Kimono literally means “something that is worn” – but there are many types of kimono worn on different occasions.
The basis of the kimono is, of course, the kimono robe itself. There are various kimono patterns and colors to match the seasons, but there is also a stark difference in types of kimono. Impress the locals with your knowledge of kimono!
Let’s start with the most formal type of kimono, the furisode. The furisode is worn by unmarried women and has sleeves between 100cm- 107cm long. There are actually three different types of furisode with different sleeve lengths; the Kofurisode (小振袖) with short sleeves, the Chu-furisode (中振袖) with medium sleeves and the Ofurisode(大振袖) where the sleeves almost reach the ground. The most common furisode is the Ofurisode.
Before the Meiji era, Hikizuri kimono was worn by affluent women of high rank. The chances you will see this kimono in public are very slim unless you are in Kyoto or the Asakusa area of Tokyo. Hikizuri means “trailing skirt” and the kimono got this name because of its length. Currently, this type of kimono is mainly worn by geisha, maiko or stage performers of traditional Japanese dance. With modern times, women had more opportunities to leave the house which resulted in the current style that requires folding the extra fabric around the waist.
This is the most formal kimono worn by married women. The pattern of a Tomesode is always below the waist and has a beautiful design which sometimes includes gold. It has either 3 or 5 crests, the latter being more formal, and there are color or just black varieties. A Tomesode can be worn at formal events like weddings and tea ceremonies.
The literal meaning of Houmongi is “visiting wear”. These are semi-formal kimonos worn by both married and unmarried women. The pattern flows over the shoulder to the seams in the back and is visible on the sleeves and under the waist.
Iro Muji (色無地)
These kimonos have a plain color without any patterns. Their formality depends on the amount of crests on the kimono and there is even a specific kind of Iro Muji kimono for tea ceremonies.
This kimono is also known as the casual kimono. They have a repeating pattern that often incorporates vertical stripes. Do not wear this kimono for a formal event! It is suited for a stroll around the town, or small celebrations. This was the most common way to dress before Western clothes became popular in Japan.
This lightweight summer kimono is made of cotton and does not require any special kimono undergarment. It is the most informal but also the most popular kimono in Japan. The yukata is worn during festivals or on a hot day out. Geta, wooden shoes, are worn under this kimono and the obi is tied in a simple way.
Learn more about Yukata.
This is a pure white kimono worn by the bride. The official name for the dress is ‘Shiromuki’. The white color of the kimono dates back to the days of the samurai, when a woman would show her submission to the family she was marrying into. Being white, it meant she could easily blend into the family’s colors.
We’ve mainly talked about women’s kimono but of course, there are also kimono for men. In the old days men wore kimono every day but in modern times, men’s kimono are not as popular as women’s. Men’s kimono are simpler in construction and the colors are more subdued. The most formal men’s kimono is a combination of a hakama (kimono pants) and Haori (kimono jacket). The most common men’s kimono is simply worn with an obi belt tied around the waist and it is known as kinagashi.
And many more…
Kimonos have evolved over time and the rules for wearing one became less strict. Young people make kimonos out of modern fabrics and mix flashy colors with unconventional accessories.
Click here for part 2, where we will take a look at all the different obi styles.