"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    

44380# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Embroidery / Mandarin Duck44382# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Peony And Lilac44367# Japanese Kimono / Antique Karieba / Shibori / Stream With Phoenix44356# Japanese Kimono / Antique Karieba For Furisode / Stream And Flower With C44355# Japanese Kimono / Antique Karieba For Furisode / Embroidery / Gosho Gurum44410# Japanese Kimono/antique Karieba Furisode/flowers And Birds4 Vintage Worn Out Boro Japanese Shop Cotton Maekake Apron Kimono Fabric Kanji44379# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / By Hanae Mori / Butterfly44365# Japanese Kimono / Antique Karieba For Furisode / Strem With Flower And Bu44424# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Flower And Gosho Guruma44351# Japanese Kimono / Antique Karieba For Furisode / Butterfly With Flower44418# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Cherry BlossomAntique Beige Silk "zentsuu Fukuro-obi" W/dragons P38144381# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Phonex With Flower And Rho44420# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Embroidery / Peacock's Fea44357# Japanese Kimono / Antique Karieba For Furisode / Flower With Butterfly44386# Japanese Kimono / Obiage For Furisode And Obijime Set44374# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Flowers And Gosho GurumaJapanese Kimono Silk Obi Fabric Gold Daimyogyoretsu 35.4" Mo02z8044419# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Baloon Flower And Peony44371# Japanese Kimono / Antique Karieba For Furisode / Embroidery / Mandarin Du44409# Japanese Kimono Japanese Kiimono/antique Karieba Furisode/floral Wheels44361# Japanese Kimono / Antique Karieba For Furisode / By Hanae Mori / Butterfl11 Lot Vintage Japanese Silk Obijime Kumihimo Ties Kimono Fabric Free Shipping44373# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Embroidery / Flowers And A44408# Japanese Kimono Japanese Kiimono/antique Karieba Furisode/higaki With Flo44390# Japanese Kimono / Antique Nakagi For Furisode / Donuki / Mon Kinsha44394# Japanese Kimono / Hitoe Juban For Furisode / Woven Kagamiura And Kumihimo45188# Japanese Kimono/antique Juban For Summer/maples44425# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode Kimono / Karieba / By Michiko Koshino44350# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Embroidery / Shibori / Peonies With44415# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Embroidery / Floral44400# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Embroidery / Kiku And Peonies44375# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode Kimono / Karieba / Embroidery / FlowerBlack Silk "rokutsuu Fukuro-obi" W/"ume" P37544401# Japanese Kimono / Juban For Fueisode / Genjiguruma With Cloud44417# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Artist's Work / Sakura44378# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Peony And Plum44414# Japanese Kimono/antique Karieba Furisode/flowers44372# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Artist's Work / Butterfly44423# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode / Karieba / Embroidery / Mums And Butt44392# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode Kimono / Embroidery / Chrysanthemum44413# Japanese Kimono/antique Karieba Furisode/stream With Flowers And Birds44387# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode Kimono / Embroidery / Mums And Plum Ba44376# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode Kimono / Karieba / Plants And Flowers44609# Japanese Kimono / Vintage Fukuro Obi / Woven Stream44391# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode Kimono / Embroidery / Trees With Flowe44402# Japanese Kimono / Antique Furisode Karieba / Artist's Work / Cherry Bloss44396# Japanese Kimono/juban For Furisode/kumihimo With PeoniesJapanese Kimono Gilt Thread Uchikake Fabric Gold Peacock 43.3" Ki04z14044412# Japanese Kimono/antique Karieba Furisode/wild FlowersRare Kitsune Fox Nagoya Obi45279# Japanese Kimono/antique/embroidered MumsVintage Uchikake Wedding Kimono. Red Silk With Blue And Green Crane Pattern. 44364# Japanese Kimono / Antique Karieba For Furisode / By Hanae Mori / Cherry B44362# Japanese Kimono / Antique Karieba For Furisode / Shibori / Stream With Fl Japanese Kimono Gilt Thread Uchikake Fabric Green Tachibana 42.5" Ki04z90Black Silk "tomesode" W/"ume", Gold Emb, Paints, Cranes, Iris, Pond, Crests P36244411# Japanese Kimono/antique Karieba Furisode/peacock With Wild FlowersJapanese Kimono Silk Uchikake Fabric 70.1" Mo37z130