Kimono Common for Women
Yukata originates from a bathing robe called 'yukatabira' from the Heian period. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period and Edo period it was widely worn after bathing to soak up water on the body. In the Showa period it was worn as pyjamas. Now, yukata is worn casually as fashion during the summer, especially for festivals and events. Most yukata are made of plain woven cotton, but more valuable yukata can be made from cotton or hemp woven into a crepe material. Womens yukata have a slit in the undearm called the 'miatsuguchi', whereas mens yukata dont. Womens yukata also have enough length to make an 'ohashori' which is a fold at the hip. Yukata are worn slightly shorter than kimono, slightly showing the ankles. Yukata are paired with 'hanhaba-obi' 'kakuobi', 'heko-obi' and in more formal situations 'nagoya-obi'. Hanhaba-obis are worn by women, kakuobi by men, however anybody can wear these items in a non traditional setting. Heko-obi were once worn only children because it is the most comfortable, but are becoming more popular with adults. In less casual settings for womens kimono, a nagoya-obi, obijime, and obiage can be paired. 'Geta' or 'setta' (sandals) are worn with yukata. Yukata can be worn with no accessories, however accessorising yukata is very popular. 'Obijime' and 'obiage' which are necessities for kimono can be worn with yukata, as well as a 'netsuke' (charm keychain),'obidome' (charm on obijime), and hair accessories. Some even add decorated 'haneri' (collar), gloves, and lace.
Komon is a casual type of kimono that have smaller and repetitive patterns compared to more formal kimono like tsukesage or houmongi. In the past, kimono with patterns with no right side up were separated into komon, chumon, and ōmon, each meaning small pattern, medium pattern, and big pattern. However any kimono with designs that do not have a right side up, regardless of pattern size and repetition are considered komon. Most komon are made by stencil dyeing, and used figured satin (rinzu) or crepe (chirimen) and sometimes pongee (tsumugiji). Some popular types of komon are Edo-komon, Kaga-komon, and Kyou-komon; all coming different areas of Japan. The term edo-komon was made in the Showa period to refer to a group of types of designs made in the Edo-period. The three classic edo-komon designs are Same-komon which looks like the skin of a shark, tōshi-komon which consist of straight rows of dots, and gyogi-komon which resembles tōshi-komon but with staggered rows. These three are called the komon-sanyaku) Komon is usually paired with hanhaba-obi or nagoya-obi, with an obiage and obijime. Some add an obidome, tie the obijime in creative ways, and add a haneri with patterns. Zori is also worn with komon, however wearing komon with boots or heels are becoming popular.
Tsumugi refers to kimono made by 'tsumugi-ito' which are dyed silk threads, which are often unevenly spun to create texture. Tsumugi is an interesting type of kimono, because the cost and time to produce this kimono is great, but the kimono cannot be worn in formal situations. Because the rough texture of this silk kimono resembles cotton kimono, it was worn during the edo period when luxurious kimono were banned. Like edo-komon, tsumugi has different styles from different areas. Oshima-tsumugi, ushikubi-tsumugi, yūki-tsumugi and kumejima-tsumugi are the most renowned. Suitable occasions inlcude going to museums, dinner, or shopping. Tsumugi can be paired with nagoya-obi or share-fukuro-obi. And of course, obijime and obiage as accessories. Tsumugi is also worn with zori.
Iromuji, meaning no pattern colour, refers to white fabric kimono that is dyed a colour other than black. The name 'muji' (no pattern) means no dyed designs, but some iromuji have a 'jimoyo'. Jimoyo are repeated patterns woven into the fabric and can be seen on many kimono. Iromuji with jimoyo are more formal than those without. Iromuji can also go from casual to formal from the number of 'mon' (family crests). Iromuji with one mon are semi-formal or casual. Three and above are formal. Ones with no mon are considered the same rank as komon and tsumugi. Iromuji can be paired with any obi depending on the rank (jimoyo and mon) Footwear can also be chosen based on how formal the iromuji is. Zori with white tabi (socks) are the standard and reccomended for formal wear.
Houmongi are richly decorated formal wear with eba-moyo (connecting designs through seam lines) Houmongi are created through a process of basting, planning the eba-moyo, removing basting, dyeing and decorating the fabric, and finally sewing the kimono back. Houmongi designs can cover a large area of the kimono, and can spread out, however, still follow the general rule of design placement. Generally main designs gravitate to the left front collar and chest, left back shoulder, left front sleeve, right back sleeve, lower front, and very low back. Houmongi are considered formal and can be paired with nagoya, fukuro, or maru obi. Fukuro and maru obi with gold and silver are suitable for weddings or school entrance ceremonies. Ones without gold or silver, or nagoya obi are more casual and can be paired in less formal situations.
Tsukesage look quite similar to houmongi, but are more toned down in terms of design. The major difference between tsukesage and houmongi is that houmongi have 'ebamoyo' which are designs that connect between seam lines to create a flow. Ebamoyo usually connect the collar to shoulder, and front (migoro) to the diagonal panel of the kimono (okumi) Tsukesage may have ebamoyo, but are less distinct. The location of the designs on tsukesage also resemble houmongi. Generally kimonos main designs gravitate to the left front collar and chest, left back shoulder, left front sleeve, right back sleeve, lower front, and very low back. They are also ranked the same level of formal as houmongi. It is believed that tsukesage were worn instead of houmongi when luxurious kimono were banned during the war, which explains the similarities between the two kimono. Tsukesage are paired with woven nagoya-obi, and fukuro-obi.
Tomesode first originated in the Edo period when women cut their furisodes sleeves shorter after marriage. Generally, tomesode are worn by the mother of a bride on a wedding. Irotomesode can be mistaken for houmongi, as they both have an eba-moyo and can be similar in colour. However, a clear sign to look for to differenciate the two is if the kimono has designs on the upper half. Houmongi have designs on the sleeve, chest, and on the collar. Irotomesode only have patterns on the lower half. In addition to that, these kimono will usually have 'kissho-moyo' (lucky patterns) or 'yusoku-moyo' (patterns used by aristocrats). On the other hand houmongi has a variety of designs from traditional to modern. Irotomesode is considered formal, and is mainly suitable for the mother of a bride at a wedding, however can be worn by women close to the bride at weddings as well. Unlike the tomesode they are not exclusive to married women. However, the number of 'mon' (crests) can change the suitable occasion. Three or one crests will be suitable for wedding receptions, and five crest for weddings. Fukuro-obi with gold or silver designs are usually paired with irotomesode. When the irotomesode has three or five crests, the accessories that are paired with it are the same as kurotomesode; white obiage, obijime, and a folded fan.
The irotomesode and kurotomesode have the same consisting principles, but with different colouring. The 'iro' in irotomesode means colour, while the 'kuro' means black. Although irotomesode can be mistaken for houmongi, the kurotomesode has a distinct black look. Like irotomesode and houmongi, kurotomesode have eba-moyo, but lack designs on the upper half, just like the irotomesode. Unlike the irotomesode, kurotomesode always have five 'mon' (crests), meaning they are one of the most formal kimono. They can also be worn by aunts, or grandmothers of a bride. Kurotomesode should be paired with woven maru or fukuro obi. Generally, the type of weaving would be 'nishikiori' or 'karaori', as they use luxurious gold and silver threads. White obijime and obiage are also paired, as well as white juban (under kimono) and tabi (socks). A folded fan is also put in between the obi.
Furisode have very long sleeves and are luxuriously decorated. They are also the most formal kimono for unmarried women. Generally, a furisode is first worn on January after a woman turns 20 at a celebration called 'seijinshiki', meaning adult ceremony. They can also be worn on formal ceremonies and others' weddings. Furisode originally became common in the Edo period where young women wore long sleeved kimono, up to 120cm long. There are a few theories as to why the sleeves became this long, inlcuding wishing for a long life, blowing away bad luck with the long sleeves, and simply for beauty. There are three types of furisode; kofurisode, chūfurisode, and ōfurisode. 'Ko' meaning small, 'chū' meaning medium, and 'ō' meaning big. The most common furisode is the 'ōfurisode', which is why the word furisode often refers to the ōfurisode. The sleeve generally extend down to the calves, and are worn at seijinshiki. Chūfurisode sleeves go down to the knees, and can be worn by wedding guests. Kofurisode are the least formal out of the three, and can be worn to parties or concerts. Furisode are paired with rich accessories and fukuro obi. Thick rope or cotton stuffed obijime, platform zori, embroidered haneri, and tsumami-zaiku hair accessories are just a few.
Kuromontsuki, mostly called 'mofuku' are kimono worn to funerals. They are all black with no designs, but have several different types. From October to May, 'awase', which is kimono with an inner layering is worn. From June to September, 'hitoe' which is a single layer kimono is worn, however, 'usumono' meaning 'thin one' can be worn mid summer when the weather is extremely hot. Usually, highly formal kimono such as the mofuku, furisode, or 'montsuki' (with crests) kimono is worn with the most formal obi, the fukuro obi. However, a black nagoya obi tied as an 'otaiko' should be paired with mofuku along with black obiage and obijime. In addition, your juban (under kimono) should be white with no embroidery on the collar, as well as your tabi. When tieing your obi, to avoid appearing immoderate it is best to adjust the otaiko slightly lower than usual. The 'tare' of the obi, which is the excess obi at the bottom should also be slightly shorter. The obijime should also be somewhat lower than the center of the obi, and the 'fusa' (tassel ends of obijime) should face down. It is important to note that for other kimono the fusa should always face up, to bring 'up' good luck.
Originally, uchikake was worn in the Muromachi period, and was put over the shoulders, not worn like the usual kimono. They are one of the most formal wear, and are now worn by brides on weddings. There are two types of uchikake; irouchikake (colour uchikake) and shirouchikake (white uchikake). Shirouchikake represents purity of the bride, and their willingness to be 'dyed' the colour of their new family. A common type of shirouchikake is the 'shiromuku'. Commonly, a shiromuku is worn at the start of a wedding, and afterwords the bride changes into an irouchikake to represent the bride being newly 'dyed'. Uchikake are filled at the bottom with cotton, and is made to drag on the ground. An 'ohashori' is not made when wearing an uchikake.
Kimono Common for Men
Yukata originates from a bathing robe called 'yukatabira' from the Heian period. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period and Edo period it was widely worn after bathing to soak up water on the body. In the Showa period it was worn as pyjamas. Now, yukata is worn casually as fashion during the summer, especially for festivals and events. Most yukata are made of plain woven cotton, but more valuable yukata can be made from cotton or hemp woven into a crepe material. Mens yukata have no 'miatsuguchi' which is an opening at the underarm. They are also worn without making a fold at the hips like women do, which is also the same for kimono for men. Yukata are worn slightly shorter than kimono, slightly showing the ankles. Mens yukata are paired with kaku obi or heko obi. The kaku obi is thin and thick, whereas the heko obi is wider and is made of thin material. 'Geta' or 'setta' (sandals) are worn with yukata. Yukata can be worn with no accessories, however accessorising yukata is very popular. Adding a 'netsuke' (charm keychain), is most common for men.
Tsumugi threads, called ‘tsumugi-ito’ are spun by hand, and sometimes deliberately made to vary in thicknesses to create texture. Tsumugi takes time and skill to create and can be costly, but is considered casual wear. Because the rough texture of this silk kimono resembles cotton kimono, it was worn during the edo period when luxurious kimono were banned. Like edo-komon, tsumugi has different styles from different areas. Oshima-tsumugi, ushikubi-tsumugi, yūki-tsumugi and kumejima-tsumugi are the most renowned. Suitable occasions inlcude going to museums, dinner, or shopping. Tsumugi, like all other kimono for men, are paired with the kaku obi. Tsumugi tend to have muted and natural colours, and are popular as they have a calm appearance.
Omeshi are kimono made from ‘omeshi-chirimen’, which is a type of chirimen (crepe). They are made from weaving thread that have already been dyed, in contrast to dyeing after the weaving process like houmongi, furisode, tomesode, etc. Omeshi material has a nice shine and softness, and compared to other chirimen, is thick and creases less. Most importantly, omeshi have a distinct texture which comes from twisted diagonal weaving, and scouring the silk before weaving. Scouring is the process of removing impurities from certain textile materials, and is usually done after weaving for chirimen. Omeshi are considered the most formal out of all woven kimono. As omeshi are dyed before weaving, it is difficult to create a ‘mon’ (crest) pattern. Consequently, mon are embroidered onto omeshi. Omeshi with mon, and any kimono with mon, are more formal than those without. Omeshi are suitable for situations where you are the guest to an important event, such as a wedding.
The term edo-komon is a dyed kimono with dotted designs. The dots, which are white and not dyed, are created from stencil dyeing. The dots from up close are arranged to create patterns that are not visible from afar. This style was created in Edo when the sumptuary law was present, as a way to enjoy subtle designs. Edo-komon are also worn by women with a different ‘shitate’ (tailoring). They are considered casual, but can become formal with the addition of a ‘mon’ or family crest. The term ‘edo-komon’ was created in the 50s to separate some designs from others. Some popular patterns that are formal include ‘same’ ‘tōshi’, and ‘gyōgi’, which are called the ‘edo-komon sanyaku’.
Kuromontsuki, meaning black with crests, is a plain black kimono with ‘mon’. Mens kuromontsuki are paired with a haori (jacket) and hakama (pants) all with crests. The kimono, haori, and hakama all together is called ‘Montsuki-haori-bakama’, translating to ‘with crest haori hakama’. The ‘haori-himo’, which is the string at the front of the haori is tied in a specific way, with the tassel pointing up. They are also most commonly white, although grey or black are worn as well. Kuromontsuki can vary in material depedending on the season; ‘ro’ or ‘sha’ which are Summer appropriate materials are also considered formal wear. Kuromontsuki can be worn to weddings (by the father), coming of age day, or funerals.
Iromontsuki meaning ‘colour with crests’ is similar to the kuromontsuki in terms of type, suitable occasions, and appearance; they are a plain dyed kimono with ‘mon’, and are paired with a haori of the same colour, and hakama, specifically ‘sendaihira’ hakama. Sendaihira is a weaving technique for hakama, and is considered formal. Compared to the kuromontsuki that always has 5 crests, the iromontsuki can have 1, 3, or 5. This makes them close to the equivalent of irotomesode worn by women. Iromontsuki can be worn at weddings or coming of age day.
Hanhaba, directly translating to ‘half width’, has a width of about 16cm, whereas most obi are about 31 cm wide. While obi like nagoya or fukuro have to be folded to half the width before tying, hanhaba can be tied without such preparation. This makes hanhaba very easy to wear, comfortable, and casual. Hanhabas are always paired with yukata, but can also be paired with casual kimono like komon and tsumugi. As the part of the obi being tied around the waist is either folded to around 16cm, or is already 16cm for hanhaba, hanhaba may be hard to distinguish by looking at the waist. However, looking at the back where the obi is tied, or looking at the design can tell you if an obi is a hanhaba. For an hanhaba obi, the tied area at the back would be more compact and thin compared to obi like nagoya obi. Tying styles also differ from other obi; styles like the ‘bunko-musubi’ or ‘miyako-musubi’ are easy to identify. As for design, a typical hanhaba is woven and has repetitive patterns going in horizontal stripes. Having said that, more creative designs, including dyed hanhaba are loved by many. Hanhaba obi is a great choice for beginners as they are the easiest to tie, but are not short of beautiful designs and tying styles.
Nagoya obi were originally created as an easier and more casual alternative to the fukuro obi. Nagoya obi have a vast variety of designs both woven and dyed. Unlike the fukuro obi that is the same width throughout, the nagoya obi is readily folded in the area that will be wrapped around the waist. The most common style using the nagoya obi is the ‘otaiko’. Nagoya obi are the perfect length to create an otaiko, and some nagoya obis pattern placement is made exclusively to be worn as an otaiko. This is an important point to consider when picking a nagoya obi. If you are looking to wear the obi as an otaiko, designs made for otaiko are great, as their designs are often more smartly placed to look good as an otaiko. However if you are looking to try different styles, looking for ‘zentsu’ or ‘rokutsu’ are more suitable. ‘Zentsu’ meaning throughout all, and ‘rokutsu’ meaning throughout 60%, are obi with designs on the entire or 60% of the obi. This terminology is also used for fukuro obi. Nagoya obi can be tied in many different ways including the ‘fukurasuzume’ and ‘kawari-musubi’. Recently, ways to fold the obi without tying it has gained popularity for its smart look and comfortability.
Furuko obi got its name from the obis being folded like a tube (bag or fukuro), although now they are usually made with a separate decorated front and plain back. One expensive type of fukuro obi is woven directly into a tube like shape, which is called the hon-bukuro obi. They are the most formal out of the obi, and are tied differently depending on occasion. They are usually extravagantly decorated with gold and silver embroidery and weaving, but can be more casual. Fukuro-obi came from folding the maru obi, which was even wider than the fukuro. It is believed that the width of this obi became how it is now to accentuate the figure of the body. Fukuro obi have ‘zentsu’, patterns throughout the whole obi, ‘rokutsu’ throughout 60%, and ‘otaikogara’, suitable for otaiko musubi. Zentsu are more luxurious and favored although they look the same after being tied. Other than the common otaiko-musubi, this obi can be tied in many creative ways, including ‘fukurasuzume’ (also possible on nagoya obi), ‘tateya musubi’, and ‘hana musubi’.
The maru obi is the most formal obi, and is woven with gold and silver on both sides, making it highly luxurious. They are woven to double the width of a normal obi. However, because of its weight and stiffness the fukuro obi was created instead, causing the decline in maru obi use and production. Now, maru obi are only used for brides and geisha.
Kaku obi are thin woven obi worn by men. They are 8 to 11cm wide and are woven thick for strength. In most cases, kaku obi are made by ‘hakata-ori’; a weaving technique, but can also be ‘tsuzureori’ or ‘donsu’. They are often muted colours, most commonly grey and brown, and have no or very simple design. They can be tied in either a ‘kai-no-kuchi’, meaning mouth of shell, or ‘bunko’. Recently, more fashionable and colourful kaku obi have been made as statement pieces for men, as well as new ways of tying the obi.
Heko obi are made from wide soft fabric that is scrunched and tied loosely. They can be dyed multiple colours and have ‘shibori’, which is a form of tie dye. Originally, heko obi were worn by boys in Satsuma (current Kagoshima). ‘Heko’ which was a word used in Satsuma referred to boys from 15 to 25 years old. In the Meiji period, heko obi spread to Tokyo and became widely worn as casual obi for men. They later became childrens obi because of its loose fitting style and cute appearance and became more colourful. Recently, heko obi started becoming paired with yukata by women, which quickly became trendy. To fit the styles of young women, more natural coloured and toned down designs started emerging. Now, heko obi made from organza or matte fabric is popular.
Storing your Kimono
A day or two before wearing your kimono, take it out of its shelf or tatoushi and hang on a kimono hanager. This allows possible creases to dewrinkle before wearing it.
Thrice a Year
It is best to let your kimono out to hang for a day three times a year, in the summer, autumn, and winter. However, a more trouble free method is to open your kimono drawers to ventilate the air.
After wearing your kimono, let it breathe on a hanger indoors overnight. This removes moisture, and allows you to check for any new stains or dirt. If the kimono looks clean and has been hanged overnight, it can now be folded. Make sure to fold the kimono properly to avoid wrinkles in visible areas like migoro ( body). When smoothing out your kimono while folding, it is best to pat the fabric down instead of brushing your hand along it, as this only moves the wrinkles over. If you’re storing your kimono in a sealed drawer or container, add a de-moisturiser. There are a few brands of de-moisturizer made specifically for kimono that dont leave a smell or chance of discolouration in your kimono. If the storage period is long, an insect repellant pack is recommended.