When it comes to traditional dress of Japan for females, we usually only think of kimono. However, there are all kinds of attire. While some are not as popular as they used to be, many Japanese people still wear them on special occasions. Let’s learn more about the types of traditional Japanese clothing!
The kimono is a simple garment with a complex history that has been shaped by the evolution of weaving, dyeing, and embroidery techniques as well as cultural changes in Japan, which is the most popular costume in japan. The kimono's form was first introduced from China as an undergarment. Its use as a normal form of dress for men and women dates back from the Muromachi period (1392–1568). Meaning 'the thing worn', the term kimono was first adopted in the mid-19th century. Prior to that, the garment was known as a kosode, which means 'small sleeve', a reference to the opening at the wrist. Originally worn by commoners, or as an undergarment by the aristocracy, from the 16th century the kosode, or kimono, had become the principal item of dress for all classes and both sexes. It is still today, an enduring symbol of traditional Japanese culture. In kimono dress, it is the pattern on the surface, rather than the cut of the garment, that holds significance. Indications of social status, personal identity and cultural sensitivity are expressed through color and decoration.
Furisode means "swinging sleeves". This kind of kimono is easy to identify because of it's beautiful, long sleeves. It's the most formal kind of kimono for young, unmarried women, and is not worn by married women.
It is usually worn during coming-of-age ceremony (at age 20), and at weddings of close relatives. Since it's very formal, it's usually made of rich materials, like silk or crepe, and displays opulent patterns in wide, graceful areas over the garment.
Yukata are often made from lightweight, breathable fabrics such as cotton, linen, or polyester. Yukata are worn in Japan in the summer months to keep cool and are also worn at summer matsuri festivals or in Ryokan hotels as a bathrobe, as this is where the word Yukata ‘浴衣’ originates from, literally bathing cloth!
The main differences between Kimono and Yukata, is that Yukata are the most casual form of Kimono. Kimono are usually made from higher quality materials and often have an interior lining. You are also supposed to wear various other layers and padding underneath a Kimono to give the garment structure, whereas with a Yukata, the idea is to literally feel and look ‘cool’ as in not hot!
Houmongi is a type of semi-formal kimono which first appeared in the Taisho period (1912-1926) and it means ‘Visiting Wear’ in English. It can be worn by married and unmarried woman, and its design often has a pattern on hem and sleeve, sometimes sweeping up across the body in a diagonal direction. This type of kimono is typically worn for social visits or formal events where you want to be dressed up and have a respectful, modest or elegant appearance.
Iromuji (approximately "plain color") is a solid color kimono. It can be actually plain or have discrete damasque-like patterns (in a fabric called rinzu), but no colorful motifs. From a distance, iromuji will always look solid. It's worn by married and unmarried women, and can have any color except for white or black - since plain white or black kimono have other connotation.
The most common tones for iromuji are subdued, giving this kind of kimono a dignified and mature feel (flashy colors are related to youth in kimono aesthetics). Since it's very discrete, iromuji is often worn during the japanese tea ceremony (cha-no-yu), that pursues an aesthetics of simplicity. Iromuji allows the focus to be on the ceremony itself (a colorful furisode, for example, would be a too bright distraction, as well as too formal, in most types of tea ceremony).
Traditionally worn by the mother of the bride as well as the groom, they are of the highest formality for a married woman. Back in the day, the bride would wear a black crested furisode during her wedding and afterwards, the sleeves would be cut off to be transformed into a kurotomesode, allowing the same kimono to be worn again for a future happy occasion.
Tomesode, in general, are characterized by the lack of design on the top part of the kimono but therefore having a very lavish design on the bottom, often including gold dust and gold thread (couching) and embroidery. The design is often made up of lucky and/or auspicious plants, flowers, animals and objects.