Kimono dressing is a 3D operation, not just about sleeve length!

Tokyo Fashion sometimes add in some wonderful kimono shots and I am updated via facebook. I am amazed at how people profess knowledge about kimono and most of the time tell the guys off for calling something a ‘kimono’ when ‘ya know – its a yukata because it has short sleeves. She is young so if it was a kimono the sleeves would be longer’


It is true that the long swinging sleeved kimono are traditionally worn by unmarried women but they are a formal garment not meant for the streets.

Choosing the right kimono for purpose is a 3 dimensional process.

1. Age – Sleeve length DOES have age connotations, the longest sleeved kimono are normally reserved for younger women (but unmarried is the key) and you typically see these kimono around coming of age and graduation. However sleeve length is also subject to fashion. More vintage kimono aimed at older women have longer sleeves.

Age also dictates HOW the kimono should be worn. As a married woman my front collar is lower, as well as my obi with a more subdued otaiko. The back of collar is also sight closer in and more flat.

2. Formality – You wouldn’t wear an evening gown to Mcdonalds and the same western style formality rules are set within kimono. Streetwear for all ages are typically komon print, an all over pattern or variations on. Formality should never be thrown out the window, however age and seasonality frequently are 🙂

3. Seasonality – However, this, in modern times has been superseded by style. The only two season specific matches I can do personally are April, with sakura and butterflies and September as I have a lot of purple! Geisha really, are the only kimono wearers with such an extensive wardrobe as to match up all 3 dimensions of kimono.

This also dictates the weight of kimono. In the UK weather though, normally you mix up the kimono weights all year round as we have hot sunny weather Monday (hitoe or ro) then hail storms Tuesday (back to awase)

3.5 Style – I follow kimono-hime, angura-kei and other such funky movements with regards to kimono so for me season is quite irrelevant when dressing in kimono. I choose style over season, and this replaces this dimension for me.

3.8. Iki – loosely translates as ‘chic’ a form of styling combining the main three elements of kimono dressing in an unspeakably stylish way.

So if a young women is sporting a meisen kimono around town it is not yukata because the sleeves are too short….

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