How to Wear a Kimono the Japanese Way: Rules and Instructions

If you’re lucky enough to own a kimono, or are planning to visit Japan and want to experience wearing one firsthand, it’s important to know how to put it on correctly. Here are some basic rules and instructions for how to wear a kimono.
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how to wear a kimono

Basic Rules for Wearing a Kimono

There are several things you need to keep in mind when wearing a kimono.

  1. First, the left side should always be over the right side. Only the deceased are dressed with the right side over the left. If you’re struggling to remember which side goes over which, just think of the phrase “leftover rice.”
  2. Second, the collar should show the back of your neck. A fist and a half should fit in the opening between the collar and your neck. Don’t forget to wear your hair up in a traditional style to show off the neck!
  3. The hemline needs to be parallel to the ground. If you have a curvy body and the kimono drapes over you in an asymmetrical way, you can wear padding to make your body more rectangular. Otherwise, the kimono should lay flat against your body.
  4. Make sure the obi (the wide belt) is tied in the back. The knot should be big and bulky, and situated to the left side. The widest part of the obi should cover your abdomen if you’re a woman, or be right above your hips if you’re a man.
  5. The four seasons are very important in Japan, and each has its own color palette. Spring is associated with gentle pastels and flowers, the fall with deep reds and browns, winter with black and other dark colors, and summer with bright colors. You should try to match the color and pattern of your kimono to the current season.
  6. When in doubt, ask a Japanese person! Wearing a kimono is an art form, and there are many small details that can make all the difference. If you have the opportunity to ask someone who knows how to wear a kimono, take advantage of it.
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With these guidelines in mind, you’re ready to start exploring the world of kimono! Whether you’re attending a special event or just want to try something new, wearing a kimono is a truly unique experience.

Instructions for Putting on a Kimono

If you want to know how to wear a kimono the traditional way, you’ll need to understand the different pieces that make up a complete set.

First, there’s the kimono itself. The sleeves should be long enough to cover your entire arm, and the overall kimono length should reach at least to your ankles. Next, you’ll need an obi, or sash. This is a wide strip of fabric that’s wrapped around the waist, and tied in the back. The obi can be plain or patterned, and is often brightly colored.

You’ll also need a date-jime, which is a narrow sash that helps to keep the kimono in place. It’s tied in the back, before putting on the obi. Finally, you’ll need the traditional undergarments:

  • susoyoke (or long johns) – for your lower body;
  • hadajuban – for your upper body;
  • nagajuban – a thin silk robe shorter than the kimono.

More cotton sashes can be used to keep each layer in place, but these are the main pieces. You’ll also need a pair of split-toed, ankle-high socks (such as the traditional tabi) and shoes such as zori or geta. Once you have everything, you’re ready to start putting on your kimono!

Put On the Undergarments

The first step is to put on the tabi (or socks), as this will be more difficult with the kimono in the way. Once you have your socks on, put on the susoyoke (or long johns) and hadajuban. These are typically white, but can be any color. Put on the nagajuban over those, and you’re done with undergarments!

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Put On the Kimono

Now you’re ready to put on the kimono itself. Holding the kimono collars 4 inches above the ends, wrap the right side around your body, then do the same with the left side. The two lower seams of the collar at the front should be level with each other, and the collar of the nagajuban (the final undergarment) should be visible under your kimono at the front.

You can now tie everything in place with the date-jime over your waist. Pull down any excess material over it, and you’ll be able to move on to the obi.

Tie the Obi

First, find the center of the obi. Place it over your waist so that the widest part is in the front, and the ends are in the back. Tie them together in a simple knot, then pull the fabric until it’s tight against your body. You can tuck the loose ends under the front part of the obi.

That’s it! Now you know how to wear a kimono. Keep in mind that this is a simplified guide – you may need to adjust your kimono depending on the style you’re wearing, and how formal the occasion is. But with these basics, you’re ready to visit Japan!

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