19 Curious Kimono Facts Revealed About Traditional Japanese Clothing!

Shirin Biswas
Sep 08, 2022 By Shirin Biswas
Originally Published on Dec 29, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
These kimono facts are for anyone who would like to understand Japan and its culture.

A kimono is rectangular, or T-shaped, attire that is synonymous with Japan's rich culture.

The kimono was initially accepted as nice attire for people since it would fit anyone irrespective of their bodily dimensions. It also allowed the scope for adding ornaments according to each individual's station.

The kimono originated in China and the attire that we now recognize was developed after centuries of changes being made to the initial rigid frame. The kimono that we know of has long, wide sleeves, a long body that covers the entire frame in the case of women, and is a little short in the case of men.

The kimono is worn with wide pants and a belt, which can be very elaborate for women and just as simple for men.

The kimono is thus a malleable attire that is now mostly worn at formal events. Keep reading for more facts!

History Of Kimono Clothing

The traditional kimono is an essential and undeniable part of Japanese culture. The fame and popularity of the modern kimono are such that this traditional dress is thought to be almost synonymous with Japan and its culture.

  • People from all parts of the world visit Japan and make sure to rent a kimono for a day in order to indulge in the complex cultural integrity of the place in true Japanese fashion.
  • Even though the Japanese people have now embraced western clothing and are most commonly seen in the clothes that they imbibed from Europe and America, the Japanese people are still fond of their own traditional attire.
  • Kimonos are now mostly worn on formal occasions. Women wear kimonos more commonly than men do since this attire sure is extremely pretty but not as easy to carry as everyday wear.
  • The history of the kimono dates back to the 8th century.
  • In the Heian period, that is, the eighth century, the Japanese people started getting inspired by the clothing style of the Chinese Wu dynasty. The clothes were not only worn on special occasions but also for everyday affairs.
  • Chinese kimonos were a little different from the ones that the Japanese made. The Japanese made a version of the Chinese kimono in the 8th century, which they called the kosode.
  • The people from noble and royal families would wear kosode which would be heavily layered and would have long sleeves in order to show their wealth and power. Eventually, kimonos started becoming an economic symbol.
  • The ways in which one would wear a kimono and the type and style of kimono one would wear also became tangible signs of their social status, age, and status in terms of marriage. The women of the Heian period would wear numerous layers of silk clothing in order to show the fact that they belonged to royal families and were to be feared.
  • At the same time, poor people were limited to the use of only a certain type of fabric and pattern. They were also not allowed to use too many styling methods in their kimonos so as to make sure that the social barricades were in place.
  • However, fashion from all ages has had its way of expressing people's creativity and hence, people found newer ways of bending the laws and invented different kimonos which would have the flair and grace whilst cutting it close with the laws.
  • In the Edo period, the kosode had become widely famous as a unisex piece of clothing.
  • The Edo period lasted from 1603-1867. In this period, the use of embroideries and patterns in the kimono one would wear also became very important. The use of obi also started around this time.
  • An obi is a wide belt that is used to hold the kimono in place. Whenever a kimono is used as ceremonial clothing in the present day, the obi is the most complicated piece of the puzzle to get right. They would wear the kimono with wide-legged pants, which is still prevalent.
  • The kimono that is worn today is much different from the Japanese kimono that started the tradition.
  • Traditional kimonos had long sleeves that would often reach the person's feet and also had long trails. The trails were often so long that women would have to tuck them at the waist before going outside to make sure that their kimonos didn't get dirty. Women wear kimonos tucked at the waist even today since formal kimonos are long and would be impossible to handle otherwise.
  • One of the other significant changes made to the design of the kimonos was that the traditional Japanese kimono now has shorter sleeves. The advent of the short-sleeved kimono was aimed at making sure that the range of movement was increased for the wearers.

Fabric Used In Kimono

Interestingly, the fabric used to make kimonos for summer festivals, formal events, and marriage ceremonies are of different kinds. The age and social status of the people also play an important part in determining the kind of kimono that would be made for them.

  • In Japan, the most traditional kimono is made of very high quality silk. Silk brocade is widely preferred by the people who not only wear kimonos but also love them for the cultural value that they hold.
  • Traditionally in Japanese culture, kimonos were only made from silk but just like the advent of the short sleeves in modern kimonos, the clothing has now also begun to be altered on the basis of several factors.
  • Understandably, the traditional silk kimono is very expensive and cannot be afforded by many people. Hence, the use of other fabrics became important as the needs of the consumers began to come up.
  • This gave rise to kimonos that would be made out of easy-to-care-for materials such as rayon and viscose. Seasons are also to be kept in mind when choosing the right kimono.
  • In the summer, people wear kimonos that are made from lighter fabrics in order to maintain good levels of air circulation and ventilation.
  • The national costume of Japan now also has vibrant designs. This was not an acceptable practice a couple of centuries ago since bright colors and prints did not reflect the tendencies and personalities of the people.
  • Age and social status are also likely to be a part of the fabric one chooses for their kimono. Aristocrats are most likely to wear a silk kimono to show their wealth and boast of their social status.
  • Other parts of society are likely to wear kimonos that are made from cotton or rayon.
  • Japanese culture also suggests that a summer kimono be made from cotton. It is preferred by many to have small patterns such as seasonal flowers on their kimono as a celebration of the natural beauty of their land.
  • Dark colors are usually worn by men in order to show their valor and strength. Their kimonos mostly have geometric patterns.
The Japanese kimono is usually sewn by hand!

Significance Of Kimono Clothing

The traditional clothing of any country has a rich cultural history and the kimono is no different.

  • The kimono is not just traditional clothing but also the national costume of Japan.
  • It is worn at tea ceremonies, funerals, formal occasions, and marriages by both men and women.
  • The formal kimono usually has five crests. Unlike a formal kimono, an informal kimono has no crests.
  • The formal kimono is worn with traditional sandals and socks which are split at the toe for a better experience.
  • The Japanese kimono is an adaptation of the Chinese kimono.
  • Young women usually wear brightly colored kimonos with wide sleeves.
  • Married women wear kimonos which have short sleeves.
  • Men wear black or dark blue kimonos which rarely have any patterns. The only patterns worn by men in their kimonos are geometric in design.
  • The wearing of western clothes was appreciated during the Meiji era.
  • In the late 19th and early 2oth centuries, people started to wear western clothes more often than the Japanese kimono.
  • Hundreds of years ago, men and women who sat in court used to wear kimono-like robes that had no less than 12 layers!
  • If you wear kimono, make sure to cross the left side over the right and not the other way around.
  • This is because the right side is wrapped over the left only in the case of dressing up corpses before the final rites.
  • In Japan, baby girls wear vibrantly colored kimonos while baby boys wear dark-colored ones.
  • The bow tied at the back of a woman's kimono is for formal occasions may take hours to correct.
  • The obi is the most difficult part of wearing a kimono.
  • The obi must be tied in such a fashion that it does not fold or get any creases at any point in time.
  • The traditional kimono also has another belt that holds the obi in place.
  • There are many different types of obi for women. A woman's formal obi can be 12 in (30.48 cm) wide and more than 13 ft (3.9 m) long.
  • In Japan, people no longer wear kimonos for their everyday errands and treat them as an occasional outfit.
  • There are people whose profession is dressing people up in kimonos. Such professions exist due to the sheer fact that wearing a traditional kimono can be very difficult.
  • The obi or the wide belt that holds the kimono in place has intricate knots which only professionals can understand.
  • Kimonos are so famous in Japan that people actually take classes to learn how to wear them.
  • It is easier for men to wear kimonos since the designs are not too intricate and the obi can be tied into a simple knot.
  • In ancient times, the kimono worn by a person would have the family crest. The kimono has therefore had a long-lasting tradition of holding familial value.
  • It is passed on as an heirloom and worn by several generations.
  • Men wear kimonos of different kinds for weddings and funerals.
  • A Chinese kimono is called Hanfu.
  • Yukata is an informal kimono. It can be worn by anyone but was originally meant for poor people.
  • Kimono and Yukata are different based on the occasions that they can be worn for.

When is kimono worn?

Japanese women and men celebrate kimonos and the rich cultural history that they represent. A kimono can have much value for a person for a set of reasons.

While someone may have gotten the kimono as an heirloom and would want to protect its sanctity, the other may have used their first paycheck to buy the most expensive kimono in the store. Kimonos, since they are worn for most formal and important occasions, also become a part of people's memories.

  • A kimono can be worn for something as trivial as a walk to the grocery store or an occasion as important as someone's marriage. Understandably, a kimono offers much room for variation in terms of the patterns, fabrics, and styling that would be chosen for such occasions.
  • At weddings, brides usually wear a white silk kimono. The silk fabric may have some brocade in such a way that the attire seems to be of solid color from a distance. A black kimono is worn by the groom. The kimono is secured in place by a white obi in the case of both men and women when they are getting married.
  • At funerals, men are supposed to wear a black kimono with a black obi. The intention is to make sure that no vibrant colors are worn when mourning for the loss of someone's life.
  • Short sleeve kimonos are worn by married women. They also usually wear dull colors with fewer patterns. Young, unmarried women wear vibrant colors and their kimonos usually have many large patterns. Children wear vibrantly colored kimonos as well.
  • The obi may be wide or narrow depending on the occasion and the person's liking!

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Written by Shirin Biswas

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

Shirin Biswas picture

Shirin BiswasBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

With a degree in English from Amity University, Noida, Shirin has won awards for oratory, acting, and creative writing. She has a wealth of experience as an English teacher, editor, and writer, having previously worked at Quizzy and Big Books Publishing. Her expertise lies in editing study guides for children and creating engaging content.

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Fact-checked by Niyati Parab

Bachelor of Commerce

Niyati Parab picture

Niyati ParabBachelor of Commerce

With a background in digital marketing, Niyati brings her expertise to ensure accuracy and authenticity in every piece of content. She has previously written articles for MuseumFacts, a history web magazine, while also handling its digital marketing. In addition to her marketing skills, Niyati is fluent in six languages and has a Commerce degree from Savitribai Phule Pune University. She has also been recognized for her public speaking abilities, holding the position of Vice President of Education at the Toastmasters Club of Pune, where she won several awards and represented the club in writing and speech contests at the area level.

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