"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    

Kissako K7436 Japanese Kimono Dress Vintage Robe Furisode Fashion Silk ButterflyGold Chrysanthemum Silk Furisode Japanese Vintage KimonoJapanese Vintage Silk Kimono Chirimen Crepe Dyed Bamboo Mums 3254Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk,beige&red, Long Length, Rare!!, M031618Japanese Vintage Kimono Silk Fabric Ume Plum Tree 62" 325-2547185# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode For Bridal / Embroidery / Kinsha / ShoVery Old Japanese Silk Kimono Summer Meisen Ikat Paper Balloon Collectibles3252Kissako K-7450 Japanese Kimono Dress Vintage Robe Furisode Fashion Silk 47168# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Kinsha / Sagara Embroidery / PeoniesPink Salmon Sakura Silk Furisode Japanese Vintage Kimono47186# Japanese Kimono / Antique Wedding Furisode / Kinsha / EmbroideryVery Old Japanese Silk Kimono Summer Meisen Ikat Red Lining Collectibles 3255Very Old Japanese Silk Kimono Haori Meisen Ikat Collectibles 325-1Very Old Japanese Silk Kimono Haori Meisen Ikat Fans /rose 324-6Japan Kimono Crane Lss Wedding Uchikake, Gown, ,Japanese Kimono, Silk, Black, Tomesode, Embroidered Pine Tree&ume, P031627Very Old Japanese Silk Kimono Bold Arrow Design Red Lining326-647181# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Cherry Blossom / BokashiLot4 Yukata Summer Japanese Kimono S/mJapanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Orange, White Flower,p031605Kissako K7447 Japanese Kimono Dress Vintage Robe Furisode Fashion Silk ShiboriJapanese Vintage Kimono, Haori,silk,black,embroidered Flower,beautiful! M03161947187# Japanese Kimono Silk / Antique Braidal Furisode Kimono / Hand Painted / YLot3 Yukata Summer Japanese Kimono S/mJapanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Orange, Shibori, Pine Tree, P031609Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Blue, Cloud Y121924Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Black, Shibori, Flower, P031617Rare Blue Crane Gold Furisode Japanese Wedding Kimono Uchikake VintageJapanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Black, Branch&bud, P031614Japan Kimono Furisode Wedding, Crane Art Yellow Gold Chrysanthemum Silk Japanese Vintage KimonoRare Vintage Cream Heian Cart Silk Fukuro Japanese Kimono ObiKissako K-7449 Japanese Kimono Dress Vintage Robe Furisode Fashion Silk Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Gray, Good Condition, Thin, P031602Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Navy, Flower, Sweet!! P031610Japanese Vintage Boy's Kimono, Black&white, Eagle&pine Tree, P032016Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Purple, Shibori, Flower, P031613Japanese Kimono, Silk, Black, Tomesode, Flowing Water&bird&flower, P031628Bridal Cream Silk "uchikake Kimono" W/"ume", Peacocks, Gold Emb F18947169# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Rinzu / Embroidery / Circle FlowerLight Blue & Cream Silk "nagoya-obi" W/emb Camellia F183Mauve Silk Fan Japanese Vintage Petite KimonoVintage Japanese Kimono Silk Fabric Off-white Chrysanthemum 55.1" T06z80 Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Black, Ume&bamboo Grass&flower, P031612New Japanese Yukata Kimono Dress Robe Cotton Pink Strawberry Free Shipping JapanJapanese Antique Kimono, Silk, Blue-gray, Bamboo Grass, P031211Pink Sakura Washable Cotton Poly Furisode - Ko Japanese Kimono47167# Japanese Kimono / Vintage Juban For Furisode / Mon Kinsha / CraneKissako K-7457 Japanese Kimono Dress Vintage Robe Furisode Fashion Silk 47178# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Kinsya / RowelVery Old Japanese Silk Kimono Unlined Woven Confederate Rose 324-8Very Old Japanese Silk Kimono Michiyuki Coat Woven Doves In Gold,white 324-10Orange Silk "rokutsuu Fukuro-obi" W/cranes, "kiku", Peonies F150Bridal Pink & Red Silk "kakeshita Kimono" W/gold & Silver Emb Kiku F190"tokyo Hon-zome" Indigo Cotton Yukata Fabric Bolt W/silver Grass, Clover F159Creamy Orange Silk "tsukesage Kimono" W/hand-drawn "kiku" F22209a5756 Vintage Japanese Kimono Haori Jacket Sayagata Pattern SilkJapanese Kimono Silk Juban / Crane / Chrysanthemum / PurpleJapanese Vintage Silk Kimono Chirimen Crepe Dyed Garden Plants 3253Japanese Vintage Boy's Kimono, Blue&white,treasure Ship, Rare!! P032011