Traditional clothing of Japan is Kimono (着物, 着 means wear and 物 means thing), and up until the mid 19th century it was the form of dress worn by everyone in Japan. That began to change slowly with the import of suits dresses and other western fashions during the Meiji Era.
Thanks to the popularity of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in the West at the beginning of the last century, the kimono-clad maiden became one of the quintessential images of Japan. Dressing up in the kimono and other accoutrements of the geisha or maiko is still one of the more popular activities for visiting tourists.
Many modern Japanese women lack the skill to put on a kimono unaided: the typical woman’s kimono outfit consists of twelve or more separate pieces that are worn, matched, and secured in prescribed ways, and the assistance of licensed professional kimono dressers may be required. Called upon mostly for special occasions, kimono dressers both work out of hair salons and make house calls.
Choosing an appropriate type of kimono requires knowledge of the garment’s symbolism and subtle social messages, reflecting the woman’s age, marital status, and the level of formality of the occasion.
A young woman wearing a furisode kimono
- (振袖): furisode literally translates as swinging sleeves—the sleeves of furisode average between 39 and 42 inches (110 cm) in length.Furisode are the most formal kimono for unmarried women, with colorful patterns that cover the entire garment. They are usually worn at coming-of-age ceremonies (seijin shiki) and by unmarried female relatives of the bride at weddings and wedding receptions.
- (訪問着): literally translates as visiting wear. Characterized by patterns that flow over the shoulders, seams and sleeves, hōmongi rank slightly higher than their close relative, the tsukesage. Hōmongi may be worn by both married and unmarried women; often friends of the bride will wear hōmongi at weddings (except relatives) and receptions. They may also be worn to formal parties.
- Pongee Hōmongi were made to promote kimono after WWII. Since Pongee Hōmongi are made from Pongee, they are considered casual wear.
- (色無地): colored kimono that may be worn by married and unmarried women. They are mainly worn to tea ceremonies. The dyed silk may be figured (rinzu, similar to jacquard), but has no differently colored patterns. It comes from the word “muji” which means plain or solid and “iro” which means color.
- (小紋): “fine pattern”. Kimono with a small, repeated pattern throughout the garment. This style is more casual and may be worn around town, or dressed up with a formal obi for a restaurant. Both married and unmarried women may wear komon.
- Edo komon
- (江戸小紋): is a type of komon characterized by tiny dots arranged in dense patterns that form larger designs. The Edo komon dyeing technique originated with the samurai class during the Edo period. A kimono with this type of pattern is of the same formality as an iromuji, and when decorated with kamon, may be worn as visiting wear (equivalent to a tsukesage or hōmongi).
- Mofuku is formal mourning dress for men or women. Both men and women wear kimono of plain black silk with five kamon over white undergarments and white tabi. For women, the obi and all accessories are also black. Men wear a subdued obi and black and white or black and gray striped hakama with black or white zori.
- The completely black mourning ensemble is usually reserved for family and others who are close to the deceased.
- (色留袖): single-color kimono, patterned only below the waistline. Irotomesode with five family crests are the same as formal as kurotomesode, and are worn by married and unmarried women, usually close relatives of the bride and groom at weddings and a medal ceremony at the royal court. An irotomesode may have three or onekamon. Those use as a semi-formal kimono at a party and conferment.
- (黒留袖): a black kimono patterned only below the waistline, kurotomesode are the most formal kimono for married women. They are often worn by the mothers of the bride and groom at weddings. Kurotomesode usually have five kamon printed on the sleeves, chest and back of the kimono.
- (付け下げ): has more modest patterns that cover a smaller area—mainly below the waist—than the more formal hōmongi. They may also be worn by married women.The differences from homongi is the size of the pattern, seam connection, and not same clothes at inside and outside at “hakke.” As demitoilet, not used in important occasion, but light patterned homongi is more highly rated than classic patterned tsukesage. General tsukesage is often used for parties, not ceremonies.
A traditional red Uchikakekimono with cranes
- Uchikake (打掛) is a highly formal kimono worn only by a bride or at a stage performance. The Uchikake is often heavily brocaded and is supposed to be worn outside the actual kimono and obi, as a sort of coat. One therefore never ties the obi around the uchikake. It is supposed to trail along the floor, this is also why it is heavily padded along the hem. The uchikake of the bridal costume is either white or very colorful often with red as the base colour.
Susohiki / Hikizuri
maiko (apprentice geisha), wearing specially tailored “maiko-style” furisode kimonos with tucks in sleeves and at shoulders
- The susohiki is usually worn by geisha or by stage performers of the traditional Japanese dance. It is quite long, compared to regular kimono, because the skirt is supposed to trail along the floor. Susohiki literally means “trail the skirt”. Where a normal kimono for women is normally 1.5–1.6 m (4.9–5.2 ft) long, a susohiki can be up to 2 m (6.6 ft) long. This is also why geisha and maiko lift their kimono skirt when walking outside, also to show their beautiful underkimono or “nagajuban” (see below).
A young woman modeling a jūnihitoe
- Jūnihitoe (十二単) is an extremely elegant and highly complex kimono that was only worn by Japanese court-ladies. The jūnihitoe consist of various layers which are silk garments, with the innermost garment being made of white silk. The total weight of the jūnihitoe could add up to 20 kilograms. An important accessory was an elaborate fan, which could be tied together by a rope when folded. Today, the jūnihitoe can only be seen in museums, movies, costume demonstrations, tourist attractions or at certain festivals. These robes are one of the most expensive items of Japanese clothing. Only the Imperial Household still officially uses them at some important functions.
2. Men’s Kimono
In contrast to women’s kimono, men’s kimono outfits are far simpler, typically consisting of five pieces, not including footwear.
Men’s kimono sleeves are attached to the body of the kimono with no more than a few inches unattached at the bottom, unlike the women’s style of very deep sleeves mostly unattached from the body of the kimono. Men’s sleeves are less deep than women’s kimono sleeves to accommodate the obi around the waist beneath them, whereas on a woman’s kimono, the long, unattached bottom of the sleeve can hang over the obi without getting in the way.
Jinbaori – Kimono tabards for armoured Samurai
In the modern era, the principal distinctions between men’s kimono are in the fabric. The typical men’s kimono is a subdued, dark color; black, dark blues, greens, and browns are common. Fabrics are usually matte. Some have a subtle pattern, and textured fabrics are common in more casual kimono. More casual kimono may be made in slightly brighter colors, such as lighter purples, greens and blues. Sumo wrestlers have occasionally been known to wear quite bright colors such as fuchsia.
The most formal style of kimono is plain black silk with five kamon on the chest, shoulders and back. Slightly less formal is the three-kamonkimono.
Black Montsuki with hakama and haori
In the backside, there is family symbol of the owner.Montsuki with hakama and haori is the traditional wedding clothing for the men. It is just weared when formal event coming of age ceremonies ( 成人式 seijin shiki )
Casual Clothing Kinagashi
Mens wear it for clothing of days or go out to non formal event. This kimono, there is not family symbol.
Parts of a Kimono
|yuki – sleeve length
||ushiromigoro – rear main section
||uraeri – inner collar
||doura – upper lining
|sodetsuke – armhole seam
||fuki – hem guard
||sode – sleeve
||okumi – front panel below the collar
|miyatsukuchi – opening below armhole
||sodeguchi – sleeve opening
||tamoto – sleeve pouch
||maemigoro – front main section
|furi – sleeve below armhole
||tomoeri – overcollar
||eri – collar
||susomawashi – lower lining
The illustration to the left shows how kimono design has changed over the centuries. From around the Nara Period (710-94), a garment called a kosode (small sleeves) was worn, first as underclothes and later as an outer garment, by both women and men. The garment became known as a kimono from the 18th century. Although much less common today than they used to be, even the short-term visitor is likely to see at least one of these elegant garments during their stay.
Women wear kimono when they attend traditional arts, such as a tea ceremony orikebana class. Girls and young single women wear furisode, a colorful style of kimono with long sleeves and tied with a brightly-colored obi (sash). Kimono made from fabric with simple geometric patterns, called Edo komon, are more plain and casual.
At weddings, the bride and groom will often go through several costume changes. One of them will see the bride in a shiromuku, a heavy, embroidered white kimono and wearing an elaborate hairpiece. The groom wears a black kimono made fromhabutae silk and carrying the family crest, hakama (a pleated skirt) and a half-length black coat called a haori. Western suits are more common for male guests.
For funerals, both men and women wear plain black kimono. With black suits being suitable for both, it’s often difficult to tell whether a guy is going to a wedding or a funeral except that they wear a white tie for weddings and a black tie for funerals. In January every year, 20-year olds celebrate their coming of age. Most women wear an elaborately-colored komono, often with a tacky fur boa. Other kimono-wearing occasions include New Year, graduation ceremonies and Shichi-go-san for children.
Traditionally, the art of putting on a kimono was passed from mother to daughter but these days special schools can do brisk business imparting the necessary techniques. The first thing put on are the tabi (white cotton socks); next the undergarments, a top and a wraparound skirt; then the nagajuban, an under-kimono which is tied with adatemaki belt; finally the kimono, with the left side over the right (right over left is only used when dressing a corpse for burial) and tied with the obi. About an inch of thehaneri (collar) of the nagajuban shows inside the collar of the kimono. The loose design of the collar is to give a glimpse of the neck, considered the most sensual part of the kimono-wearing lady. When outside, zori sandals are usually worn.
Lined (awase) kimono, traditionally made of silk but sometimes wool or synthetic fabrics, are worn during the cooler months. Light, cotton yukata are worn by men and women during the summer months and after bathing at onsen (hot spring resorts) and ryokan (traditional inns). Often they are worn with geta, informal wooden footwear. Originally worn to the bath house by the upper class and made of plain white cotton, yukata became popular among the common people and were often stencil-dyed. Today, brightly-colored yukata are common at summer festivals and fireworks displays, particularly for young women and children.