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Japanese Traditional Attire: Kimonos And More!

Traditional Japanese clothing offers a fascinating glimpse into the country's rich history and cultural values.  Beyond just garments, they are often works of art, reflecting the wearer's social status, age, and occasion. Let's dive into Japanese traditional attire, from formal wear for ceremonies to everyday wear for men and women.

japanese traditional attire

Stepping Into Ceremonies: The Kimono Takes Center Stage

The quintessential symbol of Japanese attire, the kimono (着物), reigns supreme in formal settings.  Meaning "thing to wear," the kimono is a T-shaped robe wrapped around the body, left side over right, and secured with an obi, a wide sash.  Formal kimonos are made from luxurious silks and adorned with intricate patterns and symbolism.

There are many variations of kimonos, so we've divided them into those worn for formal ceremonies and daily life. As there are many materials, patterns, and styles of kimonos, the beautiful variations are endless.

Kimono Formal Wear: Japanese Traditional Attire

Women's Formal Wear:

  • Furisode (振袖):  The most elaborate kimono, furisode ("long sleeves") are worn by unmarried women for coming-of-age ceremonies like Shichi-Go-San (七五三).  These kimonos boast long, trailing sleeves that symbolize elegance and youth.

  • Houmongi (訪問着):  Married women wear houmongi ("visiting wear") for formal occasions like weddings and tea ceremonies.  Houmongi features more subdued patterns compared to furisode.

  • Tomesode (留袖):  The epitome of formality, tomesode ("black sleeves") are reserved for married women attending very formal occasions, such as weddings where they are not the bride.  Tomesode has a mostly black base with restrained, sophisticated designs.

  • Iromuji (色無地 ): All one-color kimonos that can have patterns. The one below was given to me by the Urasenke family as a gift for attending the Urasenke Professional College of Chado in Kyoto, Japan.

japanese kimono tea ceremony
Jennifer wearing a traditional Iromuji Kimono during a Japanese Tea Ceremony

Men's Formal Wear:

  • Kamishimo (裃):  This traditional attire consisting of a hakama (袴) (pleated skirt-like trousers) and a katagi (肩衣) (short upper garment) was once worn by samurai and government officials.  Today, it's seen in very formal ceremonies like weddings.

  • Montsuki Hakama (紋付袴):  A more common formal wear for men is the montsuki hakama.  A black hakama is paired with a black kimono decorated with a family crest (mon).  This attire is worn for weddings, funerals, and graduations.

Daily Life Clothing In Japan

In everyday life, comfort reigns supreme.  Here's what you might see Japanese people wearing today:

  • Yukata (浴衣):  A lighter, informal version of the kimono, yukata are popular summer wear for both men and women.  They are made from cotton or synthetic fabrics and feature simpler designs.

  • Jinbei (甚兵衛):  Jinbei are lightweight jackets and shorts sets traditionally worn by men and children in the summer.

  • Samue (作務衣): Originally worn by Zen Buddhist monks for their daily chores (samu),  the word "samue" itself translates to "work clothes." Traditionally made from breathable materials like cotton or linen and dyed brown or indigo, they were designed for easy movement during physical labor.

  • Western Attire: Western-style clothing, such as jeans, t-shirts, and dresses, is widely popular for everyday wear in Japan.

While Western styles dominate daily life, traditional Japanese clothing remains special in Japanese culture.  Seeing someone adorned in a beautiful kimono serves as a reminder of the country's rich heritage and enduring sense of aesthetics.

Where To Buy Japanese Kimonos in the United States

While local vintage and specialty Japanese shops can be found across the U.S., we have a few recommended online shops accessible to everyone, no matter where they live.

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