-Refers to Tips & Tricks: Where to Buy Kimono-
Now you know where you can get your pretties, and you've been browsing through various websites, admiring all those lovely kimono that you now have access to.
There is only one problem: out of all the thousands out there, how do you choose one?
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing your kimono, first or otherwise:
(By the way, please note that this post is mainly for those who are seriously looking into wearing kimono in the traditional way, and doesn't really apply to those who are just looking for a kimono for display, as a Halloween/dress-up costume or to lounge around the house in.)
1. What condition is it in?
This, to me, is the first thing to consider before even look at anything else in a kimono, or even just clothes in general. After all, if you plan on wearing the thing, it should be in a decent condition! Stained clothes make for a very sloppy impression. In the case of kimono, this means that the kimono shouldn't have stains (at least, not very visible ones!) or be discoloured or have rips and tears. Most sellers will let you know the condition of the kimono, and will take upclose pictures of any flaws. Also, beware of patina (discoloured) spots, as most old kimono have them.
If you're more adventurous or good with cleaning, you can still try buying stained kimono and cleaning them. I should warn you that I am not much of a cleaning person, and I tend to prefer modern kimono as they are easy to clean and care for and are most likely brand new i.e. no spots, stains or tears, so I'm afraid I don't have much advice for you on this!
2. Does it fit?
I know that so many people say that kimono are free-size and fits everyone. Well, this is true - but only to a certain extent, i.e. only up to a certain height, measurement, etc.
(This part is for women only, as I don't have much experience with dressing men!)
For most modern kimono, the kimono is manufactured to a set length and width, so they fit most everyone from 150cm to 170cm tall who have a maximum hip measurement of about 100cm (believe me that it's the maximum - I've hit it already and can testify it's the max). Outside of the larger end of this range, you would have to find "Tall Size" kimono or "Big Size" kimono or have something made specially to fit you. If you are too small to fit this range, there are usually a few nifty tricks you can learn to make a larger kimono fit.
If you are looking to buy antique kimono, it is even more difficult to judge whether or not the kimono can fit, as most antique or vintage kimono are rather small.
You can still wear kimono that are too large or too small for you, but it will take some fiddling around and they aren't as easy to put on as kimono that fit well.
Here's just a quick way of measuring fit:
- Kimono Length - not including the collar, the kimono's length down its center back seam must be the same measurement your height is, give or take 10cm. Eg, a 160cm tall person can wear a kimono that's 150cm-170cm long. However, please bear in mind that the more the kimono length deviates from your height, the more difficult it is to wear the kimono.
- Hem Width - measure your hips and add on another 20cm. This measurement should be how wide your kimono is from the hem of the "skirt". If your hips+20cm measurement is the same as or less than the kimono width, you're safe. I think you can wear a kimono with a hem measurement of your hips+10cm or so, but it will take some fiddling around with it and might take up time.
I will be posting a longer, and more comprehensive post about kimono fit later. I've typed out part of it already, so hopefully it will be out soon!
3. Where am I wearing it to?
This is pretty high up on my list because I place alot of importance on wearing kimono that are correct for the time, place and occasion (TPO for short). TPO is what decides the style of kimono you should wear, the formality level of the kimono, the appropriate way to accessorize, and a whole bunch of other rules that are actually too tedious to learn for most people.
(You can disregard this if you're not bothered much with TPO. Outside of Japan, the rules are far more relaxed anyway! :) I'm just the kind of person who feels bothered when not dressed appropriately for the situation no matter what I'm wearing - kimono or dresses!)
(Btw, this part is also for women only. As I mentioned earlier, I have very very little experience with dressing men in kimono ^^;;)
Since this is only meant to be about quick tips, I'll just highlight a few general rules here, and write another longer post later about formality. FYI, most of this information comes from one of my kimono books that is solely on TPO :)
- If you are planning on wearing your kimono to casual situations such as shopping, lunch at restaurants or even house-cleaning, use less costly materials such as cotton, wool and good-quality polyester. Less formal kimono in this category include komon, wool kimono and yukata. If you're going somewhere a little more formal than shopping, you can also wear iromuji with nagoya obi.
- For semi-formal situations (tea ceremony, parties, formal theatre), you can wear iromuji with fukuro obi, tsukesage or houmongi. Appropriate fabric would usually be silk or very high-quality polyester in rare cases.
- The most formal situations include weddings and coming-of-age ceremonies. Furisode is the most formal kimono for unmarried women, and cannot by worn by married women. These can be worn for just about any very formal situation for single women (parties at hotel, weddings, graduation, Coming of Age ceremony, etc). Irotomesode and Kurotomesode, on the other hand, are the most formal kimono for married women and cannot be worn by single women. These are pretty much reserved for weddings only, as most married women would wear houmongi for other formal occasions. Very high-quality polyester may be acceptable if accessorized appropriately, but silk is really the best choice here.
- Mofuku is a type of kimono that is all black except for five family crests - two on the front shoulders, three on the back. These should not be worn at all except in funerals. Some people modify mofuku so that they are wearable in casual situations, but I personally feel uncomfortable with wearing something that was once used for a funeral.
4. What colour am I most attracted to?
We are always so spoiled for choice when it comes to kimono colours! Pale pinks, bright blues, sunny yellow, forest greens - anything from soft calming shades to bright neon eyeball-burning colours, you will be able to find them on kimono. And the best part is - somehow, everything still looks good on everyone! I find it quite difficult to find a kimono that makes me look pasty or sick or bad in general, as all I have to do is add in a few accessories like date'eri or han'eri (accessories at the collar of the kimono) and voila! The usual effect of certain colours is instantly offset by the new colour that is closer to your skin.
So how do you decide what colour your first kimono should be?
There are two ways you could go: either pick a colour that you know looks good on you and would feel comfortable wearing, or try to find a recurring colour that you are attracted to and go with that.
5. What's it made of? Is it easy to care for?
If you like to take good care of your belongings, it is probably easier for you to get something that's easy-care, such as polyester and cotton. Silk and wool are harder to clean and you always need to ensure that they're kept in suitable conditions. You ought to air out your kimono at least twice a year, aside from after each time you wear it out, but I prefer to air out my silk kimono more often, just in case.
Antique kimono are also especially hard to care for, as they are made of old silk and are very fragile, so even just touching them would require washing my hands and tying up my hair so that I won't accidentally get any natural oils on them (natural oils discolour silk and will attract moths!! x___x)
I'm keeping this post to just five tips, because it's already far too long. I hope that these tips, coming from my experience with overshopping in my earlier days, will help you decide on your first kimono ^_^