The Kimono (着物, きもの)
The Japanese kimono is one of the world's instantly recognizable traditional garments.The word "kimono", which actually means a "thing to wear" (ki "wear" and mono “thing”), was the form of dress worn in Japan until the mid19th century. During the Meiji Era(October 23, 1868 to July 30, 1912) Japanese fashion slowly began to change because of the import of western clothing.
Kimono have T-shaped, straight-lined robes worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves.There are several types of kimono for different occasions and seasons and range from extremely formal to casual. The level of formality of women's kimono is determined mostly by the pattern of the fabric, and color. Young women's kimonos have longer sleeves(furisode), signifying that they are not married, and tend to be more elaborate than similarly formal older women's kimono.Men's kimonos are usually one basic shape and are mainly worn in subdued colors. Formality is also determined by the type and color of accessories, the fabric, and the number or absence of kamon (family crests). Silk is the most desirable, and most formal, fabric. Kimonos made of fabrics such as cotton and polyester generally reflect a more casual style.
Furisode(振袖) literally translates as swinging sleeves.The furisode is distinguished by it’s long swinging sleeves and elaborate patterns. Furisode are the most formal kimono for unmarried women and is traditionally worn to signify that a girl has come of age.
Hōmongi (訪問着) literally translates as visiting wear. Characterized by patterns that flow over the shoulders, seams, and sleeves. Once worn by ladies of rank, it is now the semi-formal garment of choice for women of any age and status.
Komon (小紋) means "fine pattern". The term refers to kimono with a small, repeated pattern throughout the garment. This versatile kimono, made usually of light silk, is more casual and may be worn around town, or dressed up with a formal obi (Sash).Both married and unmarried women may wear komon.
The word “Tomesode (留袖)" itself consists of two kanji meaning "to fasten" (留) and "sleeve" (袖).Originally, after marriage, there was a custom to shorten the long sleeves of the Furisode, thereby creating Tomesode. This was because the long swinging sleeves would be impractical when doing the housework. Tomesode distinguishes itself from other kimono by only having patterns under the waistline. It has five or sometimes three kamon(family crests), which indicates the formality of the kimono.
Yukata (浴衣) is an unlined kimono-like garment for summer use, usually made of cotton, linen, or hemp. Yukata are strictly informal, most often worn to outdoor festivals, by men and women of all ages.The cut pattern of the yukata is the same as the komon.
A woman dressed in Kimono for 'coming of age day'
The Obi (帯, おび)
Obi is a long, broad sash that is used to tie about the waist over a Japanese kimono.
Obi are categorized by their design, formality, material, and use. Brocade, tapestry and dyed silk obi are used for formal wear with the finest kimono, while obi made from raw silk, cotton or wool is used for everyday wear.
The contemporary women's obi is a very conspicuous accessory, sometimes even more so than the kimono robe itself. A fine formal obi might cost more than the rest of the entire outfit.
When worn, the wide women's obi is folded in two and the full width of the obi is only presented in the decorative knot (musubi). There are various styles to tie an obi, and different knots are suited to different occasions and different kimono.
Nowadays, a woman's wide and decorative obi does not keep the kimono closed; this is done by a rope(obi jime) tied over the obi and by different sashes and ribbons worn underneath.
Maru obi (丸帯, "one-piece obi") is the most formal and regal of obi. Due to their considerable weight and cost the maru obi is typically only worn by geishas, maikos and similar. Another use for maru obi is as a part of a bride's outfit. A maru obi is double the width of an order obi and is sewn over a stiff lining, it is fully patterned and often embroidered with golden thread, metal-coated yarn, and foil work.
Fukuro Obi (袋帯, "pouch obi") is a less formal version of the maru obi and has all but replaced the former as the formal obi of choice.When worn, a fukuro obi is almost impossible to tell from a maru obi. A fukuro obi is double-folded and only the front part is decorated, resembling the Maru obi, whereas the non-visible backside is left plain and the fabric used is made of smooth and lighter silk.
Nagoya obi (名古屋帯) is the most-used obi type today.First produced in Nagoya, and hence the name, this obi is simpler and lighter than the double-fold obi. A Nagoya obi is distinguished by its structure: one end is folded and sewn in half, the other end is of full width. This is to make putting the obi on easier. A Nagoya obi can be partly or fully patterned. It is normally worn only in the taiko musubi(knot) style, and many Nagoya obi are designed so that they have patterns only in the part that will be most prominent in the knot. The formality and fanciness of a Nagoya obi depends on its material, just as with other obi types.
(西陣織, Nishijin fabric) is a traditional textile produced in the Nishijin (西陣) district of Kamigyō-ku in Kyoto, Japan. Nishijin weaving originated in Heian-kyōto, Japan, over 1200 years ago. It uses many different types of colored yarns, weaving them together into decorative designs. Nishijin employs very tedious and specialized procedures necessary to obtain the spectacular design, thus ensuring the quality of Nishijin weaving.The threads used to create Nishijin-ori kimonos and obis are thick and come in a plethora of rich colors, such as gold. And thanks to the high-quality of Nishijin-ori, these splendid textiles can last a lifetime.
The Kinshi 'Gold Thread' (金糸)
There are two kinds of Kinshi ‘Gold threads’. One is made with traditional technique (Hirakinshi) and another is made with modern industrial technique (Yorikinshi). Traditional gold thread is made of real gold leaf*, other precious metals such as Silver or Platinum are also used. The Kinshi is made by preparing very thin Washi ‘Japanese paper’, Urushi is then coated onto the washi and dryed. A gold leaf around 1/10000mm in thickness is carefully placed on the Urushi coated paper. The urushi bonds the gold leaf to the paper. The Gold leaf is very thin and wrinkles easily so this process can’t be retried, and it takes around 10 years to master this process. The paper then becomes Hira-haku ‘Gold leaf paper’ and gets dried in the Muro ‘Urushi drying room basement’ for 1-2 days. After the Hira-haku is dry it gets cut into 60-100 3mm width strips. These strips are then wrapped around thread to make Kinshi ‘Gold thread’. The Kiran ‘material woven with gold thread’ texture varies, some are soft and some are stiff to the touch. The quality of Kinran is determined by the quality of Kinshi, which is determined by the gold purity, slimness of gold leaf and base paper and quality of core threads. *Gold leaf is gold that has been beaten into a very thin sheet.
Below are pictures of some of the high quality kinran obi’s we use.