Kimono Definition: Definitions for the Clothing & Textile Industry

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(Japanese: 着物 literally "something one wears") are the traditional garments of Japan.

Kimono was originally a word that referred to all types of clothing, but the word eventually came to refer specifically to the full-length robe-like garment still worn by women, men and children today.

History and description

The modern kimono began to take shape in the Heian period (CE 794-1192). Since then the basic shape of both men's and women's kimono has remained essentially unchanged: a T-shaped, straight-lined robe that falls to the ankles, with a collar, and sleeves that fall to the wrist. The sleeves also fall from the wrist to approximately the waist if the arms are held straight out (though some styles have extremely long sleeves (see below); the sleeves of some kimono fall almost to the floor). The robe is wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right, and secured by a wide belt (called an obi) which is tied in the back.

Women's kimono are basically one size, and are tucked and folded to accommodate different body heights and shapes (in modern times, however, men's as well as women's kimono are increasingly available in sizes. Very tall or heavy people (such as sumo wrestlers) have to have kimono custom-made.

In the past, a kimono would often be deconstructed entirely for washing in separate pieces, and then re-sewn for wearing. Modern cleaning methods and fabrics have largely eliminated this practice. "Basting stitches," long, loose stitches, are sometimes placed around the outside edges of the kimono for storage. They help to prevent bunching, folding and wrinkling, and keep the kimono's layers in alignment.

Over time there have been many variations in color, fabric and style, as well as accessories such as the obi.

There are styles of kimono for various occasions, ranging from extremely formal to very casual. The level of formality of women's kimono is determined by the shape (mostly the length of the sleeves), pattern and fabric, and also the color. Men's kimono are usually one basic shape and are mainly worn in subdued colors. Formality is determined by the type and color of accessories, the fabric, and the number or absence of mon (family crests). Silk is the most desirable, and most formal, fabric. Cotton is more casual. These days there are polyester kimono as well; they are generally more casual.

Kimono are made from a single bolt of kimono fabric. Such bolts come in standard dimensions, and all the fabric is used in the making of the kimono. This is one reason why larger-size kimono are difficult to find and very expensive to have made.

Kimono in general are expensive. They are sewn by hand, and the fabrics from which they are created are also frequently hand made and hand decorated. A single woman's kimono can easily exceed US$10,000; a complete kimono outfit, with kimono, undergarments, obi, ties, socks, sandals and accessories, can exceed US$20,000; it is not uncommon for a single obi to cost well in the thousands of dollars. In practice, however, most kimono owned by typical kimono hobbyists or practitioners of traditional arts are far less expensive. Enterprising people can make their own kimono and undergarments fairly easily as they follow a standard pattern, or they can "recycle" older kimono. Cheaper and machine made fabrics can be substituted for the traditional hand dyed silk. There is also a thriving business in second hand kimono in Japan. Women's obi, however, remain an expensive item. Even second hand they can cost hundreds of dollars, and they are difficult for inexperienced people to make. Men's obi, even those made from silk, tend to be much cheaper. This is largely because they are much narrower and much shorter than those worn by women.

Kimono are never wasted. Old kimono are recycled in various ways: they may be altered to make haori, or kimono for children; the fabric may be used to patch similar kimono; larger parts of fabric are used for making kimono accessories such as handbags; smaller parts can be used to make covers, bags or cases for various implements, especially things like the sweet-picks used in tea ceremony. Kimono that are damaged in the lower portions can also be worn under hakama so the damage does not show.

Today, kimono are mainly worn only on special occasions, and mostly by women. Men wear kimono most often at weddings and tea ceremony. Kimono are also worn by both men and women in certain sports, such as kendo. There is a large number of kimono hobbyists in Japan, where it is possible to take classes on wearing kimono. Such classes cover skills such as selecting seasonally and event-appropriate patterns and fabrics, matching the kimono undergarments and accessories to the kimono, selecting and tying an obi, etc.

Most Japanese women would be unable to properly put on a kimono unaided, as the typical woman's outfit requires twelve or more separate pieces which must be worn, matched and secured in prescribed ways (men's kimono outfits are far simpler, typically consisting of a maximum of five pieces, not including socks and sandals). For this reason there are still professional kimono dressers who can be hired to help women wear kimono, usually for special occasions. Kimono dressers must be licensed, and while they often work out of hair salons, many make housecalls as well.

There may still be older women and, probably to a far lesser extent, men who wear kimono on a daily basis. Except when in the ring, professional sumo wrestlers are required to wear kimono whenever they appear in public.

Women's kimono

There are several different types of kimono worn by women today. These are chosen according to the wearer's gender and age, and the level of formality required. The following lists the different types by descending order of formality.

  • Kurotomesode (黒留袖 ; くろとめそで): 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 (family crests) which are printed on the sleeves, chest and back of the kimono.
  • Furisode (振袖 ; ふりそで): furisode literally translates as "swinging sleeves" -- the sleeves of furisode average between 39 and 42 inches in length. Furisode are the most formal kimono for unmarried women. They have patterns which cover the entire garment, and are usually worn at coming-of-age ceremonies (Seijin Shiki) and by unmarried female relatives of the bride at weddings and wedding receptions.
  • Irotomesode (色留袖 ; いろとめそで): irotomesode are single-color kimono, patterned only below the waistline. They are slightly less formal than kurotomesode, and are worn by married women, usually close relatives of the bride and groom at a wedding. May have three or five kamon.
  • Houmongi (訪問着 ; ほうもんぎ): literally translates as "visiting wear." Characterized by patterns which flow over the shoulders, seams and sleeves, houmongi rank slightly higher than their close relative, the tsukesage. Houmongi may be worn by both married and unmarried women; often friends of the bride will wear houmongi at weddings and receptions. They may also be worn to formal parties, such as galas.
  • Tsukesage (付け下げ ; つけさげ): a tsukesage has more modest patterns that cover less area -- mainly below the waist -- than the more formal houmongi. They may also be worn by married and unmarried women.
  • Iromuji (色無地 ; いろむじ): single-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.
  • Komon (小紋 ; こもん): "fine pattern" in English. Kimono with a small, repeated pattern throughout the garment. Somewhat casual: may be worn around town, or dressed up with a nice obi for a restaurant. Both married and unmarried women may wear komon.
    • Edo komon (江戸小紋 ; えどこもん): Edo komon 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 houmongi).

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  • Yukata (ゆかた): informal unlined summer kimono usually made of cotton, linen, or hemp. Today Yukata are most often worn to outdoor festivals, by men and women of all ages. They are also worn at onsen ("hot springs") resorts, where they are often provided for the guests in the resort's own pattern.

Men's kimono

The main distictions between modern men's kimono are in the fabric and the design. Most men's kimono are of subdued, dark color; common colors are black, dark blues and greens, and occasionally brown. fabrics are usually matte. Some have a subtle pattern, and textured fabrics are common in more casual kimono. More casual men's kimono may be of slightly brighter color, such as lighter purples, greens and blues, but sumo wrestlers have occasionally been known to wear quite bright colors such as fuchsia.

The most formal style of men's kimono is plain black with five kamon on the chest, shoulders and back. Slightly less formal is the three-kamon kimono. These are usually paired with white undergarments and accessories.

Almost any kimono outfit can be made more formal by wearing hakama and haori (see below).

Kimono accessories and related garments

  • Geta (下駄). Geta are wooden sandals worn by men and women with Yukata. A slightly different style of geta is worn by geisha.
  • Hakama (袴): a divided or undivided skirt, rather like a very wide pair of pants, traditionally worn only by men but now worn also by women, and also worn in certain sports such as aikido. A hakama typically has pleats, and a koshiita - a stiff or padded part in the lower back of the wearer. Hakama are worn in several budo arts such as aikido, kendo, iaido and naginata . They can range from very formal to visiting wear, depending on pattern. While very formal women's outfits do not include hakama, men's usually do.
  • Haori (羽織): Hip- or thigh-length kimono coat which adds formality. Haori were originally reserved for men, until fashions changed at the end of the Meiji period. They are now worn by both men and women, though women's kimono jackets tend to be longer.
  • Haori-himo: a tasseled, woven string fastener for the haori. The most formal color is white.
  • Obi (帯): The Japanese equivalent of a sash or belt, which is used for a kimono or yukata. Obi are generally worn differently depending on the occasion, and they are usually more intricate for women.
  • Tabi (足袋): Ankle high, divided-toe socks that are usually worn with sandals. They also come in a boot form.
  • Waraji (草鞋): Straw rope sandals. Most often seen on monks.
  • Zori (草履): Cloth, leather or grass-woven sandals. Zori may be highly decorated with intricate stitching or with no decoration at all. They are worn by both men and women. Grass woven zori with white straps are the most formal for men. They are similar in design to "flip-flops".
  • Kanzashi: Hair ornaments worn in the coiffured hair style which often accompanies kimono. These may take the form of silk flowers, wooden combs, jade hairpins etc.

See also


Kimono de Ginza






More External links about Kimono

  • Tokyo National Museum: Kimono Collection (
  • Kyoto National Museum: Trends in 16th-19th Century Kimono (
  • The Costume Museum: Costume History in Japan (
  • Modern Kimono in Organic Cotton (
  • Kimono Encyclopaedia - many photos (

Clothing Definitions

The above article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ( ).  10/20/04
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