"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 Vintage Silk Furisode Kimono Pine Trees 117hJapanese Contemporary Furisode Kimono Dark Green Floral 119dJapanese Vintage Kimono, Silk, Furisode, Beige&orange, Flower&momiji P110404Japanese Vintage Kanzashi Ornamental Hairpin Set Geisha Maiko Kimono Japanese Vintage Kimono, Silk, Furisode, White Light Blue,cloud & Flower P110405Japanese Vintage Kimono, Silk, Furisode, Colorful Flowers, Gorgeous!! P110407 Japanese Kimono Silk Uchikake Fabric Black Folding Fan, Flowers 44.5" Ka04z130 Japanese Kimono Silk Fabric Black Scenery 47.2" Dd04z80 Kissako K6303 Japanese Kimono Dress Furisode Robe For Women Fashion Silk Vintage Japanese Kimono Silk Uchikake Fabric Crane, Flowers 36.2" Ka08z170 Japanese Vintage Kimono, Silk, Furisode, Light Pink, Peacock Feather P110406Japanese Kimono Silk Uchikake Fabric Red Crane, Peony 43.3" Ka04z130Japanese Kimono Silk Fabric Black Pine, Crane 48" J04z80Men's Gray Silk Fabric Bolt For "kimono Naga-juban" W/hawk, Wave W660Butterfly S! Kimono Furisode ! Wedding, Fine, Art !Japanese Kimono Obi Tool Obiita Obi-makura Koshihimo Datejime O2507Japanese Kimono Silk Obi Fabric Old Japanese Scenery 50.4" Ka05z230Japanese Antique Beautiful Boro Silk Yuzen-dye Child Kimono Of The Meiji EraKissako K-6318 Japanese Kimono Dress Robe Yukata For Women Fashion CottonJapanese Kimono Silk Uchikake Fabric Red Crane 37" Mo12z110 Brandnew Japanese Kimono Obi Dressing Tools / Underwear / Obiita W/case O2811Brandnew Japanese Work Clothes "samue" / Men's Ll Dark Blue O2913Dark Navy Silk "rinzu Kimono" W/full Sail Boats W639Japanese Kimono Silk Fabric Black Mandarin Duck 48.8" M01z170 Japanese Kimono Silk Uchikake Fabric Red Crane, Folding Fan 37" Ka07z140 Japanese Kimono Silk Shibori Fabric Dark Blue 61.4" #y05z80 Precious! Men's Indigo Silk "homba Amami Ohshima Tsumugi Kimono" W632Antique Black & Magenta Pink Silk "meisen Kimono" W/bamboo W640Black Silk "tomesode" W/some Emb Playing Animals, Crests W648Treasure Box Ss! Kimono Furisode ! Wedding, Fine, Art !Cherry Ssg! Kimono Furisode ! Wedding, Fine, Art !Brandnew Japanese Kimono Underwear Naga-juban Slip For Women L Size O2865Precious Antique Navy & Brown Reversible "chuuya-obi" W/sparrow, Bamboo W658Japanese Kimono Silk Obi Fabric Lavender Gray Flowers 53.5" Ka02z150 Old Japanese Town Pine Kimono Silk Fabric 186-aTall! Men's Dark Brown Silk "tsumugi Kimono" W/crest W637Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Dark Purple, Momiji, Cool!! S111019Kissako K-6313 Japanese Kimono Dress Robe Yukata For Women Fashion Cotton19154# Japanese Kimono / Men's Kaku Obi / Chikuzen HakataAntique Tea Green Silk "iro-tomesode Kimono" W/crests, Treasure Ship W461Crane Ssg! Kimono Furisode ! Wedding, Fine, Art !Crane Gss! Kimono Furisode ! Wedding, Fine, Art !Wholesale Price!! Japanese Vintage Haorihimo, Lot Of 50!!! P110401Wholesale Price!! Japanese Vintage Haorihimo, Lot Of 50!!! P110403Vintage Japanese Kimono Silk Fukuro Obi Woven Flower, Silver V234Easy-wearable Yellow-brown "nibushiki Kimono" W/"nadeshiko", "asanoha" W64519261# Japanese Kimono / Men's Yukata / Dyed Genji GurumaJapanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Gray, Shibori, Good Condition, S111018Japanese Vintage Kimono, Haori, Silk, Black, Sparkly Threads, Beautiful!! S1110919153# Japanese Kimono / Men's Kaku Obi / Woven WordsGorgeous Vintage Japanese Silk Embroidered Wedding Uchikake Screen WornOrange Silk "furisode" W/large "kiku", Water, Some Emb W642Black Silk "tomesode" W/"jukou-ori" Weaves, Gion Festival, Crests W718Brandnew Japanese Work Clothes "samue" / Men's Ll O2295Gold Silk "rokutsuu Fukuro-obi" W/arabesque, Phoenix W654Red-orange Silk Haori Fabric Bolt W/fine Weaves S616Antique Dark Blue-green Silk "hiraki Nagoya-obi" W/pine Tree, Sparrow W655Unused Japanese Kimono Fabric Bolt 440"_wool,off White,gray,blue,kasuri,#b185Kissako K-6312 Japanese Kimono Dress Robe Yukata For Women Fashion CottonKissako K-6352 Japanese Kimono Dress Robe Yukata For Women Fashion Cotton