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The Art of Donning a Kimono: 5 Essential Guidelines to Observe

by Julie . on Apr 18, 2023

In contemporary times, while the majority of Japanese individuals have embraced Western-style attire, the traditional Japanese kimono continues to be donned during significant events such as weddings, official functions, and graduation ceremonies.
The act of wearing a kimono adheres to strict guidelines and demands extensive practice and knowledge. In fact, the Japanese have coined a unique term for the art of donning a kimono, referred to as kitsuke.
Selecting a kimono and its accompanying accessories must be undertaken with care, as kitsuke is a highly regulated art form. For instance, factors such as marital status, age, and the nature of the occasion should influence a woman's choice of kimono. However, this article will not delve into these specifics.
Instead, we will focus on the five fundamental principles to adhere to when wearing a kimono, regardless of the particular type of kimono chosen.

1. Place the left panel over the right panel

To ensure you're wearing your kimono (or yukata) properly, confirm that the left panel is overlapped with the right panel. Avoid crossing your kimono in the reverse order, as this is reserved for the deceased. Wearing a Japanese kimono with the right panel over the left represents death, and it's best to steer clear of this.
A handy tip to recall the correct side: the final portion of the kimono to be closed is on the side of the heart. Always verify your kimono's positioning before stepping out.

2. Opt for white tabi socks

tabi japaneseThe kimono represents a sophisticated piece of attire, making it essential to don white tabi socks with your geta or zori footwear. Steer clear of bare feet and flashy socks!
A helpful tip for those who plan to don a kimono in the future: slip into your tabi socks before putting on your kimono. Once enveloped in this elegant garment, accessing your feet may prove challenging.
Conversely, if you prefer to wear a yukata, you can either keep your feet bare in your Japanese sandals or opt for vibrant socks to express your individuality.

3. Wear a Nagajuban Under Your Kimono

Japanese kimonos are made from delicate and expensive fabrics, and should be washed as little as possible to extend their lifespan. To protect the kimono, Japanese people wear a nagajuban, a white cotton dress, underneath. The nagajuban is only visible at the collar level and adds an additional layer of modesty. Women should wear the collar nicely shaped and slightly pulled back to clear the nape of the neck.

4. Reserve the Yukata for Informal Events

The yukata is a casual version of the kimono made from lightweight cotton and is worn without a nagajuban. It is typically worn after bathing, at home, or during summer fireworks festivals. It is not suitable for formal events, tea ceremonies, or weddings. To differentiate between a yukata and a kimono, check out our article on the differences between the two.

5. Experiment with Modern Kimono Variations

If wearing a traditional kimono seems too daunting, try experimenting with modern variations. These days, there are shorter and lighter kimono options available with more trendy patterns. Discover how to wear a Japanese kimono women and kimono men, whether it's for the office, a night out, or just lounging at home. Browse our collections of Japanese kimonos for women and men and find the perfect one for you.

Now that you know the five essential rules for wearing a Japanese kimono, it's time to give kitsuke a try!
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