A majority of the kimono that you see on my blog (and even more that you don't see!) were bought online, as the internet is the easiest place to find plenty of authentic kimono. However, for every beautiful authentic kimono sold online, there are probably a hundred fake kimono that are being sold for ten times their worth.
It is important for an online shopper to be able to identify a real or a fake kimono just by looking at pictures on a screen. This can include a multitude of things - the fabric used, the build of the kimono, the pattern on the fabric. There are many indicators of fake kimono that are quite easy to spot once you get used to it.
However, as a beginner in shopping for kimono online, it will be quite difficult to tell a large number of these differences. In fact, there are some fakes that are so well-crafted that even a seasoned shopper can barely tell that something isn't quite right with it. There are also some sellers that sell authentic kimono at incredibly ridiculous prices (eg: $1,000 for a kimono that's been stained and cut to pieces!).
As such, I suggest to all beginner shoppers to stick to shops that are reputable and well known for selling good quality, authentic kimono at affordable prices.
I am outlining below the usual shops that I frequently direct my readers to as they are known to be reliable. I have bought from all of the shops listed in this post before, and can testify that all of my personal experiences with them have been good.
eBay Shop: Ichiroya - eBay
(Note: It seems that Ichiroya's eBay shop is currently empty. Check again later, though - when they post stuff, it's usually a great deal!)
Ichiroya is actually my favourite English webshop to browse through! They always have such beautiful items, and many of them are at quite decent prices. You can always find a multitude of things of any condition from brand-new to old and antique, and from wearable items to display pieces. One thing I really like about them is that they have full kimono sets for sale, readily matched and put together so that beginners in kimono coordination don't have to feel unsure about their choices.
Another point in their favour is their Kitsuke DVD, just about the only English DVD I know of that teaches you how to wear kimono. The main "stars" of the DVD are Yuka, the owner Ichiro's wife, and their daughter.
If you register for their newsletter, you will get to read alot of interesting news about Japan and kimono-related articles every Sunday. All of the Ichiroya staff are very helpful, and if you ever need help in anything, such as finding a piece with a specific motif, or finding an obi to match your kimono, or even tailoring service for their kimono bolts, they are always willing to help you in any way possible.
One down point is that compared to some of the other shops, their items may seem a little expensive. However, I still buy from them as they do carry some rare items, and their items are usually in better condition than other shops.
eBay Shop: RyuJapan - eBay
Ryujiro-san is another great seller with very affordable kimono. His supply isn't always consistent, but when he has a new promotion, there is always a great selection to choose from. Most of his new promotions are in line with whatever season is approaching - yukata in June, wool kimono in September, etc. His eBay shop also has a great choice of kimono and kimono items all year-round.
Nearly all of my wool kimono are from Ryujiro-san. He had a wool kimono promotion about 3 years ago and was selling them from USD1 to USD10, so I got a huge bunch of them for really cheap!
One thing that I really love about Ryujiro-san are his sales - on the last few hours of his sales, the discounts can go as low as 60%, sometimes 70% off. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten good quality yukata obi for USD4 just by waiting patiently :)
3. Yamatoku Classic
Webshop: Yamatoku Classic
eBay Shop: Yamatoku Classic - eBay
Yet another favourite! My first kimono that weren't yukata were bought from their eBay shop :) I used to constantly drool over their kimono sets, which are more expensive but also more complete than the Ichiroya ones. Recently, they have been having more sales and promotions, with kofurisode being sold for as little as USD9.99, and proper furisode sold at a 30% discount.
The main negative point about buying from Yamatoku is that you have to be quite careful with the condition of the item you are buying - quite alot of them have stains somewhere on the kimono, and are quite highly priced for kimono in such a condition. Still, their recent festivals and promotions have had many mint condition items, so maybe this only applies to some of their older stuff :)
There are, of course, far more shops than this that I have bought from and that are reputable, but these are my top picks for beginners :) This also does not include Japanese webshops and Yahoo Japan Auctions, my main source of pretties these days.
Happy Shopping! :)
Note: For those buying from Japanese webshops or from YJA, you will most likely need to use a middleman service, which may significantly up your costs. I use Noppin (http://www.noppin.com/) but there are others out there that you may prefer. I'll write another short post on using middleman websites later.