Speaking from experience, it can be a little overwhelming figuring out what you should buy as your first kimono. Authentic Japanese kimono have a rather extensive history that dictates the cultural rules to wearing kimono, which adds layers of complexity that at first can intimidate but ultimately act as a great guide to help you navigate the world of wearing Japanese kimono in a culturally respectful way.
#1 - There are authentic Japanese kimono, and then there are play costumes: they are different. Japanese kimono have a very specific construction and set of seams that are strictly observed. There are many places that sell "kimono" which are better suited as children's play costumes. In modern fashion, the word kimono gets thrown around a lot, even onto things that are most certainly not a kimono: pants, generic boho style shirts, wrap shawls, and more as all examples of things that would not qualify as traditional Japanese kimono that get called kimono. Just because its called a kimono, does not mean it is one that would be considered authentic by Japanese guidelines. #2 - What is your purpose intended for the kimono? Do you plan to wear the kimono traditionally, or do you want it as something such as lounge attire? Wearing kimono in a traditional manner will require measurements and considerations for your body type, while informal wearing for the lounging is a matter of personal preferences.
To measure yourself for Japanese kimono that are intended to be worn traditionally I have a simple guide here: https://www.ohiokimono.com/measure-yourself-for-japanesekimono
Do you want something like an easy to wear a coat with great kimono sleeves? Check out the haori, which are super easy to wear, and practical for everyday attire.
#3 - Gender expressed matters. There are male types of kimono, and female styles of kimono. Each gender wears their kimono differently, and even have different sizing rules. As a note, masculine attire is much easier to wear than feminine in our opinion.
#4 - What kinds of materials do you prefer? Authentic kimono can be made from a wide variety of fabrics: cotton, polyester, silk, denim, and more! Yukata for example are always made from cotton, as are onsen kimono. To find the best silks you typically need to look at more formal kimono attire. Iromuji are commonly a great type of kimono to purchase if you want silk.
#5 - How formal are the occasions in which you plan to wear your kimono? Thre are many different types of kimono, and they all have their own specific accessories and formalities when worn in the style of Japanese tradition. An informal festival such as a matsuri would typically have a yukata worn to it, and a bathhouse visit would often feature an onsen kimono. Are you graduating from college and are a younger unmarried young lady then a furisode is the kind of kimono you would wear. Are you just laying around the house? Then wear whatever you like. Are you planning to attend a Japanese tea ceremony, go for an iromuji for a safe neutral semi-formal kimono type. Check out this guide to the kinds of kimono you will commonly encounter, as well as their formality: https://www.ohiokimono.com/kinds-of-kimono #6 - How easy to clean do you want your kimono? It is possible to carefully machine wash Japanese kimono, however, caution is advised. If you are the kind of person to want to be able to frequently wash and easily clean and care for your kimono you'll want one made from cotton, denim, polyester, or rayon. Silk typically requires special care and cleaning. Furthermore, kimono that feature embroidery and other fancy emblements have to be handled with special care. A silk furisode with lavish embroidery will be much more difficult to clean than a cotton yukata.
When worn traditionally, kimono are not frequently cleaned or washed. Washing kimono traditionally usually involves disassembling the whole kimono, washing each individual panel, and then reassembling it at a special cleaning service in japan. The key to clean kimono, is prevention and then cleaning and care as a last line of defence. Juban are underwear for kimono, and protect a kimono from the natural oils and sweat found on human skin. Generally, kimono are not worn directly against the skin to help keep them clean. Cotton juban are easier to clean, and breathe well.
#7 - How easy will it be to learn how to wear the kimono? If you are new to wearing Japanese kimono be aware of this simple rule: the more formal the kimono the more accessories and effort to wear the kimono traditionally. Wearing a furisode will take more time and effort to learn to wear verses a yukata. For beginners, we highly recommend yukata, which require the least amount of accessories and are the simplest to learn how to wear in a culturally respectful manner. #8 - Colors matter. There are color rules to consider when looking at Japanese kimono. Generally, these are formal colors: black, white, gold, and silver. Bright cheerful colors are also considered ideal for younger single persons, while more understated muted colors and designs are for more mature adults. If you are buying the kimono to lounge around in, buy whatever color you like.
#9 - Be aware that wearing kimono traditionally will require additional accessories if you want to wear it traditionally. Obi do NOT hold kimono onto the body, koshihimo typically do. Some kimono have up to 10+ additional accessories required to wear the kimono in a traditional manner. If you put a kimono on, and used the dressing accessories - you could walk around without an obi on and the kimono would stay on your body just fine (it would look abit weird). In the modern context of kimono, obi are decorative.
#10 - Obi also have different types, genders, commonly require additional obi specific accessories, and formalities. A hanhaba obi is worn with a yukata, while a fukuro obi is commonly worn with furisode or tomesode for example. Common obi accessories include obijime, obiage, makura, netsuke, and more. when buying an obi, first consider the kimono you want to pair it with if you have one already in mind.
This quick guide is just an introduction to some core concepts about Japanese kimono, and how to better shop for your first one. These are just common considerations we feel others would benefit from in our professional opinion. Be certain to watch our blog and check out our online Japanese kimono store for a great selection of authentic haori, yukata, kimono, juban, obi and more directly imported from Japan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!