Kimono: Japanese Traditional Clothing

Kimono: Japanese Traditional Clothing

The word kimono consists of two parts: “ki” means “to wear” and “mono” means “thing”. As one of the iconic images of Japan, kimono presents the delicacy and elegancy of this country's culture. The popularity of the kimono is not only from its beauty but also its versatility. With various materials, patterns, and colors, kimono is sure to suit any season and weather conditions.

History of Kimono


The Kimono was introduced to Japan by Chinese envoys in the Yamato period (300–710). Kimono in that days looked quite different from the ones we are familiar with. The kimono that are similar to the modern-day ones came into form in the Heian period (794-1193). Before that, the Japanese normally wore separate upper and lower garments or one-piece garments.

In the Heian period, with the development of the cloth-making technique, the Japanese began to focus on color matching. It was during this period that the traditional Japanese color combinations appeared. Because of the variety of kimono, the clothes began to differ according to the wearer’s social status. Some color combinations are available to nobility only. Compared to the nobility, the kimono ordinary people wore was shorter and straighter, which was more convenient for physical labor.

In the Edo period (1603-1867), there was a trend for females to wear the kimono without a hakama (a maxi skirt). Because of the lack of fixation, the iconic wide waistband appeared. The Edo period was a time when the Tokugawa clan ruled over Japan. At that time, the social hierarchy placed the samurai class at the top. Farmers were regarded as the second class because they supported the warrior class by farming and harvesting. Artisans and merchants were considered lower classes because they didn’t produce physical products. However, social class doesn’t necessarily equal wealth - there were rich merchants and poor warriors. To maintain the royal image of the upper class, the Tokugawa government issued laws to prohibit the use of some colors and patterns. With the rapid development of kimono-making techniques, kimono started to become an art to show fashion and status. Kitsuke (the art of wearing kimono) appeared in that era to instruct how to wear kimono.

Types of Kimono


With different patterns, materials, and colors, kimono can be divided into many types. In selecting which type of kimono should be worn, many factors should be considered, including gender, marital status, and occasions.

Yukata: It’s a summer version of the kimono, which is cool and light because it’s made of cotton or linen. It’s suitable for informal situations, such as summer festivals, fireworks displays, and at hot springs.

Komon: It is the most casual type of kimono. It’s covered with small and repeating patterns and made of common materials.

Furisode: It’s a colorful and gorgeous kimono only worn by young girls and unmarried women. It can be worn on formal occasions. For example, many teenage girls wear furisode at coming-of-age ceremonies and graduation ceremonies.

Hōmongi: It’s a “visiting wear” usually made of silk. It can be worn at formal parties by both married and unmarried women.

Tsukesage: It’s similar to Hōmongi but with smaller motifs. It can be worn in formal events but would not be appropriate for highly formal events.


Kuro-tomesode: Literally, it means black short-sleeve kimono. It is a formal kimono with a pattern only along the hem. Normally, the higher the pattern begins, the younger the wearer is.

Iro-tomesode: It means colorful short-sleeve kimono. It’s similar to Kuro-tomesode but the background is not black.

Iro-muji: It’s monochromatic kimono without any patterns. It is mainly worn in Japanese traditional tea ceremonies. It can also be worn in some semi-formal events. 

Mofuku: It’s a kimono for funerals.

Shiromuku: It’s a wedding dress. In Japanese, shiromuku means “white and pure”. It’s a spotlessly white kimono for a bride to wear at the wedding ceremony.

Susohiki/Hikizuri: It’s a beautiful kimono with a trailing hem. It’s a costume worn by traditional Japanese female entertainers.

In the 20th century, western culture was spread in Japan. Western-style clothing replaced kimono and became the clothes that Japanese normally wear nowadays. In actuality, Japanese people rarely wear kimono in daily life, however, there are signs that kimono is staging a comeback. The synthetic materials and simplification of rules make kimono more available. Many Japanese will wear kimono for special events, such as university graduation ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, tea ceremonies, summer festivals, and funerals.

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