There are many different
names for what Westerners call "kimono". A formal garment
worn by a man or woman, usually made of silk is called a kimono
An informal one, usually in cotton, with an indigo-blue and white
design is called a yukata
You will often see young girls in the summer with pink, white and
red flowered designs on their yukata; another style is worn at a ryokan
inn) is a yukata for relaxing in and sleeping. There are short
cotton ones with usually the kanji character for "festival" or
"celebration" on the back - these are called hapi
coat. There are also thin ones, haori
that are used as under-garments for a more formal kimono, or under
a wedding kimono. Wedding kimono are usually heavy brocades
in white, red, and orange - often with large cranes depicted.
Square-necked kimono in heavy silk or moray are worn as an outer
The fabric for a kimono is
make in straight strips of varying lengths (two for the back,
three for the front, one for each sleeve, and one for the collar)
that are hand-sewn together with a tiny basting-like stitch.
The hand sewing is important so that it can easily be taken apart
for cleaning, then re-sewn. Yes, this is how kimono garments are
cleaned, even in modern times. When wearing a kimono, the left
side is always crossed over the right, similar to how men's'
clothing crosses to button. A kimono is only crossed right over
left to indicate the death of the wearer.
Yukata used for relaxing or
sleeping, as well as a hapi coat, are not secured with the
, but a
more informal strip of fabric that is tied in the front.
However, when wearing any other kind of formal kimono, it is
secured with several strips of fabric at the hips and mid-chest,
draping a fold of the kimono over the hip-cord, and a formal obi
over the upper cord. The obi knot is always in the back. It is
never tied in the front, other than if the wearer is a prostitute
(much easier and faster to tie in front than in the back).
A formal kimono will be
rather long when first put it on. The length is adjusted
beginning from the bottom and working up to the hips. Use the
excess fabric to form the drape of fabric over the hip cord as
mentioned above. Then adjust the upper collar and neck area
and secure with the mid-chest cord. The collar should sit
back on the shoulders allowing 4-fingers width between the nape of
the neck and the collar.
Obi are tied in many ways -
the height and elaborateness of the obi knot indicate everything
from a woman's age, to her marital status, whether she has
children, or where she comes from - not to mention what is
currently fashionable. An obi, when fastened correctly, will feel
a lot like a corset - very tight, and limiting of movement.
If there is a dramatic difference between the hip and waist
measurement or chest and hip measurement, padding may be added to
the waist to help the obi maintain its proper parallel
lines. The over-all shape of a person wearing a kimono is
straight up and down. Sleeve lengths provide similar information -
long sleeves that nearly touch the ground are for young unmarried
women. Shorter sleeves are for older married ladies. A
sleeve can be used as a purse or pocket to carry things.
The first thing to be
noticed when wearing a kimono is that one cannot walk too quickly,
or the front will flap open. The wearer is forced to take
small shuffling steps to keep one's modesty in check.
Neither can one easily bend from the waist - great for improving
posture, and bowing properly from the hips. It is difficult
to sit in a chair while wearing an obi, as it will crush and
misalign the back knot.... hence, learning to sit in the Japanese
style on the floor, with the legs tucked under, takes on a lot
more appeal. When nature calls, using a western toilet nearly
impossible, where as the desire for the Japanese style, that is
flush on the floor again holds new meaning.
The polyester wash-and-wear
kimono that most foreign tourists purchase to use for bathrobes
are only found in touristy shops... Japanese would never wear such
an item "for real". Antique, or vintage kimono and obi are often
purchased, taken apart, and re-made into a variety of craft and
clothing items - such as vests, evening jackets, purses,
etc. One can also purchase new rolls of un-cut kimono or yukata
fabric - but most are only about a half-meter in width (about 18 -
22 inches). If they are to be used in more Western styles, they
often need to be pieced.
Black kimono are for formal
events and funerals, white kimono are for the bride at a
wedding. If the black kimono has a small floral design
surrounded by a circle either in the center back near the neck, or
on the front "lapel" areas, the flower design is a family crest;
such a kimono would be worn by a male. Modern day has seen the
advent of the "instant obi" - this is an obi that is secured with
small fabric strips, and the pre-tied bow hooks on the back and
tied to the body with fabric strips.... great invention for the
modern woman who has little or no experience in tying her own obi,
which is is an art unto its own.
A quick introduction, courtesy of Sue H.