All You Need to Know About the Japanese Kimono

  • CULTURE
  • The kimono (着物) is a Japanese traditional garment. 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.

    Kimono are T-shaped, straight-lined robes worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. Kimono 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. Kimono are generally worn with traditional footwear (especially zōri or geta) and split-toe socks (tabi).

    Today, kimono 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, gofuku (呉服, literally “clothes of Wu (吳)”), the earliest kimonos were heavily influenced by traditional Han Chinese clothing, known today as hanfu (漢服,kanfuku in Japanese), through Japanese embassies to China which resulted in extensiveChinese culture adoptions by Japan, as early as the 5th century AD.
    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 the1923 Great Kantō earthquake, kimono wearers often became victims of robbery because they could not run very fast due to the restricting nature of the kimono on the body and geta clogs. The Tokyo Women’s & Children’s Wear Manufacturers’ Association (東京婦人子供服組合) promoted Western clothes.

    In the Western world, kimono-styled women’s jackets, similar to a casual cardigan, gained public attention as a popular fashion item in 2014.