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Kanji, Kana & Pronunciation
Kimono komon variation 03.jpg

Taisho kimono with vertical stripes and patterns placed in houmongi form
Romaji Kimono
Kanji 着物
Kana きもの
Audio Coming Soon
(n) kimono

Kimono (着物, literally "a thing to wear" or "garment") is a general term for various types of traditional ankle-length, long- and wide-sleeved Japanese robes worn by men, women, and children. Kimono may be made of silk, cotton, hemp, wool or other natural or synthetic fabrics or blends. They are wrapped over the body, always left over right (except for burial kimono), and are held closed with obi, which are tied at the back.

Kimono are still worn by many Japanese people, most often by women and most frequently for special or very formal occasions rather than as daily wear.


Main article: Wafuku

The development of the kimono was influenced by hanfu (漢服, Japanese: kanfuku), the clothing of Han China, from about the 8th century. The original Chinese-style robes became increasingly stylized until, in the Muromachi period (1392–1573 CE), the kosode, a single-layer robe which had formerly been worn as underwear, began to be worn as outerwear and to be held closed by an obi. By the Edo period (1603–1867 CE), men's and women's sleeve lengths and widths and women's obi had evolved to the various styles and shapes that are still worn today.[1]

Heian era court lady's jūnihitoe outfit

Kimono were worn as daily wear by men, women, and children until the end of the Edo period, but with increasing Westernization in the Meiji period, men and began to shift to Western clothing, soon followed by boys, who adopted a Prussian military-style uniform for school. Women and girls began to switch to Western-style clothing with the advent of World Wars I and II, when rationing and the need to supply the military mean that making kimonos was seen as wasteful, and the sailor outfit became the standard school uniform for girls.

Today, Western clothing is the norm for daily wear, but kimonos are worn by many Japanese for various occasions. Children are traditionally dressed in kimono for visits to temples at the ages of three, five, and seven years on the festival day called Shichi-go-san ("seven-five-three") held around November 15. Young men and women who have reached the age of majority in the past year often wear full kimono outfits on Coming of Age Day (seijin no hi) a public holiday on the second Monday of January. Both brides and grooms wear kimono if they have chosen a traditional wedding ceremony, as do members of their immediate families. The dead are traditionally dressed in a special burial kimono, which is wrapped right over left, and close relatives and friends of the deceased may also wear mofuku or mourning kimonos to the funeral. Kimonos are worn by both men and women at tea ceremonies and other very formal events. Kimonos are also worn in certain martial arts, such as archery, and sumo wrestlers are required to wear Japanese clothing whenever they appear in public. Finally, casual and light yukata are popular with people of all ages for summer outings and festivals, and at hot springs, resorts, and traditional Japanese inns.

Men's kimono

Men's kimono are generally more subdued than women's kimono, have slightly shorter sleeves, and have fewer and more subtle patterns.

The construction of men's and women's kimono differs slightly. Men's kimono are made to fit the length of the body without tucking. The sleeves are fully attached to the body of the kimono with the exception of a few inches at the bottom, and they are sewn shut on the body side. The underarm portion of the kimono is sewn fully shut, and the collar is designed to sit at the neck rather than below it.

The colours of men's kimono are typically dark and subdued, and include brown, black, blues, greens, and grays in matte fabric. The main element that differentiates different styles of men's kimono is the type of fabric and the absence or presence and number of mon (family crests; also kamon). More casual kimonos are made of cotton, wool, hemp or synthetic fabrics or blends, and may have a subtle pattern and/or texture and no crests. They may be worn with obi made of cotton or various other fabrics; coloured underclothing and han'eri; coloured tabi, and various types of footwear including zori or geta; and may be worn without hakama or haori. The most formal men's kimono is made of black silk and has five dyed crests in white: one at the nape of the neck, one on either side of the chest, and on on each sleeve. It is worn with a matching haori; silk obi; white underclothing and han'eri; striped silk hakama; white tabi and white zori or waraji.

Women's kimono

Women's kimono are often more colourful and elaborate than men's kimono. Some types have significantly longer sleeves, and many have patterns.

Women's kimono are made longer than the body, and must be adjusted to the correct length with a fold at the waist called a hashori or ohashori. This allows a single kimono to be worn by women of different heights. The sleeves are mostly unattached from the body of the kimono, and they are open on the body side. There is an opening at the underarm portion of the kimono, and the collar is designed to sit below the neck.

Different styles of women's kimono are differentiated in several ways: by colour, pattern, fabric, and the absence or presence and number of mon. Different kimono require different obi and accessories, and different methods of tying the obi. In general, kimonos for girls and young, unmarried women are more brightly coloured and have more colours; have larger, more striking patterns; have longer sleeves; are matched with obi tied in more elaborate musubi; and may be worn with colourful accessories. Kimonos for married and older women are less bright and colourful, have less elaborate patterns, have shorter sleeves and are generally worn with a standard taiko musubi and white tabi and han'eri.

Many Japanese women today, even those who own kimono, are unable to dress themselves in most types of kimono, with the exception of yukata, which require fewer pieces and accessories and simpler obi musubi. Licensed professional kimono dressers can be hired to dress clients at hair salons or in clients' homes, mainly for special occasions.

Types of kimono


Main article: Furisode

Furisode (振袖, literally fluttering or swinging sleeves) are formal kimonos with bright, colourful all-over patterns worn by girls and young, unmarried women. There are three sleeve lenghts: short, medium, and long. The sleeves of kofurisode (小振袖) are similar in length to the sleeves of regular kimono, while the sleeves of medium furisode (中振袖 chū furisode) fall approximately to the knees. The best known and most common style is the ōfurisode (大振袖), whose sleeves reach almost to the ground. Furisode often feature gold or silver accents, and some may have crests.


A hikizukuri is a type of kimono worn by maiko, geisha, performers of Japanese dance and kabuki. It worn trailing.


Main article: Hōmongi

Hōmongi (訪問着, literally visiting wear) are semi-formal kimonos worn by older unmarried women and married women. They have patterns that flow over the seams and shoulders of the garment, and may have crests.


Rinzu iromuji

Main article: Iromuji

Iromuji (色無地, literally plain colour) are unpatterned kimonos in a single-colored kimono worn by both married and unmarried women. They are most appropriate for tea ceremonies. The formality is determined by the absence or presence and number of crests.


Main article: Jūnihitoe

The jūnihitoe (十二単衣, twelve-layer robe) was a type of court attire worn by women in the Heian era (794 to 1185 CE). Rather than a type of robe it was a complete outfit which consisted of layers of coloured silk kimono worn over an under-robe of white silk and topped with a coat. The layers of colours were visible at the sleeves and neck and were very important: they reflected the seasons and were an indication of a lady's taste, style, and rank.

A full jūnihitoe outfit was extremely heavy and cumbersome, consisting of ten or more separate layers,[2] including:

  • a white silk undergarment
  • an ankle or lower calf length red or white silk robe known as a kosode
  • a long red pleated split skirt called a nagabakama
  • a hitoe unlined silk robe
  • a series of layered coloured unlined robes called uchigi
  • a scarlet silk robe called an uchiginu
  • an shorter brocaded silk robe called an uwagi
  • on formal occasions the uwagi was worn under a kouchigi (literally, "small cloak"), a shorter brocade robe
  • a waist-length Chinese-style jacket called a karaginu
  • an apron-like train worn at the back and called a "mo"


Taisho/Showa era burgundy, teal and yellow striped silk komon

Main article: Komon

Komon (小紋, literally small pattern) are worn by married and unmarried women. They have a pattern covering the entire kimono but with no particular direction or layout. Komon are the most informal silk kimono.

Edo komon

Edo komon (江戸小紋, Edo-style komon) are a type of komon in which the patterns are formed by small dots. The technique was created and popularized during the Edo period. Edo komon are more than komon, and may be crested.


Main article: Mofuku; see also: Burial Kimono

Mofuku (喪服, mourning dress) is the term for formal traditional mourning attire worn by both male and female relatives or close friends of the deceased. It consists of a plain black silk kimono with five white dyed kamon worn with white undergarments and tabi. Women pair the kimono with a black obi and accessories, while men wear a dark obi and black and white or black and gray striped hakama with black or white zori.


Main article: Tomesode

Tomesode (留袖, literally fastened sleeve) are the most formal kimono worn by married women. They always have crests, and the patterns, which may incorporate gold and silver, are only below the waist.

There are two kinds of tomesode kuro (黒, black) and iro (色, coloured); kuro tomesode are the most formal, and always have five crests. They may be worn by guests at formal events like weddings. Iro tomesode can have any base color other than black, and may have one, three, or five crests.


Main article: Tsukesage

Tsukesage (付け下げ) are worn by married women. They have patterns that cover a smaller area than the more formal hōmongi, but the designs do not extend across seams.

Wedding kimono

In traditional wedding ceremonies, grooms wear a formal black five-crested kimono with matching haori, striped hakama and white accessories. Brides wear a variety of different kimonos, including kakeshita, shiromuku and uchikake.


A kakeshita (掛け下) is a bridal furisode with a lightly padded trailing hem. They are very brightly coloured with bold designs usually incorporating traditional wedding motifs like pine, bamboo and cranes, often in silver and gold.


A shiromuku (白無垢, literally pure white) may refer to a white uchikake or to the entire white bridal ensemble.


An uchikake is a heavily brocaded elaborately decorated outer kimono historically worn by nobility as an outer garment worn by nobility but now worn only by brides. They have a trailing padded hem and very long sleeves, and are worn over a kakeshita like a coat.


Yukata (浴衣, literally bathing robes) are casual kimonos worn in summer by both men and women. They are usually made of cotton, and may have large, repeating patterns that cover the whole garment. Men's yukata are often blue, blue and white, or blue and black, while women's yukata are often brightly coloured with summer motifs. They are worn without the traditional under-kimono, with fewer and simpler accessories, simpler obi musubi, and usually with geta and no tabi.



Date eri or kasane eri
a decorative collar worn by men and women between the collar of the nagajuban and the collar of the kimono to create the appearance of wearing an extra layer
collar stiffener used by women to keep the collar of the juban from creasing
Eri-sugata or kantan eri
(衿姿) a detatched collar that can be worn by men or women instead of a full nagajuban in hot weather

Decorative accessories

(簪) hair ornaments worn by women
an ornament used by men to suspended items (such as tobacco pouches) from the obi
(帯締め) a narrow decorative cord worn around women's obi


(羽織紐) tasseled rope fasteners for haori
(腰紐) a narrow sash used to keep the juban closed and to keep outer kimono closed while putting on the obi. Women also use koshihimo to aid in creating the ohashori
(帯) decorative sashes worn by men and women with kimono
(帯揚げ) a sash that is tied around the top edge of a woman's obi which keeps the obi in place


(下駄) wooden sandals worn by men and women
(足袋) divided-toe socks worn by men and women with zōri or geta (but not usually when wearing yukata)
(=草鞋) straw sandals worn by men
(草履) sandals worn by both men and women


(袴) divided or undivided skirt-like garment worn by both men and women over kimono
(羽織) is a hip- or thigh-length jacket worn over kimono by men and women
Tonbi, manto, or Inverness
a sleeveless coat with a short attached cape (known in English as an Inverness cape) worn with kimono by men


(褌) traditional men's undergarment consisting of a single length of cotton wrapped around the body to resemble a loin cloth
(肌襦袢) thin cotton undershirt worn under the nagajuban
Nagajuban or juban
(長襦袢) a kimono-shaped robe worn by both men and women beneath the main kimono. Only the collar shows beneath the kimono, and the nagajuban keeps the outer kimono clean
(裾除け) is a thin slip or petticoat worn by both men and women under kimono


(帯板) is a thin board worn beneath obi by the women to keep the obi from creasing
(帯枕) is a small pillow used to give shape to women's obi

Textiles and construction

Kimonos are traditionally sewn by hand from a single, standard-sized bolt of fabric measuring approximately 14 inches wide and 12 yards long called a tan;[3] the entire bolt is used to make one kimono. The bolt is cut into 8 strips: two body panels; two sleeve panels; two collar panels; and two front panels. The panels are cut for length only, not for width; the entire fabric remains in the finished kimono. This means that a traditionally-made kimono can be easily retailored to fit a different person, or can be resewn to hide damaged areas.[4]

Traditionally, fabric from old kimonos is used (risaikuru, literally recycled) in various ways: kimonos with damaged lower parts were made into haori or kimonos for children. Fabric was also used to patch similar kimono and to make accessories. Today, kimono fabric is often recycled to make Western-style clothing for women, such as dresses and jackets.

Parts of a kimono

Both men's and women's kimonos have four main parts: the sleeves; the body panels; the front panels; and the collar.

  • Dōura (胴裏): upper lining on a woman's kimono
  • Eri (衿): collar
  • Furi: the part of the sleeve that is unattached and swings freely
  • Maemigoro (前身頃): front body panel (actually one continuous panel on each side that extends from the ankle, over the shoulder, and back to the ankle)
  • Miyatsuguchi: opening on the body side of a woman's kimono
  • Okumi (衽): front inside panels on the left and right of the maemigoro
  • Sode (袖): sleeve
  • Sodeguchi (袖口): wrist opening
  • Susomawashi (裾回し): lower lining on a woman's kimono
  • Tamoto (袂): sleeve pouch
  • Tomoeri (共衿): collar cover
  • Ushiromigoro (後身頃): back body panel

Care and storage

Traditionally, hand-sewn kimonos were taken apart for washing and drying, and then resewn. Today, most non-washable kimonos are dry cleaned.

Kimonos should be hung to air periodically, especially after wearing, but are best stored folded, often wrapped in paper envelope called a tatōshi.


TPO stands for "Time, Place, Occasion". Kimono publications commonly include a TPO chart to assist wearers with determining what type of kimono would be appropriate for certain events.

When planning to wear kimono to an event, there are several things to consider:

  • will other people there be wearing kimono
  • will those people be non-Japanese
  • will there be Japanese people who know about kimono culture in attendance
  • who the event is for
  • is wearing kimono likely to upstage the host/hostess
  • what kitsuke items you have in your collection

In Japan, being a foreigner means one has more leeway. When in doubt, err on the more casual side so as not to upstage the host/ess. Outside Japan, there is generally much more leeway as fewer people know about kimono culture and guidelines, but also it is understood that people have fewer items in their collections (and no possibility of renting an appropriate outfit), but in general formality trumps seasonality.

TPO - Within Japan

Occasion Furisode Kurotomesode Irotomesode Formal
Iromuji Edo Komon Komon Tsumugi
(Kasuri, Shima)
Hotel Wedding Reception Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK No No No
Restaurant Wedding Reception Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK OK No
Formal Party Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK OK OK No
Casual Party OK No No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK
Dinner OK No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK No
Lunch No No No No OK No OK Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK
Tea Party Yes No OK Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK OK Yes No
Graduation Ceremony No No No OK Yes OK Yes Yes Yes Yes OK OK OK
Practice No No No No No No No Yes Yes Yes OK Yes Yes
Theatre, Concert OK No No OK Yes OK Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK
Exhibition OK No No OK Yes OK Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Travel No No No No No No No OK OK Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yes - Acceptable to wear.
OK - OK to wear, providing you have no suitable alternatives.
No - Unacceptable to wear.

This table has been translated from Utsukushiikimono by claw789 (IG Username)


  1. Dalby, Liza (2001). Kimono: Fashioning Culture. Washington, USA: University of Washington Press.
  2. Sara M. Harvey, The Juni-hito of Heian Japan
  3. Dalby, Liza (2001). Kimono: Fashioning Culture. Washington, USA: University of Washington Press.
  4. Dalby, Liza (2001). Kimono: Fashioning Culture. Washington, USA: University of Washington Press.