Kimono Terminology

 

I throw around a lot of Japanese terms for kinds and parts of kimono, that being the most precise way to talk about a lot of them. I started out just defining the words I use. Should have known that was a lost cause; hunting down definitions and examples gets my enthusiasm flowing every time.

 

Bits

In order from under to outer.

Juban. Underclothing.

Eri. Collar.

Koshihimo. A long thin silk scarf or muslin strip used to belt the waist of the juban and kimono up, and the body down. May also be used to hold the collar folded and in place.

Korin belt. Also rendered as kohlin belt. This is more commonly used to hold the collar, these days. It's two flat clips connected by elastic.

Datejime. Under belt. A belt that goes over the koshihimo to smooth and hold the nagajuban and/or kimono before the obi goes on. Datejime may be long silk sashes that one wraps and folds smooth, or, more commonly of late, it may be a single-wrap belt with velcro fastenings.

Obi ita. Also called mae ita. Obi stay. A cardboard or plastic panel that goes under the stomach area of the obi to keep it from creasing.

Obi. The topmost silk sash that goes around the waist and is folded in a (usually complex) bow in back.

Obi musubi. Obi bow. There are scores of different styles. The most common for younger women is probably the chouchou or butterfly bow, and for older women the otaiko or drum bow.

Obiage. Long, wide silk scarf that tucks under the upper edge of the obi to hold it in place. May also be used to hold the obi makura inside the bow.

Obi makura. A small pillow used to keep, for instance, an otaiko bow rounded out and unflattened.

Obijime. A silk cord tied over the obi and through the bow to hold everything in place.

Mon. Family crests. These are the small, round motifs you see on ceremonial kimono at the back of the neck, the backs of the sleeves, and on either breast. May appear in ones, threes or fives, painted or embroidered on.

 

Kimono Styles

Ceremonial

Mofuku. An all-black kimono worn while mourning the death of a family member.

Shiromuku. Literally "pure white". All-white set of wedding kimono. Layers include:

Uchikake. The unbelted outer robe worn by the bride. This has a padded hem, long sweeping sleeves, and usually very elaborate designs, either painted, embroidered or woven in. Most likely all of the above. Generally has a red base and very highly colored patterns, but can also be all white.

Hikifurisode. Also hanayome furisode. This is the one typically called a wedding kimono, but might better be called the after-wedding kimono. Has long, sweeping sleeves and elaborate patterns that run, unbroken, across the back and onto the backs of the sleeves; around the whole body; and across the front and onto the fronts of the sleeves.This is worn after the ceremony, at the reception. It has the trailing, padded hem characteristic of the wedding ensemble in general. Generally very brightly colored.

Kurotomesode. Black kimono with patterning running around both sides or the left half of the hem. Worn to major ceremonies for immediate family members (e.g. by the sister or mother of the bride).

Irotomesode. Single color kimono with patterning running around both sides or the left half of the hem. Just like kurotomesode only with a colored base. Worn to major ceremonies for extended family members (e.g. by the cousin of the bride)

Iromuji. Single color kimono with no dyed patterns, or generally monochrome patterns. Alternatively, it may well have woven patterns. Worn by participants in minor ceremonies such as the tea ceremony.

The easiest way to tell whether a kimono is ceremonial is to check for mon. Wedding kimono will not have them, but those are pretty easy to recognize by the padded hems. All the others should have mon, or spaces left open in the dyework for mon to be applied. Iromuji without mon cease to be ceremonial kimono and can be worn as a komon.

Dressy to Casual

Furisode. Very most dressy kimono for young women, generally worn to Coming of Age parties or specific festivals where girls get to show off. The only reason this one isn't classed with the ceremonials is because, in both Japan and the US, girls can dress to the nines for even semi-formal occasions and that's cute, rather than inappropriate the way it would be for an older woman. Has long, sweeping sleeves and elaborate patterns that run, unbroken, across the back and onto the backs of the sleeves; around the whole body; and across the front and onto the fronts of the sleeves. Generally all-season in their designs, as is only reasonable after such an investment in design and materials.

Houmongi. Very dressy kimono worn to formal parties, formal concerts, etc. Base may be any color, and may have woven patterns all over. Patterned around both sides or the left half of the hem, and on the front of one sleeve and back of the other. Identifying point is that the pattern will travel across the seams of hem and shoulders without breaking, having been dyed or painted in a consecutive design that is then sewn together with the edges matched up. Sleeves may be long or short.

Tsukesage. Dressy kimono worn to parties, out to nice restaraunts, etc. Base may be any color, and may have woven patterns all over. Patterned around both sides or the left half of the hem, and on the front of one sleeve and back of the other. Identifying point is that the pattern will not cross the seams. Tsukesage patterns tend to be more modular than Houmongi, with a contained motif repeating in clusters. Sleeves may be long or short.

Komon. Everyday kimono, suitable for streetwear, shopping, casual parties, etc. May be any color, and may have either woven or printed patterns. Patterns are simple and repeating, all over the kimono, with no effort made to match up at the seams. Sleeves may be long or short.

Yukata. Very casual kimono, suitable for street festivals, hanging around the house, etc. Identifying point is that these are unlined cotton or synthetic with a flat, non-silky weave. They usually have repeating patterns over the whole kimono and no effort made to match up at the seams, though some yukata are patterned in the houmongi or tsukesage style. Patterns are often brighter than on komon. Sleeves may be long or short, but are most commonly short.

Yukata without an obi, or with a simple, narrow belt, fall somewhere between a bathrobe and your favorite pair of sweats. They're worn outside, but really only to work or lounge in your own backyard.

 

 

Last modified: 07/26/09
First Posted: 2/11/2006

 

 

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