“…You cannot call yourself a true Geisha until you can stop a man in his tracks with a single look…”

 

Most westerners associate the kimono with the mysterious and graceful Japanese Geisha girl. She has given westerners reason to covet the kimono – and with reason. Geisha literally means “artist” and late in the eighteenth century this could have described an array of Japanese women artists: Shiro, purely an entertainer; kerobi, a tumbling geisha; kido, a geisha who stood at the entrance to carnivals; or joro, a prostitute and the type of woman that professional geishas have been wrongly mistaken as for many years.

For westerners, just wearing a kimono makes a woman feel like a work of art, especially modern comfortable kimonos adorned in lace for wear at home.

memoirs-of-a-geisha

But there is more to learn from the Geisha and her kimono. As described in the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha :

“…Geisha are not courtesans and we are not wives. We sell our skills, not our bodies. We create another secret world, a place only of beauty. The very word Geisha means artist and to be a Geisha means to be judged as a moving work of art…”

And that work of art lives in a kimono.

What is the origin of the kimono?

The kimono has a rich history filled with legends, details, rules and mystery. But originally, it is Japanese garment traditionally worn by men, women and children. The word “kimono” literally means a “thing to wear” (ki “wear” and mono “thing”).

shodo_kimono

Kimono are T-shaped, straight-lined robes worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. Kimono are wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right and secured by a sash called an obi, which is tied at the back.

In modern day Japan, kimono are most often only worn by women on special occasions, the most common being the coming-of-age ceremony at 20 years of age. Choosing an appropriate type of kimono requires knowledge of the garment’s symbolism and subtle social messages, reflecting the woman’s age, marital status, and the level of formality of the occasion.

Types of kimonos

There are many many types of kimonos. Only a few are described here:

memoirs_of_a_geisha

Furisode

(振袖): furisode literally translates as swinging sleeves—the sleeves of furisode average between 39 and 42 inches (1,100 mm) in length. Furisode are the most formal kimono for unmarried women, with colorful patterns that cover the entire garment. They are usually worn at coming-of-age ceremonies (seijin shiki) and by unmarried female relatives of the bride at weddings and wedding receptions.

Iromuji kimono examples

Iromuji
(色無地): single-colored kimono that may be worn by married and unmarried women. They are mainly worn to tea ceremonies. The dyed silk may be figured (rinzu, similar to jacquard), but has no differently colored patterns.

japanese-wedding-kimono

Uchikake

Uchikake is a highly formal kimono worn only by a bride or at a stage performance. The Uchikake is often heavily brocaded and is supposed to be worn outside the actual kimono and obi, as a sort of coat. One therefore never ties the obi around the uchikake. It is supposed to trail along the floor, this is also why it is heavily padded along the hem. The uchikake of the bridal costume is either white or very colorful often with red as the base color.

 

Susohiki / Hikizuri
The susohiki is mostly worn by geisha or by stage performers of the traditional Japanese dance. It is quite long, compared to regular kimono, because the skirt is supposed to trail along the floor. Susohiki literally means “trail the skirt”. Where a normal kimono for women is normally 1.5–1.6 m (4.7–5.2 ft) long, a susohiki can be up to 2 m (6.3 ft) long. This is also why geisha and maiko lift their kimono skirt when walking outside, also to show their beautiful underkimono or “nagajuban”.

…these are only a few of the types of kimonos worn by women, there are a multitude of other types worn by men and by children. There are also an array of kimonos worn by Geisha.

The Modern Kimono

 Jotaro Saito is Japan’s most prominent modern kimono designer. Born as the third generation kimon designers in a family of kimono designers, Saito was literally born into Kyoto’s textile and garment world. His modern style kimono’s are known in fashion worldwide. 

Modern Japanese Kimono from the Power of Flower Jotaro Saito 2014 Collection.

Modern Japanese Kimono from the Power of Flower Jotaro Saito 2014 Collection.

North American women have the leisure to take as they wish from the traditions of the geisha and her kimono.

We dare you to embrace your inner Geisha.

Blush Naked Envy kimono in black

tagged in kimono, robe