With summer comes summer travel plans, and if you're planning on visiting San Francisco or New York City, you might be tempted to make a trip to a brand store. However, since brand stores aren't common outside Japan, and are a tiny bit different than "muggle" shops, you might feel nervous about how to act. That's ok!
There's nothing wrong with wanting to act your best, and this will hopefully squelch any questions you have about etiquette for US brand stores.
When you visit:
- The most important thing is to check ahead of time when the stores are open. As with a lot of smaller boutiques, these stores aren't subject to corporate opening hour standards. Angelic Pretty in San Francisco is closed every Tuesday, and sometimes they have to close early for their tea parties or staff emergencies. If the latter happens, they will usually post on their Facebook page. There's nothing more disappointing than allotting a specific time to visit the stores and finding out they are closed already or they weren't open that day.
- Attire is something frequently asked about in online forums. You do not have to wear lolita. And no, you don't have to wear that brand either, nobody will judge you if you do or don't. There is by no means a dress code for entering brand stores. That being said, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of visiting in normal clothes. The good: it is easier to try things on without all the layers of a lolita outfit, it might be more comfortable if you have other plans for the day, you don't feel pressure to find room in your suitcase for lolita. The bad: if you don't personally know the shopgirls, there'll be a chance they will treat you as just another tourist (I'm sorry, but I've seen it happen) because a lot of tourists come in off the street and just browse. If you mention interest in lolita and introduce yourself, you'll be surprised how friendly the shopgirls are!
Things not to do:
- Do not take photographs. Do not. Don't do it. There are signs posted everywhere, and they will call you out on it. Please be respectful of this rule and don't try to sneak photos in the dressing room or when your back is turned away.
- Don't try to force yourself into the clothes. One shopgirl told me that a tourist came in, thought the back lacing was meant to be corset-like, and ripped the lace off the back. They had to sew it back together. The shopgirls will be more than happy to help you zip, button, lace, or tie. You'd feel the same if one of your friends wanted to try on your dresses.
- Please try not to complain about the prices. It's one thing to quietly despair over the price tag to your friend, but it's another to cry "Oh my god, 300$?! That's insane!" This is also something that happens a lot with tourists, and it makes the atmosphere awkward. Hopefully you knew how much brand cost before you came, and if you didn't... Just like any other expensive boutique, it isn't social convention to loudly comment on prices. This isn't a rule for visiting brand stores, but it will make the shopgirls and other visitors in the store feel more comfortable.
Things to keep in mind:
- Point cards may not work between the US branch and the Japanese branches, and may or may not work at convention booths. It all depends on what brand it is, but be prepared just in case!
- If you're wearing makeup, use the face covers usually provided in the dressing rooms to avoid smudging makeup onto the clothes.
- Unlike normal stores, there are some items you won't be allowed to try on. What those items are depend on the individual store, but common ones include the following: cutsews, socks, tights, wigs, blouses (in BTSSB NY).
- In Japanese stores, you may have heard that is it customary for employees to take their time wrapping up your purchase and handing it to your around the counter or out at the door. This is similar to US brand stores. I can only account for the ones in San Francisco but... In Angelic Pretty/Harajuku Hearts, the shopgirl will wrap your item in a bag, tape the bag closed, and hand it to you around the counter. In Baby the Stars Shine Bright, she will wrap your item in tissue paper before the bag, include a sticker, tie the bag closed with tiny ribbons, and hand it to you over the counter.
- In Angelic Pretty/Harajuku Hearts, you will need to remove your shoes when using the dressing room. Keep that in mind when planning your outfit for that day - it's why Japanese shoes have snaps instead of real buckles!
- There are no restrooms in Angelic Pretty/Harajuku Hearts, the closest one will be the nearby Starbucks or Chase bank. There are restrooms in New People (the building where BTSSB SF is located) on the "basement" floor. They have the Japanese-style toilets with all the buttons!
- If you come to BTSSB SF on a rainy day, you might get a special rainy-day bag. They're super cute!
- Consider bringing your own shopping bag. While you'll probably want a brand bag for yourself, San Francisco now requires stores to charge 10 to 25 cents for a bag.
- There are no returns allowed. This may be a shock to you if you've never ordered from a brand online or been to Japanese stores, but it isn't a personal attack or an obscure policy.
I hope these tips and warnings helped you clear some things up for you! Please remember that I speak from personal experience of years visiting the brand stores and events in San Francisco, so there may be differences between what I know and how things are in the new New York store. These are also all suggestions and guidelines, not rules (except the no photos!), so please treat them as such. I am in no way attempting to dictate how you should act!
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment down below. If you have an experience or opinion different than mine or a funny story of when you visited, that's fine too~