What Is a Kimono: History, Types, and Traditions

With the spread of kimonos, you can sometimes notice someone wearing a kimono in real life, let alone in films or TV. However, most people may need help to tell the difference between kimonos or what a kimono is precisely. That’s why this post is here to guide you through the exciting journey of kimonos. After reading the post, you’ll be clearly aware of what a kimono is.

What Is a Kimono?

The kimono is a traditional Japanese costume. In Japanese, the word “kimono” is a combination of “ki” and “mono”. Here, “ki” means “to wear” in English, while “mono” stands for “thing/object”. Therefore, “kimono” literally means “thing to wear”.

It’s basically a T-shaped silhouette consisting of both long sleeves and a large body. Depending on different scenarios, kimonos have a wide variety of patterns and colors. As a significant symbol of Japan, the kimono conveys considerable historical and cultural meanings.

The Basic History of Kimonos

More than 1,000 years ago, hanfu (Chinese traditional dress) made of silk, which was considered a luxury, was introduced to Japan from China. The Japanese borrowed the style of hanfu and soon designed a layered silk robe. The inner layer of undergarments became the origin of today’s kimono.

The 14th century was a period for the samurai. In order to make it easier for the samurai to move around, a narrow-sleeved, close-fitting kosode was widely worn and became popular throughout society. To a great extent, the kosode was similar to the kimono as it is today.

In 1683, the Tokugawa Shogunate enacted a series of prohibitions against ostentatious clothing, including kimonos, among the growing merchants. For the first time in its history, the trend of kimonos was hampered.

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japan began its process of modernization. The kosode was then updated and became the kimono as what it is today. By this time, Western-style clothing had become the daily wear in society. The kimono was merely popular among the females.

As time elapsed, kimonos were only worn on certain formal occasions, such as weddings and funerals. However, a fair number of Japanese still prefer to wear the more convenient and inexpensive kimono for everyday wear.

What Is the Structure of a Kimono?

  • Eri: The collar of the kimono, known as the eri. Its design can signify the formality of the garment.
  • Sode: Kimono sleeves, called sode, are wide and flowing.
  • Sodetsuke: The openings under the arms of the sleeves are known as sodetsuke.
  • Okumi: Okumi is an overlapping section in the front. The right side usually covers the left.
  • Obi: The Obi is a wide belt that wraps around the waist and is tied in the back. It plays a crucial role in securing and shaping the kimono.
  • Obi ita: It’s a plate put in the Obi to keep the front of the Obi smooth. Obi ita is what a kimono can’t lack.
  • Maemigoro: Maemigoro is the main front body panel of the kimono. It is a large piece of fabric that contributes to the overall design.
  • Okumi Gusset: The okumi gusset is a triangular piece of fabric added to the front panel. This part allows for overlap and flexibility when wearing the kimono.
  • Fuki: The hem of the kimono. Its length may also indicate the formality of the garment.
  • Susomawashi: The susomawashi is a protective lining at the hem, which guards against wear and tear. It also adds weight to the garment.
  • Ushiromigoro: Ushiromigoro refers to the back panel of the kimono.

What Is a Kimono Made of?

A kimono is traditionally made from various types of silk. Although other fabrics, like cotton and linen, are also used in modern times, they are usually used for informal occasions. Here are some common materials that answer what a kimono is made of:

  1. Silk Satin

Traditional kimonos are often crafted from silk satin. Because silk satin is highly valued for its luxurious feel, sheen, and breathability, silk satin kimonos are commonly worn on formal and ceremonial occasions.

  1. Cotton

Cotton kimonos are comfortable for casual or everyday wear. Being light and sweat-absorbing, kimonos made of cotton become a popular choice among the young generation of Japan.

  1. Polyester Satin 

As an alternative to silk, satin is also a good choice for kimonos. While lacking the natural feel of silk, what makes satin kimonos special is their smooth appearance as silk products.

  1. Chirimen Silk

Chirimen is a particular type of plain-woven silk crepe. It features a textured surface. So, It is also commonly used for making kimono fabric, adding more visual effects to the design.

  1. Ro Silk

Ro silk is another type of silk used in kimono making. Although its texture is rather rough, ro silk is often favored for making kimonos worn on casual occasions.

  1. Wool

As a warm fabric, wool is often used for kimonos in colder seasons. However, wool is not one single fabric for making kimonos. It’s often blended with other fabrics for durability.

Kimono: A Variety of Types

Since it is such a broad term for clothing, kimono naturally comes in a variety of types. Different types of kimonos can have certain dress traditions and rules for formal scenes.

Popular General Types

  1. Komon

Komon means small pattern, but the pattern of komon can actually be very abundant. Unmarried women usually wear Komon. As it’s prepared for informal occasions, this kind of kimono is what you can see in everyday life.

  1. Homongi

In contrast, Homongi is a relatively more formal kind of kimono. It is, therefore, made of silk in most cases. Both unmarried and married women can wear Homongi. They are usually worn when people attend some common ceremonies or semi-formal meetings.

  1. Yukata

Originally, yukata was a single-layer kimono for people to wear while taking a bath. As its form improves, many young people choose to wear these casual kimonos, mostly made of cotton, in summer. Yukata suits for an extensive range of scenarios, whether you are wearing it around the house or going out for a casual dinner.

Yukata
  1. Iromuji

This kind of kimono is what people always wear when they attend tea ceremonies. That’s why Iromuji is usually in a monotone color to avoid affecting tea ceremonies. But Iromuji can also be beautifully embroidered to match its silk material.

Formal-Occasion Types

  1. Mofuku

Mofuku is a kimono made of pure black silk that is used for funerals and mourning. When wearing a mofuku, accessories such as an obi are also changed to black.

  1. Uchikake

Uchikake is worn only by brides or on stage. This kind of kimono is what wearers put over other clothes without accessories like Obi to fix them. It is similar to a particular type of overcoat.

  1. Shiromuku

Shiromuku, appearing white from head to toe, is the unique kimono for a bride. The white color symbolizes the purity and innocence of the bride. However, since it is usually expensive, most people who do not own a Shiromuku from their family often rent one when needed.

Tips for Wearing a Kimono

  • You should follow the lines of the silk grain when wiping the dust.
  • If your kimono is made of silk, do not get it wet.
  • If you’re dealing with silk kimono, follow the guide for washing and care of silk.
  • Before putting away the kimono, fold it along the seams.
  • Kimonos should be stored in a cool place, including air drying.
  • Do not wash the kimono directly; it is best to seek professional dry cleaning.

FAQs About What Is a Kimono

  1. What’s the difference between kimono and yukata?

In the general sense, kimono is the generic term for a unique Japanese garment. And yukata is one of the kimono. To be specific, kimono refers to what is worn on formal occasions and made of silk. Yukata is often made of cotton to be worn in summer, typically after bathing.

  1. Is it OK to wear a kimono if you’re not Japanese?

Yes, it is acceptable for non-Japanese individuals to wear kimonos. However, before wearing a kimono, you should know the cultural meanings and the traditional rules of a specific kimono because each type of kimono has a different meaning.

  1. What is the average price for a kimono?

The price of a kimono can vary widely depending on factors like material, craftsmanship, and so on. On average, the price of a kimono may range from $100 to $10,000 or more. The standard kind of kimono you see in daily life costs about $500 to $1,000 or so.

Conclusion

Through this post, you must know more detailed facts about the kimono. From its history and types to its traditions and tips, you are now aware of what a kimono is specifically. Kimonos, for its broad types, are suitable for formal occasions and everyday wear. Among them, kimonos made of various silks are the most popular and common. If you want to manufacture kimonos or silk kimonos, feel free to contact Sinosilk whenever you want.

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