Japan is known worldwide for the beauty of the kimono. The word itself is actually a generic term used to refer to many styles of traditional Japanese dress, and is comprised of two characters: 着, meaning “wear”, and 物, meaning “thing”, thus, “ki-mono”. But the most famous and luxurious of these traditional styles has come to represent the aesthetic of traditional Japanese fashion, and is referred to, even in Japan, as kimono.
The fabric used for kimono is as famous as the style itself. There are myriads of patterns ranging from traditional to contemporary, and shades are worn that are considered appropriate for each of the four seasons. Patterns and prints depicting trees and flowers are also common, as each of Japan’s seasons welcomes beauty of all kinds in its flora, some of the most notorious being the Japanese pine, plum and cherry blossoms, and bamboo. Japan also has its own unique check and plaid patterns that have decorated fabric in the country for hundreds of years.
The traditional kimono worn for special occasions, such as weddings, coming-of-age ceremonies, graduations, tea ceremonies and other celebrations, is made up of many layers and is said to take at least an hour to put on, often with the help of an assistant. Women commonly take lessons on how to put on kimono themselves, and spend many years practicing and perfecting the art.
The final touch on a kimono is the sash, or obi. The obi itself is another handcrafted piece of luxurious fabric, the finest of which often costs thousands of US dollars. The knot tied with the obi also features many styles, often resembling a flower. The sleeves of the kimono are also dictated by age and marital status: young, unmarried girls and women wear long sleeves called “furisode”, while the sleeves of married women are shorter.
Men also wear kimono, more accurately referred to as hakama. Men most commonly wear kimono as the groom at a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony. However, men also often wear kimono for photos taken and printed out as New Year’s greeting cards.
Additionally, there is a more casual, lighter style of Japanese kimono worn during the summer, called “yukata”. The yukata is usually a single, light layer of fabric, often cotton or linen, and can be seen at any Japanese summer festival, even in modern-day Japan.