Kimono originally derived from the garments worn in China.
Japanese kimono was invented in the Heian period (794-1192). Straight cuts of fabric were sewn together to create a garment that fit every type of body shape. It was easy to wear and adaptable.
Kimonos have evolved greatly in terms of design, fabric and wearability.
Traditional kimono is hard to wear and is very expensive. Newer kimono have been created using linen, rayon and polyester to reduce cost, cater to all seasons and to improve mobility. (Sources from Kyoto Inn&Tour)
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 (zōri or geta) and split-toe socks (tabi).
Types of kimono:
(振袖): furisode literally translates as swinging sleeves—the sleeves of furisode average between 39 and 42 inches (110 cm) 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), graduation ceremonies and by unmarried female relatives of the bride at weddings.
(訪問着): 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 (except relatives) and receptions. They may also be worn to formal parties.
(付け下げ): 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.The differences from homongi is the size of the pattern, seam connection, and not same clothes at inside and outside at "hakke." General tsukesage is often used for parties, not ceremonies.
(色無地): 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. It comes from the word "muji" which means plain or solid and "iro" which means color.
(小紋): "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.
(江戸小紋): is a type of komon characterized by tiny dots arranged in dense patterns that form larger designs. 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).
(色留袖): single-color kimono, patterned only below the waistline. Irotomesode with five family crests are as formal as kurotomesode, and are worn by married and unmarried women, usually close relatives of the bride and groom at weddings and a medal ceremony at the royal court. An irotomesode may have three or one kamon=family crests. Those are used as a semi-formal kimono at a party and conferment.
(黒留袖): a black kimono patterned only below the waistline, kuro-tomesode is the most formal kimono for married women. They are often worn by the mothers of the bride and groom at weddings. Kuro-tomesode usually have five kamon=royal crests, printed on the sleeves, chest and back of the kimono.
Uchikake (打掛) 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 coat. 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.
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.
The typical men's kimono is a subdued, dark color. Fabrics are usually matte.
Accessories and Related Garments
A wide undersash used to tie the nagajuban and the outer kimono and hold them in place.
Wooden sandals worn by men and women with yukata. One unique style is worn solely by geisha.
A divided (umanoribakama) or undivided skirt (andonbakama) which resembles a wide pair of trousers, traditionally worn by men but also by women in less formal situations. A hakama typically is pleated and fastened by ribbons, tied around the waist over the obi. Men's hakama also have a koshi ita, which is a stiff or padded part in the lower back of the wearer. Hakama are worn in several budo arts such as aikido, kendo, iaidō. Hakama are often worn by women at college graduation ceremonies, and by Miko on shinto shrines. Depending on the pattern and material, hakama can range from very formal to visiting wear.
A hip- or thigh-length kimono-like jacket, which adds formality to an outfit. Haori were originally worn only by men, until it became a fashion for women in the Meiji period. They are now worn by both men and women. Men's haori are typically shorter than women's. The jinbaori (陣羽織) was specifically made for armoured samurai to wear.
A type of haori traditionally worn by shop keepers and is now associated mostly with festivals.
Juban (襦袢) and Hadajuban (肌襦袢)
A thin garment similar to an undershirt. It is worn under the nagajuban.
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.
Hair stick ornaments worn by women.
A narrow sash used to aid in dressing up, often made of silk or wool. They are used to hold virtually anything in place during the process of dressing up, and can be used in many ways depending on what is worn. Some of the karihimos are removed after datejime or obi have been tied, while others remain worn beneath the layers of the dress.
The sash worn with kimono.
The scarf-like sash which is knotted and tied above the obi and tucked into the top of the obi. Worn with the more formal varieties of kimono.
Ankle-high, divided-toe socks.
An unlined kimono-like garment for summer use, usually made of cotton, linen, or hemp. Yukata are strictly informal, 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.
Traditional sandals worn by both men and women, similar in design to flip-flops. They are made of many materials, including cloth, leather, vinyl and woven grass, and can be highly decorated or very simple.
High end silk kimono are best air dried and spot cleaned. If you want to wash a silk kimono, consult a dry cleaner who is used to handling delicate silk garments.
If you need to wash it yourself, fill the sink, or a bucket, with cold or lukewarm water under 30 degrees celcius, as hot water can damage silk. Do not place the item in a washing machine, not even on the gentle cycle. If hard water must be used, consider adding a spoonful of Borax powder, to make it gentler on the fabric.
Add a cleansing agent. A special, delicate clothing detergent can be used, but not regular detergent. Also, baby shampoo and mild, alkaline-free soap will work. Gently agitate the kimono in the soapy water. With care, wash the kimono by hand, paying special attention to any stains, embellishments, or damaged sections of the fabric. Avoid roughly scrubbing or manhandling the kimono, and rinse off all soap and suds.
Let the kimono air dry. Place it on a hanger and let it dry away from direct sunlight, which could fade the color. Don't wring the fabric, just let excess water drip off. Never place the kimono in a clothes dryer, as it could shrink.
Some kimono or haori have long, loose basting stitches placed around the outside edges. These stitches are called shitsuke ito. They help to prevent bunching, folding and wrinkling, and keep the kimono's layers in alignment while in storage.
Like many other traditional Japanese garments, there are specific ways to fold kimono. These methods help to preserve the garment and to keep it from creasing when stored. Kimonos are often stored wrapped in paper called tatōshi.
Kimono need to be aired out at least seasonally and before and after each time they are worn.
How to Wear a Kimono/Yukata and Tie Obi Sash
You can learn how to on youtube or other sites. There are many when you google it. Kimono and yukata are different so search accordingly. Yukata obi is simple. Traditional formal obi for kimono such as Otaiko can be very challenging.
We do offer some books and CD in Japanese as well.
For those who want to save time, there are pre-made (pre-tied) obi option. There are bow shaped obi and otaiko shaped obi. For men, pre-made obi has velcro.
Also check your local Japanese community centers and associations for lessons.