.

            Building on that, this is probably one of my chief reasons for disliking ‘innocent’ fanservice. Innocence is almost invariably connected with youth, and even if I’m not aroused by underaged pussy, knowing that the show was designed for people who do is almost as sickening.

            And yes, stuff like K-On and Shana can be enjoyed by people not looking for kiddy tits. But let’s be honest, do any of us really believe K-On would have been anywhere near as popular if it was about highschool boys eating cake and occasionally playing music?

  7. Well, everyone’s already let you know that it’s zettai ryouki already.

    Anyway, yeah, this is actually how I dress in the early spring and late autumn, except I opt for shorts with knee-highs and thigh-highs as opposed to skirts generally… I start with Grade C when the weather first starts to change, and then I up it to B and A when the weather really starts to chill. I just love long socks.

    • Yumeka says:

      Heh, should I feel ashamed as an anime fan for never hearing of “zettai ryouki” before?

      I’ve never worn socks longer than the regular size that goes up about halfway to your knee at full length. I always roll them down to my ankles though (and I have no desire to wear the really short socks that are hidden in your shoes XD) Maybe I should try a zettai ryouki look just for fun (though I’d have to buy new skirts first since the only ones I have go down to my ankles =P)

      • You have to be careful with the socks you get; most knee-socks will stay up easily, but a lot of thigh-highs will start to slide down your legs or droop as you walk, which is very annoying.

        I’ve never actually tried it with skirts before, but maybe I will. Like I said, I usually wear the high socks with shorts, but I just prefer wearing pants and shorts to skirts anyway.

  8. pKjd says:

    Zettai Ryouki is all nice and fun but I’m part of that special group which prefers the “all covered” up look more. 黒タイツいいな~

    Will you be doing hairstyles soon? If you did already, I must have missed it =P

    • Yumeka says:

      Really? I never would have guessed that was your preference =)

      Do you mean if I’ve made a post like this about hairstyles? I haven’t, but that may be a good idea XD

  9. I’d heard of Zettai Ryouki before but not what it meant, so don’t feel bad. (Now it’s still mentioned in every base post!)

    With Japan focusing on short skirts for girls to contrast boys, it’s not surprising that long stockings were used to compensate cloth-wise for the pants legs that the boys wore. With the changing role of women in the workforce and fashion in the workplace allowing women to wear pants, I’d imagine that the only reasons to stick with skirts would be tradition, fashion appeal, or highlighting appealing legs. It seems impractical to force half of your students to have cold legs simply because of their gender in this age.

    For anime, I think it’s just a way to individualize the character. Haruhi wears her knee-length socks as a high schooler, yet we see her middle-school self wear short socks. Why the change? I’d imagine it’s the same with Kanzaki Kaori and her pants style (completely impractical, but stands out fashionably from the other female characters). It’s also good for a laugh when characters have to adopt a different style like in Railgun 03 when Saten adopts the Tokiwadai uniform.

    If you do a post about hairstyles, please mention Laura Stewart from Index. She’s got one of the more unique hair attributes I’ve seen.

    • Yumeka says:

      You’ve at least heard of it…I’ve been into anime for much longer and haven’t even heard of the term ~_^ So weird.

      Yeah, I’d imagine that tradition and fashion are the main reasons to not completely change the school girl uniform. But then again, there is still a good amount of sexism in Japan, so that could also be a factor =/

      Apparently, fans have come up with different “grades” of zettai ryouki based on how much of the area is exposed. It looks like Haruhi is usually Grade C, and switches to Grade A/B in the winter =)

  10. CoolChibi says:

    I love that too. You forgot about Rin Tosaka. :)

  11. ~xxx says:

    I never heard that term before…

    Anyways, According to my observation it’s common to see girls who wear skirts wears also stockings…

    I don’t know because in real life many corporate people match skirts with stockings.
    In anime sense, I guess it’s easier to spot those who don’t cover up… but, it does not mean that you can’t find one.

  12. Kylaran says:

    Honestly, in my opinion, Zettai Ryouiki is a natural product of countries in which socks remain part of the girl’s fashion arsenal — in California, with our mass-marketed surfing culture influenced lifestyle, we share similarities with states like Hawaii in that many people like shorts and sandals over socks. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that many people here in California aren’t afraid to get a tan, and the fact that it snows in a minority of the regions in the state, but socks usually aren’t that big of a deal here (there, since I’m in Japan at the moment).

    I don’t know much about the east coast, but I would hazard to guess that us Californians are the ones that dress weird in the whole US.

  13. Shance says:

    It makes me sad that Stocking isn’t in this zettai ryouiki-fest… :(

  14. Liza says:

    Zettai ryouiki…
    I don’t really know what to think of this but I think it’s purely for the otaku that like that look. Although it is quite common place in anime now that I don’t even bat an eye to it anymore like the fact that most of the girls in animes have skirts that in real life would flash everytime they walked. It’s just a standard in all animes with females, the likelyhood of one having zettai-ryouiki is pretty much a guarntee.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, I too am very used to seeing it so it doesn’t really stand out anymore. At the same time, I can’t imagine typical anime girls without it, and the ones that don’t have it are more likely to catch my eye. I personally think zettai ryouki makes anime girls look very cute and attractive without being grossly sexy, but I don’t think I’d want to wear it on a daily basis XD

  15. akani says:

    I think the combination of a short skirt and long stockings is pretty appealing to a lot of people – maybe it’s because it covers up enough leg space to make things interesting but leaves a bit of skin shown to tease you a bit. I like it better than ankle socks that are too short or stockings that cover everything up.

    Some of my favorite characters who pull zettai ryouiki off are Ushiromiya Ange from Umineko, Shiina Mafuyu from Seitokai no Ichizon, Taiga from Toradora!, Houjuu Nue from Touhou, Fumika from Shigofumi, Togame from Katanagatari, Yamada Aoi from WORKING!!, and of course Stocking from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt.

  16. Crystal says:

    I have a rl skirt and I wear it every now and then in the summertime.

    Skirts are always in. Wear them yo.

  17. NNecron says:

    I’m way late for the discussion, but this is the topic that has been bothering me these days.

    People would normally judge length of a skirt based on how much skin is showing, and that’s why some would say anime skirts (e.g. skirt from Haruhi) are too short, but that is not necessarily true. Based on my research, appropriate length of a mini skirt depends on your body type and size of that skirt. A lot of anime characters have legs that are longer than length of their torso and head combined so they may look overly short on the surface. If a girl with average build tried to replicate that look, that skirt would be too short for her. However, that’s not to say it is impossible to do so without flashing frequently. As long as there is more than 3 inch gap between your crotch and bottom of your skirt, your ass won’t show even if someone is looking at the skirt and standing far behind you on a 25 degree slope (this information is from a Japanese site and involves a lot of geometry, but if you are interested please follow the link at the end). As long as you follow this rule, anyone can wear mini skirt of this size without flashing, and this is why it can be accepted in a country like Japan. As evidence, there are real Japanese high school girls who wear this kind of skirt as you may have noticed already.

    The link-“http://www.hirax.net/dekirukana2/miniskirt/”

    I have one question: is it rare for girls in the states to wear short skirt like the ones you see in anime?

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