"Kimono" technically means Japanese dress, but for Westerners, the word refers to traditional robes like "kasode" with shorter sleeves; "furisode" with longer, open-bottom sleeves; "uchikake," an elaborate wedding robe or overcoat; "juban," a softer under-robe; and "haori," a shorter jacket for men. Inner kimonos are tied closed with a sash known as "obi," which also comes in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and styles—including the formal "maru," the 1920s-style "fukuro," the simple "nagoya," and the wide "hanhaba."

The flamboyance, vivid colors, and artistry of antique kimonos were once a source of national pride for Japan, and also point to the influence of Noh Theater. Kimonos developed as a logical way to stay cool and comfortable in the humid climate, and they worked for kneeling on wood floors. The long, draping sleeves of furisode and fine, richly decorated silks became symbols of leisure and wealth for aristocrats. In the Heian era (794-1185), courtesans wore 12 simple and brightly colored kimonos at once, most of which could only be seen at the collars and cuffs.

Supple, sleek kimonos made of silk ("kinu") are the most desirable, even though they can be made of any material such as the stiffer silk crepe ("chirimen"), satin, hemp, thread-banana fiber, abaca cloth, hemp, linen, wool, or cotton. Kimonos are often made from fabrics with patterns woven into them, like "kasuri" or "ikat" (made of pre-dyed thread), "tsuzure ori" (tapestry), "nishiki" (multicolored pattern), "Kara-ori" (Chinese weaving that looks embroidered), and "tsujigahana" (made with a tie-dye-thread base and post-weaving flourishes).

Dyeing techniques contribute greatly to the beauty and artistry of kimonos. The most typical "yuzen" technique, developed in the 17th century, lets artisans hand-draw elaborate images with thin, delicate lines. Other popular means include stencil-dyeing, or "katazome," tie-dying or "shibori-zome," stenciling unique to Okinawa called "bingata," and a technique known as "tsutsugaki" that involves drawing with rice paste that will resist indigo dye. Thanks to the stencils, small repeated patterns called "komon"—such as "seigaiha" or stylized waves, "yamagata" or mountain forms, and medallions resembling cranes, chrysanthemum, and wisteria—became common.

These days, most Japanese wear modern Western-style clothing, and perceive vintage kimonos as tremendously out-dated outfits that disguise the body, impractical for the fast pace of 21st century life. There, silk kimonos, which sell for thousands new, are reserved for special occasions like the Shichigosan Festival and New Year's Day, and for older people, Noh and Kabuki performers, geishas, and others involved in the traditional arts of tea service and flower arrangement. Used kimonos can be found for about $100 at Japanese flea markets.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

MyVintageVogue

MyVintageVogue

The history of 20th-century women’s fashion largely played out in the pages of magazines such as “Harper’s Ba… [read review or visit site]

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

Gotheborg.com

Gotheborg.com

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]

1960s Fashion and Textiles

1960s Fashion and Textiles

Put on your go-go boots and check out this wavy, groovy tribute to 1960s fashion and textiles, courtesy of the Vict… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Fashion Guild

Vintage Fashion Guild

While primarily designed to steer buyers to online vintage clothing shops, this blog is chock full of interesting, … [read review or visit site]

Fashion-Era

Fashion-Era

Bursting at the seams with content, this site contains hundreds of pages of fashion and costume history, including … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Japanese Kimono Silk Furisode Blue-purple Flying Crane 0719c09z1250Poor Worn Out Japanese Indigo Cotton Thicker Sashiko Kendo Gi Aikido Boro JacketVintage Japanese Indigo Cotton Thicker Sashiko Kendo Gi Aikido Budo JacketJapanese Kimono Silk Furisode Black Phoenix 0619c10z1150 Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Navy&brown, Arrow Feathers, S011618Japanese Kimono Silk Furisode Dark Blue Rose 1309t02z1060 Wholesale Price!! Japanese Vintage Obijime, Lot Of 50!!! Y121801Japanese Vintage Kimono, Silk, Black, Tomesode, Bird&flower Y120917Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Pink, Flower, Lovery!! S011612Japanese Kimono Silk Fabric Black Crane, Wisteria 48" M04z80 Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Bule Green & Pink & Navy, S011611Japanese Maru Obi Sash Silk, Antique ,cranes And Flowers, 110Wholesale Price!! Japanese Vintage Haorihimo, Lot Of 50!!! P012601Japanese Vintage Kimono, Silk, Black, Tomesode, Crane Y120918P385 Phoenix Embroidery Furisode-kimono87248# Japanese Kimono / Vintage Fukuro Obi / Woven CranesJapanese Vintage Maekake, Worker's Epron P112812Japanese Kimono Gilt Thread Obi Fabric Gold Scenery 18.9" Ge07z20Japanese Kimono Gilt Thread Uchikake Fabric Gold Crane, Wave 42.5" Ka01z140Unused Gorgeous Arrow Pattern Ikat Weave Japanese Vintage Kimono Silk FabricWholesale Price!! Japanese Vintage Haorihimo, Lot Of 50!!! P012603Japanese Under Wear Juban Dress, Kimono, Light Pink, 101Vintage Japanese Indigo Cotton Thicker Hakama Kendo Aikido For 5 Feet 4" PersonMen's Glossy White Silk "kimono & Haori" Ensemble W/crests, Cross M2488954# Japanese Kimono / New Hanhaba Obi / ReversibleJapanese Kimono Gilt Thread Obi Fabric Gold Noshi 54.3" Su01z150 Japanese Kimono Silk Tsukesage Light Green Shishi 1323n08z92087263# Japanese Kimono / Vintage Fukuro Obi / Embroidery / Flower With Bird87141# Japanese Kimono / Vintage Chuya Obi / Embroidery / Spinny LobsterJapanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Pink, Cloud&momiji, Rare Liner!! P012615Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Burgundy, Cloud&flower&hackery, S01161388960# Japanese Kimono / New Hanhaba Obi / Reversible88959# Japanese Kimono / New Hanhaba Obi / ReversibleJapanese Very Old Silk Kimono Mums Maple,peony Red Lining129-aJapanese Vintage Kimono, Silk, Black, Tomesode, Bird Y120920Japanese Kimono Obi Tool Obiita Korin-belt Obi-makura Datejime / Blue O3264Japanese Very Old Homon Gi Silk Kimono 1 Crest Flowers Red Lining129-d87219# Japanese KimonoJapanese Kimono Silk Tsukesage Pink Camellia 1323n02z990 Vintage Japanese Indigo Cotton Thicker Hakama Kendo Aikido For 4 Feet 11" PersonVintage Japanese Indigo Cotton Thicker Hakama Kendo Aikido For 5 Feet 1" PersonJapanese Antique Chirimen Silk Kimono Susomoyo 1 Crest 128-bWholesale Price!! Japanese Vintage Haorihimo, Lot Of 50!!! P012602Japanese Fukuro Obi Sash Silk, Rokutugara ,black , 108Japanese Wedding Hanayome katsuyama Kanzashi Comb ‘Japanese Kimono Gilt Thread Obi Fabric Bird, Flowers 19.7" Ge03z70 86922# Japanese Kimono / Vintage Fukuro Obi / Woven Paulownia Arabesque87114# Japanese Kimono / Vintage Fukuro Obi / Woven Kiku With SeigaihaCream Silk Kimono Fabric Bolt W/stencil Dyed Ume, Kiku M6588333# Japanese Kimono / Vintage Fukuro Obi / Woven ArabesqueJapan Kimono Oh Maple Ssl Juban Nice Japanese Kimono Silk Furisode Dark Yellow Plum Tree 1320t05z1130"tango Chirimen" Dark Green Silk Kimono Fabric Bolt W/flowers M16Antique Black Silk "tomesode" W/some Exquisite Emb, Crests M113Japanese Kimono Silk Men's Haori Black Noh Mask 1319n04z630K313 Vintagte Japanese Silk Kimono Fabric/ Quilt Craft /160cmJapanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Dark Purple, Flower, S011615Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Dark Brown, Bamboo Grass, S011614Japanese Vintage Kimono, Black Y121537Japanese Vintage Kimono, Silk, Black, Tomesode, Pine Tree Y120919