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Kimono – Traditional Japanese Clothing

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/13 Traditional Culture , , ,

As someone who is not from Japan, when I think of a Japanese traditional garment, I always think of a kimono. We usually see on media as worn by Japanese women during special occasions but did you know that the kimono is not as simple as it looks like? Or did you know that there are also kimono for men?

The word kimono or written as 着物 literally means “a thing to wear” but it has then been narrowed to call the Japanese traditional clothing.

History of Kimono

Kimonos that we know today came into being during the Heian Period (around 794-1192). Before that, the Japanese people wore either ensembles consisting of two-piece garments, upper and lower. Though there are already one-piece garments at that time, it was in Heian period that a new kimono-making techniques was introduced and developed. The method was known as the straight-line-cut which it involved cutting pieces of fabric in straight lines and sewing them together. Thus with this method, kimono makers are not concern with the shape of the wearer’s body.

Parts of a Kimono

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Parts of a Kimono. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

 

  • Dōura (胴裏): upper lining on a woman’s kimono.
  • Eri (衿): collar.
  • Fuki (袘): hem guard.
  • Obi (帯): a belt used to tuck excess cloth away from the seeing public.
  • Maemigoro (前身頃): front main panel, excluding sleeves. The covering portion of the other side of the back, maemigoro is divided into “right maemigoro” and “left maemigoro”.
  • Miyatsukuchi(身八つ口): opening under the sleeve.
  • Okumi (衽): front inside panel on the front edge of the left and right, excluding the sleeve of a kimono. Until the collar, down to the bottom of the dress goes, up and down part of the strip of cloth. Have sewn the front body. It is also called “袵”.
  • Sode (袖): sleeve.
  • Sodeguchi (袖口): sleeve opening.
  • Sodetsuke (袖付): kimono armhole.
  • Susomawashi (裾回し): lower lining.
  • Tamoto (袂): sleeve pouch.
  • Tomoeri (共衿): over-collar (collar protector).
  • Uraeri (裏襟): inner collar.
  • Ushiromigoro (後身頃): back main panel, excluding sleeves, covering the back portion. They are basically sewn back-centered and consist of “right ushiromigoro” and “left ushiromigoro”, but for wool fabric, the ushiromigoro consists of one piece.

Women’s Kimono

A complete set of a typical woman’s kimono consists of twelve or more separate pieces thus trying put it on alone can be difficult. There are also different types of kimono and choosing an appropriate type to wear requires knowledge of its symbolism and message. The most common type of kimono is probably the Furisode, which is worn by unmarried women during coming-of-age and wedding ceremonies. This kimono has colorful patterns that cover the whole garment.

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Furisode. A type of kimono usually worn by unmarried women. (Image by Nuria Monsó Tarancón on Flickr)

Men’s Kimono

Kimono for men is simpler than of that for women. It usually consists of five pieces. In the modern era, the principal distinction between that of men and women is the fabric. Men’s kimonos are usually dark-colored, black, dark blue, dark green and brown are common. It is made from matte fabric and have a subtle pattern.

Kimono for men is usually simpler than that of women. (Photo by Mr Hicks46 on Flickr)

Kimono for men is usually simpler than that of women. (Photo by Mr Hicks46 on Flickr)

Kimono vs Yukata

During summer festivals, the Japanese wear yukata instead of a kimono. While they look like a kimono, yukata is made from cotton while the kimono is usually made from silk; thus, yukata is cheaper. The sleeves of a yukata are never elongated, the collars are not wide or layered, and has repeated and symmetrical patterns.

People going to watch fireworks can be seen wearing Yukata. Food stalls are also present in these areas. (Photo by Javi Sevillano on Flickr)

People going to summer festivals can be seen wearing Yukata. Food stalls are also present in these areas. (Photo by Javi Sevillano on Flickr)

Kimono in Modern Times

These days, Japanese people rarely wear kimonos in a usual setting. They reserve it for occasions such as weddings, funerals, tea ceremonies, or other special events.

If you are wondering, how it is put on, you may get idea from this video:

 

Sources:

1. History of Kimonos, Kids Web Japan

2. Kimono, Wikipedia

3. Kyoto Kimono

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