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What are Kimonos?

Amy Pollick
By
Updated Feb 17, 2024
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When most people think of kimonos, they think of the beautiful silk robes worn by geisha in the movies. These gorgeous robes are indeed kimonos, but they are not typical.

Kimono means "clothing" in Japanese, and the style and wear of the garment have changed a great deal in the past century. As late as the 1890s, most Japanese women wore fairly formal kimonos every day. After the turn of the century, many women began working outside the home and had to simplify their kimonos to be able to do their jobs.

By the end of World War II, most Japanese women were wearing Western-style clothes, with kimonos reserved for special occasions such as weddings. The same tradition still holds, with women usually owning a single kimono - the one they receive at their coming-of-age ceremony at age 19. Men wear kimonos as well, but usually in more subdued colors and patterns. They too, usually wear the robes only during special occasions.

The most elaborate formal kimono is the one most people think of as the "typical" kimono. These robes are usually worn with a decorated obi, or wide belt. Kimonos are not hemmed to fit - they are mostly all the same length, so the extra material has to go somewhere. In this case, it is gathered at the waist, folded and secured underneath the obi. The formal kimono is often made of a silk and cotton blend fabric.

The yukata, or summer kimono, is usually seen at festivals, or at Japanese inns and baths. For festival wear, an obi may be worn with the yukata, but a sash is used at home or at the baths. The yukata is a very lightweight cotton, comfortable for warm, humid summers. These are the most popular kimonos still routinely worn in Japan.

Japanese people also wear tabi and zori or geta with their kimonos. Tabi are socks with a divided big toe, worn with a thong shoe. Zori are thong sandals with flat soles, and geta are thong sandals with elevated or separate heels. Most people wear zori, since they are easier to walk in.

Kimonos are available online or in shops selling Japanese items. Their price will depend on the fabric, amount of embroidery and intricacy of the fabric design.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseGeek. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By turquoise — On Oct 01, 2014

Kimonos are so beautiful. They look great, very royal on anyone. I would like to own one, one day. The best part is that it can be worn forever since it will never be too small. It's just wrapped around and secured with a belt. The undergarment will of course be changed but the kimono itself can be worn indefinitely.

By ZipLine — On Oct 01, 2014

@bear78-- That is true. Geisha life has become very intriguing for many people due to the books and films on the topic that have become popular.

I think that the other reason that most people think of geishas when they think of kimonos is because geishas wear extremely beautiful kimonos. The kimonos that are worn by geishas are a little different. They are longer with more layers and very intricate designs. The neck area and the back are more revealing in contrast to a regular kimono. They cost a lot and the colors are just amazing. So I think it's normal for more people to be interested in geisha kimonos.

By bear78 — On Oct 01, 2014

Unfortunately, kimonos have come to be associated with only geishas for most Westerners. It's unfortunate because there is a lot more to kimonos. It is still used and can be worn by anyone. People don't wear it daily any more, but it is still worn during special events, as well as holidays. Stage performers and those attending tea ceremonies wear them too. And it's not just for women, men wear kimonos as well, although theirs look a little different and have more basic colors.

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseGeek. With...
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