The national dress of Japan, the kimono may be simplistic in shape but highly complex in its many cultural nuances. Mostly associated with a flowing silk robe with long sleeves and an elaborate brocade belt, the kimono is highly romanticized. Yet, there are many variations (and names) of Japan’s traditional attire and the kimono is not only for women. In Japan there are actual classes in how to wear kimono, particularly for formal occasions. The style of kimono, undergarments, and how the obi (sash) is worn are subject to age and other societal conditions. While there are many guidelines in the selection and wearing of kimono, specialists in Japantown can advise on proper dress.
As varied as the many styles of kimono, prices can range from thousands of dollars to very affordable. In addition to the formal silk kimono, the light-weight cotton yukata is the popular casual wear often worn at festivals, particularly in the summer. Likewise, the Happi, often referred to as a happi coat for its shortness in length, is colorful festive wear. Haori is the half-length jackets worn by both men and women.
You can find all these styles at Asakichi and Shige Antiques that specialize in vintage kimonos, most created in Japan before 1945. The Furisode, made of the highest quality silk in bright colors with long sleeves is the kimono worn by young women in recognition of their coming of age. Uchikake is the wedding kimono passed down to brides from one generation to the next. An over-kimono, it is usually adorned with patterns symbolizing long life in gold and silver threads with a red lining. Another wedding kimono is the Siromuku, and as its name implies, is white.
Sakura Sakura is one of the few stores in Japan Center that sells new kimonos from Kyoto with equally beautiful obi, the sash that is a necessary accessory. They also have tabi (toe socks) as well as zori and geta, the traditional shoes to wear with kimono. Here you’ll also find yukata and happi coats for children, as well as adults.
For affordable kimonos, Neat Asian Things, carries cotton and cotton blend yukata for men, women, and girls and happi coats for boys. They also have tabi and geta. Koshi, primarily an incense gift shop, has vintage haori, a unique outerwear alternative.
Sou Sou is the place to shop for those who appreciate the aesthetics of kimono, while seeking “comfort with a radical edge.” Their kimono-inspired designs from Kyoto, in vibrant graphic patterns, incorporate traditional wear with J-Pop culture. Complete the look with “Tabi work shoes,” handmade in a variety of modern designs.
Whether you want to wear kimono or display the garment as a work of art, there are many experts in Japantown to guide you. To learn more about kimono, both Kinokuniya and Forest Books carry books on Japanese fashion and art. Kimono Day happens every second Sunday on odd months in Japantown to encourage everyone to wear Japan’s national dress. Kimonos are available to rent as well as to purchase and there’s always someone in the know to help dress you properly.