What is a Kimono?

The term kimono (in Japanese: きもの/着物, lit. 'thing to wear') refers to the traditional Japanese dress from Japan that consists of a silk T-Shaped wrapped-front garment closed left side over right side, with wide long sleeves and worn by Japanese people on formal occasions and other important ceremonies. The Japanese Kimono is derived from the traditional Chinese Dress called Hanfu (汉服) which was first introduced in Japan during the Yamato period (300–710 CE).

Before the opening of Japan to Western culture in the 20th century, the word "kimono" used to be the universal term for "clothes" as most Japanese people worn this type of garment everyday. However, in the present day, kimonos are not the everyday apparel worn in Japan anymore. As the arrival of western clothing quickly changed Japanese clothing habits with more comfortable and convenient garments to wear, it became less and less frequent to see people wear kimonos all the time.

But despite the quick fall in popularity of the kimono, they are still part of the cultural landscape of Japan, thanks to Japanese important respect for tradition and history. Today, they are mostly worn by Japanese population on special occasions such as funerals, weddings, graduations, and other formal events. They are also part of the custom outfit of some professions such as Geisha and Shinto priests, as well as some athletes like the sumo wrestlers who have to wear a kimono all the time they go outside in public. And there is the Yukata, a very popular type of summer kimono made of cotton that Japanese commonly wear during the hot seasons.

Types of Kimono

With the great rise in popularity of Japanese fashion in Western countries since the 1950s, the kimono quickly introduced and declined itself in several very popular variants. Here are the most common types of kimono:

1. Japanese Kimono

The Japanese kimono is the formal and national dress of Japan for both men and women. The Japan kimono is a T-shaped garment with straight lines, reaching down to the ankles, with a collar and long sleeves. The sleeves are usually very wide at the wrist height, up to half a meter. Traditionally, unmarried women wear kimonos with extremely long sleeves that reach almost to the ground, called furisode. The robe is wrapped around the body, always with the left flap over the right one (except at funerals where the opposite is the case) and secured by a wide belt knotted at the back called obi.

2. Chinese Kimono

The term "Chinese Kimono" is a reference to the Chinese traditional dress called Hanfu (汉服, lit. Han Chinese's attire) that was the everyday wear of Chinese people from the East Asian ethnic group called the Han (汉族). The Hanfu traditionally consists of a robe, a tunic or a jacket worn as the upper garment and combined with a long skirt commonly worn as the lower garment. There multiple types of of Hanfu, the most common being the ruqun, the aoqun, the beizi, the shenyi, and the shanku.

3. Kimono Dress

A kimono dress refers to any type of garment inpired by the shape of the traditional Japanese Kimono. Thus, the kimono dresses can refer to either long or short formal dresses, traditional kimono dresses from Japan, China or Korea, or simply casual attires for homewear. Kimono dresses are typically made of silk and are often brightly colored and patterned with natural designs.

4. Kimono Robe

A Kimono robe is a premium garment inspired by the traditional Japanese kimono. However, while it uses the term kimono, the Kimono robe is more like a Yukata because it only consists of one layer of garment, of silk or cotton. The history of kimono robes dates back to the Kamakura period (12th century) when it was the traditional outfit in ryokans, Japanese style inn and onsen hot springs. There is also no particular rule on how to wear Kimono Robes as they can be used as loungewear, sleepwear, outerwear, or as a dress.

5. Haori

A haori (羽織) is the Japanese term to refer to a traditional Japanese hip- or thigh-length jacket that Japanese people wear over their kimono in Japan. Haori were originally only worn by men, but women began wearing them in the Meiji period (1868-1912). Today, both men and women can be seen wearing haori as part of traditional Japanese dress.

Haori are usually made from wool, silk, or cotton fabrics, and are often decorated with elaborate patterns or designs. The most common type of haori is the uchikake, which is a ceremonial garment worn by brides on their wedding day

6. Kimono Cardigan

A kimono cardigan is a type of sweater that is designed to fit the same shape of the upper part of a traditional Japanese kimono. This style of cardigan typically features wide sleeves and an oversized fit, making it a popular choice for layering during colder months. Kimono cardigans are often made from wool or cotton fabrics, which helps to keep the wearer warm and comfortable. While they can be worn by both men and women, kimono cardigans are generally associated with more feminine styles.

7. Kimono Jacket

A kimono jacket, also referred to as kimono shirt or kimono top, is a modern version of the traditional Japanese haori that has been adapted for wear in the West. Kimono Jackets are T-Shape tops with short wide sleeves and typically made of silk. They also feature a wide range of colors and patterns.

The kimono jacket originated in Japan, where it was originally worn over a Kimono or a Yukata. Kimono jackets can be worn by both men and women, and are often seen as part of a formal outfit.