by Samantha Cubbison
The art of kimono is making a comeback in the modern age, with both classic and traditionally-inspired looks popping up all over fashion hubs in Japan. Tokyo especially has experienced a surge of consumer demand, with new kimono shops popping up all over town.
It can seem daunting to get started, as there are dozens of different types of kimono around. So if you can’t tell your furisode from your uchikake worry not, this handy kimono guide will help you catch up with the world of kimono style.
These are the least formal kimono you can find. They are constructed of light cotton, and worn mainly to Summer festivals, after bathing and during casual events. Worn by both men and women, a yukata is usually accessorized with geta (wooden sandals), an obi (sash) and sometimes a kinchaku (carrying bag). These lightweight robes were originally worn exclusively for bathing, but the breathable fabric and versatile style made them popular for other occasions as well. For men, the yukata is simple in design and construction. The women’s patterns are often more fun and playful; with bright floral and animal motifs to choose from. Take a look at a selection of yukata available at Japan Objects Store.
For more details on the differences between yukata and the other types of kimono, check out this article!
SHOP THE LOOK | Tancho Crane Kimono
Another very casual kimono style is the Komon, though it is considered classy. They can be worn shopping or to the theatre, or wherever you like! Polyester komon are very popular these days, as they keep you warm during the colder seasons, and they are machine washable. The style allows for a wide variety of fashionable colors and patterns, which is usually repeated throughout the whole garment. It is perfect for beginners, and what Japanese women actually wear on a daily basis.
Homongi translates to visiting wear. By tradition, they are presented to a woman once she is married, but are also worn by unmarried women to certain events. They may be worn to ceremonies, receptions and formal parties. Homongi can be characterized by their silk construction and muted patterns that stem from the shoulders, and cover the whole kimono.
Tsukesage, Rijks Museum
This is the less formal version of the Homongi. A Tsukesage is commonly worn in semi-casual settings, such as gatherings and special meals. The patterns found on this women’s kimono are considered to be subtle, and often found only below the waist. These days however, formality is not dictated by the type of kimono alone. Often it is the accessories that really marks the outfit.
Furisode, The Baltimore Museum of Art
Furisode, or swinging sleeves kimono, are considered to be the most formal for an unmarried woman. The sleeves are very long, and average between 39 and 42 inches. They are embellished with colorful, vibrant designs and patterns, which creates a youthful yet polished look. You’re most likely to see a furisode kimono on Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day), when young people who have turned 20 that year dress up to mark their arrival into adulthood.
Irotomesode are single-color kimono, with a pattern running only along the hem. They are worn by married and unmarried women alike, depending on how many kamon (family or clan insignias) they have. They are appropriate at any formal occasion, including weddings, medal ceremonies and lavish parties. The Irotomesode originally developed from the Furisode style, as the sleeve length was shortened for an easier home life after marriage.
Kurotomesode, The Met
The Kurotomesode is one of the most formal kimono, worn only by married women. The pure black color is decorated with patterns below the waist. They have five kamon, making it the choice for very formal occasions, and can be seen worn by the mother of a bride or groom at weddings.
Uchikake, The Met
An Uchikake is a lavishly designed and decorated overcoat, with brocade weaving to add radiance and dimension to brides and stage performers. The attire acts as an open coat that sits atop a kimono, and so an obi is not tied around it. They drag along the floor, much like a veil at a Western wedding.
One of the most extravagant pieces of traditional Japanese clothing, the shiromuku is a pure white wedding kimono that was popularised by samurai families. Every piece of the garment is made in white, from the under-robe to the obi. In shinto, as in many other religions, white is a symbol of purity and cleanliness; but more than that, the color said to represent the sun’s rays. Another traditional symbolic element of this use of white is that it was said to position the bride as a blank canvas, ready to adopt the color of the groom!
At the other end of the spectrum is the mofuku, or mourning kimono. Mofuku are made all in black, and are accompanied by black obi and tabi. These kimono are worn only to funeral and memorial events by close family members of the deceased.
There are many other types of Japanese fashion that aren’t kimono. Check out the Popular Types of Japanese Clothing!
If you are feeling overwhelmed by all of this kimono talk and don’t know where to start, we got you! We have video tutorials to how to wear kimono, how to fold kimono, and how to tie an obi. If you have any questions, get in touch, or let us know in the comments below.