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A traditional wedding kimono with tsunokakushi (wedding headpiece)
A traditional red Uchikake kimono with cranes

The is a Japanese traditional garment worn by women, men and children. The word "kimono", which literally means a "thing to wear" (ki "wear" and mono "thing"), has come to denote these full-length robes. The standard plural of the word kimono in English is kimonos, but the unmarked Japanese plural kimono is also sometimes used.

Kimonos are T-shaped, straight-lined robes worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. Kimonos are wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial), and secured by a sash called an obi, which is tied at the back. Kimonos are generally worn with traditional footwear (especially zōri or geta) and split-toe socks (tabi).

Today, kimonos are most often worn by women, and on special occasions. Traditionally, unmarried women wore a style of kimono called furisode, with almost floor-length sleeves, on special occasions. A few older women and even fewer men still wear the kimono on a daily basis. Men wear the kimono most often at weddings, tea ceremonies, and other very special or very formal occasions. Professional sumo wrestlers are often seen in the kimono because they are required to wear traditional Japanese dress whenever appearing in public.


As the kimono has another name , the earliest kimonos were heavily influenced by traditional Han Chinese clothing, known today as , through Japanese embassies to China which resulted in extensive Chinese culture adoptions by Japanmarker, as early as the fifth century ce. It was during the 8th century, however, when Chinese fashions came into style among the Japanese, and the overlapping collar became particularly a women's fashion. During Japan's Heian period (794–1192 ce), the kimono became increaslingly stylized, though one still wore a half-apron, called a mo, over it . During the Muromachi age (1392-1573), the Kosode, a single kimono formerly considered underwear, began to be worn without the hakama (trousers, divided skirt) over it, and thus began to be held closed by an obi "belt" . During the Edo period (1603-1867), the sleeves began to grow in length, especially among unmarried women, and the Obi became wider, with various styles of tying coming into fashion . Since then, the basic shape of both the men’s and women’s kimono has remained essentially unchanged. Kimonos made with exceptional skill from fine materials have been regarded as great works of art..

The formal Kimono was replaced by the more convenient Western clothes and Yukata as everyday wear.After an edict by Emperor Meiji, police, railroad men and teachers moved to Western clothes. The Western clothes became the army and school uniform for boys.After the 1923 Great Kantō earthquakemarker, Kimono wearers often became victims of robbery. The Tokyo Women's & Children's Wear Manufacturers' Association(東京婦人子供服組合) promoted the western clothes.Between 1920 and 1930 the Sailor outfit replaced the undivided hakama in school uniform for girls.The 1932 fire at Shirokiya's Nihombashi store is said to have been the catalyst for the decline in kimonos as everyday wear. (It is, however, suggested, that this is an urban myth.)The national uniform, Kokumin-fuku (国民服) a type of western clothes was mandated for males in 1940.Today people often wear western clothes, and wear the easier to wear, cool and comfortable Yukata in special time.

Textiles and manufacture

Kimono lady at Gion, Kyoto

Kimonos for men are available in various sizes and should fall approximately to the ankle without tucking. A woman's kimono has additional length to allow for the ohashori, the tuck that can be seen under the obi which is used to adjust the kimono to the individual wearer. An ideally tailored kimono has sleeves that fall to the wrist when the arms are lowered.

Kimonos are traditionally made from a single bolt of fabric called a tan. Tan come in standard dimensions—about 14 inches wide and 12½ yards long—and the entire bolt is used to make one kimono. The finished kimono consists of four main strips of fabric—two panels covering the body and two panels forming the sleeves—with additional smaller strips forming the narrow front panels and collar. Historically, kimonos were often taken apart for washing as separate panels and resewn by hand. Because the entire bolt remains in the finished garment without cutting, the kimono can be retailored easily to fit a different person.

The maximum width of the sleeve is dictated by the width of the fabric. The distance from the center of the spine to the end of the sleeve could not exceed twice the width of the fabric. Traditional kimono fabric was typically no more than 36 centimeters (14 inches) wide. Thus the distance from spine to wrist could not exceed a maximum of roughly 68 centimeters (27 inches). Modern kimono fabric is woven as wide as 42 centimeters (17 inches) to accommodate modern Japanese body sizes. Very tall or heavy people, such as sumo wrestlers, must have kimono custom-made by either joining multiple bolts, weaving custom-width fabric, or using non-standard size fabric.

Traditionally, kimonos are sewn by hand, but even machine-made kimonos require substantial hand-stitching. Kimono fabrics are also frequently hand made and hand decorated. Various techniques such as yūzen dye resist are used for applying decoration and patterns to the base cloth. Repeating patterns that cover a large area of a kimono are traditionally done with the yūzen resist technique and a stencil. Over time there have been many variations in color, fabric and style, as well as accessories such as the obi.

The kimono and obi are traditionally made of silk, silk brocade, silk crepes (such as chirimen) and satin weaves (such as rinzu). Modern kimonos are also widely available in less-expensive easy-care fabrics such as rayon, cotton sateen, cotton, polyester and other synthetic fibers. Silk is still considered the ideal fabric.

Modern styles of furisode
A young woman wearing a furisode kimono.

Customarily, woven patterns and dyed repeat patterns are considered informal; Formal kimonos have free-style designs dyed over the whole surface or along the hem. During the Heian period, kimonos were worn with up to a dozen or more colorful contrasting layers, with each combination of colors being a named pattern. Today, the kimono is normally worn with a single layer on top of one or more undergarments. The pattern of the kimono can also determine in which season it should be worn. For example, a pattern with butterflies or cherry blossoms would be worn in spring. Watery designs are common during the summer. A popular autumn motif is the russet leaf of the Japanese maple; for winter, designs may include bamboo, pine trees and plum blossoms.

Old kimonos are often recycled in various ways: altered to make haori, hiyoku, or kimonos for children, used to patch similar kimono, used for making handbags and similar kimono accessories, and used to make covers, bags or cases for various implements, especially for sweet-picks used in tea ceremonies. Damaged kimonos can be disassembled and resewn to hide the soiled areas, and those with damage below the waistline can be worn under a hakama. Historically, skilled craftsmen laboriously picked the silk thread from old kimono and rewove it into a new textile in the width of a heko obi for men's kimono, using a recycling weaving method called saki-ori.

Parts of a kimono

Diagrams of the kimono parts.

upper lining on a woman's kimono
hem guard
sleeve below the armhole
Maemigoro 前身頃
front main panel
opening under the sleeve
front inside panel
Sodeguchi 袖口
sleeve opening
Sodetsuke 袖付
kimono armhole
Susomawashi 裾回し
lower lining
sleeve pouch
Tomoeri 共衿
over-collar (collar protector)
Uraeri 裏襟
inner collar
back main section


A woman's kimono may easily exceed US$10,000; a complete kimono outfit, with kimono, undergarments, obi, ties, socks, sandals and accessories, can exceed US$20,000. A single obi may cost several thousand dollars. However, most kimonos owned by kimono hobbyists or by practitioners of traditional arts are far less expensive. Enterprising people make their own kimono and undergarments by following a standard pattern, or by recycling older kimonos. Cheaper and machine-made fabrics can substitute for the traditional hand-dyed silk. There is also a thriving business in Japan for second-hand kimonos, which can cost as little as ¥500(About 5 US dollars). Women's obis, however, mostly remain an expensive item. Although simple patterned or plain colored ones can cost as little as ¥1,500(about 15 US dollars), even a used obi can cost hundreds of dollars, and experienced craftsmanship is required to make them. Men's obis, even those made from silk, tend to be much less expensive, because they are narrower, shorter and less decorative than those worn by women.


Kimonos range from extremely formal to casual. The level of formality of women's kimono is determined mostly by the pattern of the fabric, and color. Young women's kimonos have longer sleeves,signifying that they are not married, and tend to be more elaborate than similarly formal older women's kimono. Men's kimonos are usually one basic shape and are mainly worn in subdued colors. Formality is also determined by the type and color of accessories, the fabric, and the number or absence of kamon (family crests), with five crests signifying extreme formality. Silk is the most desirable, and most formal, fabric. Kimonos made of fabrics such as cotton and polyester generally reflect a more casual style.

Women's Kimonos

Many modern Japanese women lack the skill to put on a kimono unaided: the typical woman's kimono outfit consists of twelve or more separate pieces that are worn, matched and secured in prescribed ways, and the assistance of licensed professional kimono dressers may be required. Called upon mostly for special occasions, kimono dressers both work out of hair salons and make house calls.

Choosing an appropriate type of kimono requires knowledge of the garment's symbolism and subtle social messages, reflecting the woman's age, marital status, and the level of formality of the occasion.


( ): a black kimono patterned only below the waistline, kurotoroko are the most formal kimono for married women. They are often worn by the mothers of the bride and groom at weddings. Kurotomesode usually have five kamon printed on the sleeves, chest and back of the kimono.


( ): furisode literally translates as swinging sleeves—the sleeves of furisode average between 39 and in length. Furisode are the most formal kimono for unmarried women, with colorful patterns that cover the entire garment. They are usually worn at coming-of-age ceremonies (seijin shiki) and by unmarried female relatives of the bride at weddings and wedding receptions.


( ): single-color kimono, patterned only below the waistline. Irotomesode are slightly less formal than kurotomesode, and are worn by married women, usually close relatives of the bride and groom at weddings. An irotomesode may have three or five kamon.


( ): literally translates as visiting wear. Characterized by patterns that flow over the shoulders, seams and sleeves, hōmongi rank slightly higher than their close relative, the tsukesage. Hōmongi may be worn by both married and unmarried women; often friends of the bride will wear hōmongi at weddings and receptions. They may also be worn to formal parties.


( ): has more modest patterns that cover a smaller area—mainly below the waist—than the more formal hōmongi. They may also be worn by married women.


( ): single-colored kimono that may be worn by married and unmarried women. They are mainly worn to tea ceremonies. The dyed silk may be figured (rinzu, similar to jacquard), but has no differently colored patterns.


( ): "fine pattern". Kimono with a small, repeated pattern throughout the garment. This style is more casual and may be worn around town, or dressed up with a formal obi for a restaurant. Both married and unmarried women may wear komon.

Edo komon

( ): is a type of komon characterized by tiny dots arranged in dense patterns that form larger designs. The Edo komon dyeing technique originated with the samurai class during the Edo period. A kimono with this type of pattern is of the same formality as an iromuji, and when decorated with kamon, may be worn as visiting wear (equivalent to a tsukesage or hōmongi).


Uchikake is a highly formal kimono worn only by a bride or at a stage performance. The Uchikake is often heavily brocaded and is supposed to be worn outside the actual kimono and obi, as a sort of coat. One therefore never ties the obi around the uchikake. It is supposed to trail along the floor, this is also why it is heavily padded along the hem. The uchikake of the bridal costume is either white or very colorful often with red as the base color.

Susohiki / Hikizuri

The susohiki is mostly worn by geisha or by stage performers of the traditional Japanese dance. It is quite long, compared to regular kimono, because the skirt is supposed to trail along the floor. Susohiki literally means "trail the skirt". Where a normal kimono for women is normally 1.5–1.6 m (4.7–5.2 ft) long, a susohiki can be up to 2 m (6.3 ft) long. This is also why geisha and maiko lift their kimono skirt when walking outside, also to show their beautiful underkimono or "nagajuban" (see below).


The mofuku is a formal garment intended for mourning. It is made of pitch black silk, without any embellishment other than the 5 kamon. The obi, obijime, obiage, zori, and handbag are also black. The mofuku is worn on the days of the wake, funeral, and cremation of the deceased in a Buddhist funeral ceremony. Due to white being symbolic of death in Japan, the mofuku was formerly a white garment; however, the modern mofuku is now a black garment, to contrast with the white kimono of the dead.

The completely black mourning ensemble is usually reserved for family and others that are close to the deceased. For others, it is customary to wear a colored iromuji with black accessories, to symbolize that they are in mourning but are not particularly close to the deceased.

Men's kimonos

Couple being married in traditional dress.

In contrast to women's kimono, men's kimono outfits are far simpler, typically consisting of five pieces, not including footwear.

Men's kimono sleeves are attached to the body of the kimono with no more than a few inches unattached at the bottom, unlike the women's style of very deep sleeves mostly unattached from the body of the kimono. Men's sleeves are less deep than women's kimono sleeves to accommodate the obi around the waist beneath them, whereas on a woman's kimono, the long, unattached bottom of the sleeve can hang over the obi without getting in the way.

In the modern era, the principal distinctions between men's kimono are in the fabric. The typical men's kimono is a subdued, dark color; black, dark blues, greens, and browns are common. Fabrics are usually matte. Some have a subtle pattern, and textured fabrics are common in more casual kimono. More casual kimono may be made in slightly brighter colors, such as lighter purples, greens and blues. Sumo wrestlers have occasionally been known to wear quite bright colors such as fuchsia.

The most formal style of kimono is plain black silk with five kamon on the chest, shoulders and back. Slightly less formal is the three-kamon kimono. These are usually paired with white undergarments and accessories.

Kimono accessories and related garments

Women's straw zōri
( , or simply juban) is a kimono-shaped robe worn by both men and women beneath the main outer garment. Since silk kimono are delicate and difficult to clean, the nagajuban helps to keep the outer kimono clean by preventing contact with the wearer's skin. Only the collar edge of the nagajuban shows from beneath the outer kimono. Many nagajuban have removable collars, to allow them to be changed to match the outer garment, and to be easily washed without washing the entire garment. While the most formal type of nagajuban are white, they are often as beautifully ornate and patterned as the outer kimono. Since men's kimono are usually fairly subdued in pattern and color, the nagajuban allows for discreetly wearing very striking designs and colors.
( ) is a thin garment similar to an undershirt. It is worn under the nagajuban.Yamanaka, Norio (1982). The Book of Kimono. Tokyo; New York: Kodansha International, p. 60. ISBN 0870115006 (USA), ISBN 4770009860 (Japan).
( ) is a thin petticoat-like garment (a half-slip) worn by women under the nagajuban.
Kimono Slip
The susoyoke and hadajuban combined into a one-piece garment.
( ) is a special collar worn during hot weather instead of the full nagajuban.
( ) are wooden sandals worn by men and women with yukata. One unique style is worn solely by geisha.
( ) is a divided (Umanori) or undivided skirt (Andon) which resembles a wide pair of pants, traditionally worn by men but now also by women in less formal outfits, and is also worn in certain martial arts such as aikido. A hakama typically has pleats, a koshiita (a stiff or padded part in the lower back of the wearer), and himo (long lengths of fabric tied around the waist over the obi, described below). Hakama are worn in several budo arts such as aikido, kendo, iaidō and naginata. Hakama are also worn by women at college graduation ceremonies, and by Miko on shinto shrines. They can range from very formal to visiting wear, depending on the pattern.
( ) is a hip- or thigh-length kimono jacket which adds formality. Haori were originally reserved for men, until fashions changed at the end of the Meiji period. They are now worn by both men and women, though women's kimono jackets tend to be longer.
( ) is a tasseled, woven string fastener for the haori. The most formal color is white.
( ) is a type of Haori traditionally worn by shop keepers and is now associated mostly with festivals.
( ) is the workman's version of gentleman's Haori. Often padded for warmth, as opposed to the somewhat lighter Happi.
( ) is a type of under-kimono, historically worn by women beneath the kimono. Today they are only worn on formal occasions such as weddings and other important social events.
( ) are hair ornaments worn by women in the coiffured hair style that often accompanies kimono. These may take the form of silk flowers, wooden combs, and jade hairpins.
( ) An obi is a sash worn with kimono by both men and women.
( ) is a thin, fabric-covered board placed under the obi by women to keep its shape. It is also called mae-ita.
( ) A sash that is tied around the top edge of the obi which covers the obimakura "pillow"and keeps the upper part of the obi musabi "knot" in place
( ) a small pillow used by women that is tied under the obi at the back which gives the obi musabi "knot" it's volume.
( ) is a thin cord worn around the obi. It is necessary to hold the popular taiko musubi in place .
Datejime or datemaki
( ) undersash; one can be used to tie the nagajuban and one can also be used to tie the outer kimono, to hold the kimono in place until one ties the obi.
Koshihimo or karihimo
( ) sashes; think of them as placeholders, extra hands helping the wearer hold everything in place until the datejime and obi are tied
( ) are the everyday clothes for a male Zen Buddhist monk, and the favored garment for shakuhachi players.
( ) are ankle-high, divided-toe socks usually worn with zōri or geta. They also come in a boot form.
( ) are straw rope sandals which are mostly worn by monks.
( ) is an informal unlined summer kimono usually made of cotton, linen, or hemp. Yukata are most often worn to outdoor festivals, by men and women of all ages. They are also worn at onsen (hot spring) resorts, where they are often provided for the guests in the resort's own pattern.
( ) are cloth, leather or grass-woven sandals. Zōri may be highly decorated with intricate stitching or with no decoration. They are worn by both men and women. Grass woven zōri with white straps, called hanao, are the most formal for men. They are similar in design to flip-flops.
( ) is the traditional male underwear or loin-cloth.


The hiyoku is the floating lining or under-kimono traditionally worn under kimono. There are various meanings involved in Kimono-hiyoku-layering though mostly these are not used in everyday modern Japanese life. Often today instead of an entirely separate lining the Hiyoku refers to a lining sewn into the kimono itself. There are no special meanings ascribed to Hiyoku worn in this way.


In modern day Japanmarker the meanings of the layering of kimono and hiyoku are usually forgotten. Only maiko and geisha now use this layering technique for dances and subtle erotic suggestion, usually emphasising the back of the neck. Modern Japanese brides may also wear a traditional Shinto kimono which is worn with a hiyoku.

Traditionally kimonos were worn with hiyoku or floating linings. Hiyoku can be a second kimono worn beneath the first and give the traditional layered look to the kimono. Often in modern kimonos the hiyoku is simply the name for the double sided lower-half of the kimono which may be exposed to other eyes depending on how the kimono is worn.

Old-fashioned kimono styles meant that hiyoku were entire under-kimono, however modern day layers are usually only partial, to give the impression of layering.

Care of kimonos

How to fold a kimono (part 1).
How to fold a kimono (part 2).
In the past, a kimono would often be entirely taken apart for washing, and then re-sewn for wearing. This traditional washing method is called arai hari. Because the stitches must be taken out for washing, traditional kimonos need to be hand sewn. Arai hari is very expensive and difficult and is one of the causes of the declining popularity of kimono. Modern fabrics and cleaning methods have been developed that eliminate this need, although the traditional washing of kimono is still practiced, especially for high-end garments.

New, custom-made kimonos are generally delivered to a customer with long, loose basting stitches placed around the outside edges. These stitches are called shitsuke ito. They are sometimes replaced for storage. They help to prevent bunching, folding and wrinkling, and keep the kimono's layers in alignment.

Like many other traditional Japanese garments, there are specific ways to fold kimonos. These methods help to preserve the garment and to keep it from creasing when stored. Kimonos are often stored wrapped in paper called tatōshi.

Kimonos need to be aired out at least seasonally and before and after each time they are worn. Many people prefer to have their kimono dry cleaned, although this can be extremely expensive, it is generally less expensive than arai hari and may be impossible for certain fabrics or dyes.


  1. kimono from Merriam-Webster
  3. HanamiWeb - What Kimono Signifies
  4. 1871(明治5)年11月12日太政官布告399号
  5. [1]
  6. Old Tokyo: Shirokiya Department Store
  7. 戦時衣生活簡素化実施要綱
  8. 国民服令
  9. 国民服制式特例
  10. source
  12. Yamanaka, Norio (1982). The Book of Kimono. Tokyo; New York: Kodansha International, p. 61. ISBN 0870115006 (USA), ISBN 4770009860 (Japan).
  13. Nagajuban undergarment for Japanese kimono
  14. Imperatore, Cheryl, & MacLardy, Paul (2001). Kimono Vanishing Tradition: Japanese Textiles of the 20th Century. Atglen, Penn.: Schiffer Publishing. Chap. 3 "Nagajuban ~ Undergarments", pp. 32–46. ISBN 0764312286.
  15. Underwear (Hadagi): Hada-Juban. KIDORAKU Japan. Accessed 22 October 2009.
  16. Underwear (Hadagi): Susoyoke. KIDORAKU Japan. Accessed 22 October 2009.
  17. A search for "着物スリップ". Rakuten. Accessed 22 October 2009.
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  19. Underwear (Hadagi): Kimono Slip. KIDORAKU Japan. Accessed 22 October 2009.

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