Kimono Dress: A guide to Traditional Japanese Dress

If you are looking for a guide to a Kimono dress, you have landed on the right page.

Kimono is a traditional Japanese form of clothing that both men and women wear.

Moreover, it is a garment that is unique to the Japanese, no other group tends to like it.

However, today, it is a common sight to see a lot of people strolling through historic neighborhoods in Kyoto, Tokoyo, and other parts of Japan.

Though most people only rent this dress, a used kimono dress is an inexpensive souvenir that you can find in used kimono shops around Japan.

It is important to note that the main deterrent to people purchasing this dress is that they do not know how to put it on when they get home.

Don’t fret as we have gathered tips and techniques on how you can wear a kimono dress.

Read on.

Kimono Dress

A kimono dress is one of the symbols of Japan and is a traditional type of Japanese clothing that dates back to the 5th century.

Moreover, it has not changed much since then.

It is a T-shaped robe without buttons that fixes on the body with an obi belt, 帯.

The cut and principle of wearing this national dress of Japan are simple.

The richness of materials and the depth of meaning of the patterns are striking as well.

kimono dress 1

Brief History

Before the Meiji era. i.e. second half of the 19th century, both men and women tend to wear kimonos, or 着物 as casual wear.

The word itself means ‘clothing’ or ‘that which is worn’.

However, with the arrival of foreign culture, this dress began to gradually oust from the closet in Japan.

Until world war II, Japanese men and women wore dresses and suits in the city and still preferred traditional clothes at home.

After the war, there was a change in the situation, and the kimono became an outfit for special occasions like New year’s Eve, or a wedding ceremony.

Many young people no longer wear traditional costumes on their own and tend to need the help of professional or special tutorials to put them on.

It is important to note that geisha and maiko, kabuki actors, tea masters, and other members of traditional professions still wear traditional clothes even today.

Learn more about Sweater Dress: Ways to Stylize It here.

Why is Kinono Expensive?

A lot of people tend to be used to the low prices for machine-made clothes.

However, the actual silk of the kimono dress is sewn by hand.

Especially, silk, i.e. natural silk is expensive that is used to make these dresses.

Moreover, it is important to note that in most cases, designers dye the fabric by hand.

This greatly affects the final cost of the product.

Masters of tailoring go through special training and in order to be recognized as professionals, they need to prove that they can sew a kimono from scratch in 8 hours.

Kimono sewing is both a craft and an art that requires skill and taste.

Thus, lots of details like the obi belt, obiage, and jori also add to the final cost.

Layers of Kimono

You may be wondering about the specific accessories of the kimono dress.

It is important to note that there are a lot of layers in this dress.

There is the obi belt that helps to hold everything in place, the bottom kimono, the jagajuban, special laces, and garters.


The following are the things that you will need to wear a kimono dress the Japanese way:

  • Nagajuban – worn under the main kimono.
  • Eri-shin – an insert for the collar.
  • Kimono – the main element of the costume.
  • Obi – the belt that holds everything in place.
  • Obi-ita – a plate that is inserted in the front between the layers of the obi belt to smooth out its surface.
  • Obi-makura – a small cushion with ties that can be used to shape the obi into the desired shape.
  • Obijime is a decorative lace that is tied over the belt and secures the entire structure.
  • Obiage – a small piece of cloth (usually silk), which is used to drape the upper part of the obi.
  • Tabi – white cotton socks.
  • Jori – Japanese traditional shoes

Just looking at these accessories is a sheer pleasure.

Each detail is made with silk and care, which helps to distinguish Japanese craftsmen.

What to Wear and When to wear it?

Just like any other piece of clothing, there is a different kimono for each season and occasion.

You can determine the difference by material, color, pattern, and details.

Let’s break down what Japanese women wear at different times of the year and what they pay attention to:

Summer: In summer, women tend to wear Homongi.

Homngi is a visiting garment that they wear on special occasions, to a tea ceremony, to the theater, or to a friend’s wedding.

It is important to note that these dresses are made from thin silk, and translucent material helps to create a sense of coolness and freshness.

This is particularly valuable in hot weather.

The pattern is often in an inflorescence of autumn grasses on a gentle light color.

You may be wondering what fall grasses have to do with it if it is still summer.

The fact that Japanese culture is considered a good form to be a little ahead of the curve and make references to the coming season.

Yukata is made from cotton and linen, and while bright and playful, these are easy to handle.

Moreover, they have become a must-have tribute to the hot Japanese summer.

Autumn: When the temperature drops in the fall, it is time for a double-layered avase.

It is especially chic to a fabric in a juicy color that matches the vibrant autumn scenery.

During this season, you can wear a wool kimono.

It is suitable for everyday use, for a walk with friends, or for a trip to an exhibition.

With the right elements, you can also go visit a theater or a visit.

kimono dress 2

Winter: It is important to note that all winter kimonos are lines and in regions where there is a lot of snow, tailors sew an additional layer of cotton between the two layers of silk.

You can find furisodes with long sleeves, and unmarried girls often wear them on solemn occasions.

If you find it hard to wear a kimono in winter, you can have wool capes, shawls, and warm armbands in the cold season.

Spring: Spring tsukesage is a must-have garment for every self-respecting Japanese woman.

Moreover, spring is the time for graduation and the solemn ceremony at the beginning of the school year as well as Shinto festivals.

What to Consider when Buying One?

After looking at the fabric and style, it is time to decide on the size of the kimono dress.

Unlike normal clothes there are no strict sizes of kimonos, however, when buying one, there are a few things you should pay attention to.

Parameters worth paying attention to are:

身丈 (Mitake): It is the length of the robe and should be +-2cm of your height.

裄 (Yuki): It is the length of your arm to the hand.

You can measure it from the point between the shoulder blades to the wrist of the outstretched hand.

Moreover, depending on your build, this value can vary from one person to another.

A standard Japanese kimono for a height of 165 cm has a yuki measuring 68 cm.

things to consider

袖幅 (Sodehaba): It is the width of the sleeve from shoulder to hand.

It tends to be half the length of a yuka and for a height of 165 cm, it is 34cm.

丈 (Sodetake): It is the sleeve length, 3/4 of your height.

For a height of 165 cm, it is about 53 cm.

Note that the sleeve length also tends to differ depending on the type of sleeve, furisode will be longer than common.

前幅 (Maehaba): It is the width of the kimono at the front.

後幅 (Ushirohaba): It is the width of the kimono at the back.

It is important to note that maehaba and ushirohaba are determined by the volume of the hips.

For Japanese women, the average volume is 90 to 95 cm with a maehaba of 24.5 cm and an ushirohaba of 30 cm.

On the volume of hips of 100 to 110 cm, the needs to lay a width of 29 and 35 cm.

Rules when wearing a Kimono

There are certain things you will need to keep in mind when wearing a kimono.

Most importantly, there are things you should never do:

1# Wear left over right: For both nagajuban, kimono underwear, and the kimono there is one important rule.

Always wear the left side of the right side. Only dead people have their kimonos worn right over left.

2# Pay Attention to the Collar: The collar of your dress has to be in a certain position, so as to show the back of your neck, especially for women.

3# Follow the Seasons: Japan prides itself in its 4 seasons.

Of course, other countries have them, they tend to be very distinct here and Japanese people are very much in touch with the season, and so is the kimono.

Moreover, you should wear certain colors and patterns only during specific months or certain events.

4# Keep it parallel to the Ground: It is important to note that that kimono is cut in a specific way so that it maintains a tub shape.

It should not get the right shape naturally, you should add padding to adjust it.

A kimono is a very symmetrical garment and you need to add season to alight and the bottom of the dress so that it is parallel to the ground.

5# Formal vs. Casual Kimono: You have two ways to wear a kimono: formal or casual.

Here is a good rule of thumb to make the difference between formal and casual kimonos:

  • Does it have gold/embroidery/silk/shiny fabric? Can you only see the design’s pattern on certain parts? It is most likely a formal kimono.
  • Is it made of cotton? Does the pattern repeat itself all over the dress? Do you notice the absence of embroideries? You could assume that it is a casual kimono.

6# Always wear an Obi on the Back: This one is very obvious, however, make sure you wear your obi on your back.

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