Suggestions on where to start in wearing kimono from someone who’s been in the hobby for over a decade…
I don’t know if people who attend our panels are actually interested in this topic but I’ve definitely convinced myself it’s information I want to impress upon those new to the hobby whether they want to hear it or not. A lot of this is based on comments I used to see or hear a lot, but maybe things are changing for the better. What I’ve perceived is a difficulty in acquiring all the little odds and ends important for a well put together kimono look. Folks new to the hobby are immediately drawn to the most opulent beautiful kimono and become focused on that one kimono type… the furisode. That first purchase is a doozy! Now that you’ve spend 200$? 300$? More? on your first kimono, what happens next? Do you hunt down a juban with a matching sleeve drop? Do you coordinate out a color pallet for obi and accessories? Do you plan where you can wear that outfit? You’ve spent something like 500$ and all you have is a single outfit. A single FORMAL outfit. How many people reach that point? How many continue on in the hobby and purchase another kimono and obi plus all the accessories (basically all of the furisode accessories won’t carry over to anything but another furisode, MAYBE another formal kimono). What I hate to see happen is this sort of series of events; you fall in love with a furisode. It’s expensive but gosh, it’s the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen! You’ve saved up and buy it. It arrives, and you slip it on and it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever worn. A couple things are missing but you’ll work on it. What kind of obi should you get? What color? The cord thing? Probably any under kimono will be fine. But in the end, the completed outfit doesn’t look anything like the girls in the magazine. Stuff’s puffy that should be smooth, the obi you found seems off (maybe too short?) And your collars are just out of control. Do you continue with this hobby? Or do you cut your loses and sell everything?
What I would rather see is people who jump in at the easier end of things and work their way up, learning and sticking around for the rest of their lives!
So let’s back up. You’re new to the hobby and you have an eye on one of those gorgeous long sleeved kimono. You’ve saved up and you’re ready to go. Pleeaaase please please please, WAIT! (unless 300$ isn’t a big deal for your daily budget, you do you and you probably don’t need to be reading this anyway, enjoy!)
For the rest of us who look at $300 and say “Ah yes, my car payment and a couple grocery trips!” Ask yourself the following questions;
What are your goals in the kimono hobby? Beautiful art for you wall? Repurposing a kimono? Or something you want to wear?
Art on your wall is pretty much a non issue, you don’t need accessories nor do you need to learn how to dress yourself/someone else. This is also a great excuse for buying kimono that won’t fit you or are vintage and not appropriate for regular wear. Proceed.
If you want to repurpose kimono fabric into other craft projects, you can find some pretty cheap fabrics that may have holes, stains or other problems that make them unwearable and I fully support recycling or upcycling those kimono (especially anything that’s late Shōwa era or newer so like 1950+). If you’re spending a couple hundred dollars to take apart a wearable kimono…. neat…
For those of you who want to actually wear kimono and are not working with a huge budget the furisode should not be your first kimono. Period. Keep it simple. Start with the basics. Get a yukata. Everything you need to know about wearing kimono starts there. If you don’t know how to adjust a single layer of collars or how to fold the ohashori of an unlined kimono you’re not ready for furisode yet! You may even be surprised how much your taste in kimono designs will change as you learn more about patterns, seasons, colors. I have a very different taste in kimono today than I did 10 years ago, I’ll have different tastes 10 years from now too; it’s an evolving, living, breathing hobby and I hope you too will experience the joys of growing as a kimono enthusiast and collector.