What Does Kimono Symbolize: Exploring the Meaning and Significance of Japan’s Traditional Garment

Kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that has been around since the Heian period. These beautiful garments have evolved over the years but still remain an important symbol in Japanese culture. Each kimono is carefully crafted and holds a unique meaning. They symbolize a wide range of things, such as social class, age, and occasion. In recent years, the kimono has become a worldwide symbol of Japanese fashion and culture.

There are different types of kimonos worn for different occasions. For example, a simple and understated kimono made of cotton or linen is typically worn by young children during festivals. Meanwhile, a more formal silk kimono is often worn by adults for important events like weddings and tea ceremonies. The symbolism of a kimono also extends to the patterns and colors used. For instance, cherry blossoms are often used in kimonos to represent the fleeting nature of life, while cranes symbolize longevity and good fortune.

While the kimono has become a global symbol of Japan, it has also faced criticism in recent years. Many have accused non-Japanese people of cultural appropriation for wearing kimonos as a fashion statement without understanding the garment’s cultural significance. Despite these controversies, the kimono remains an important symbol in Japanese culture and continues to inspire designers and fashion enthusiasts around the world.

History of the Kimono

The Kimono is a traditional garment worn in Japan. It is a T-shaped robe that falls straight down to the ankles, with wide and flat sleeves. The history of the Kimono can be traced back to the Heian period (794-1185) when aristocrats dressed in colored Kimono with luxurious fabrics. During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), the Samurai class started wearing Kimono made of different materials including silk and cotton. The Edo period (1603-1868) saw the emergence of street fashion and the birth of the Ukiyo-e art form depicting the common people wearing Kimono.

Different Types of Kimonos

Kimono represents the Japanese culture and traditions. It is a quintessential garment for Japanese women and men, which has a long and fascinating cultural history. The traditional Japanese kimono has evolved over a period, and today, there is an array of different types of kimonos used for specific occasions and purposes.

  • Furisode Kimono: This is a formal type of kimono worn by unmarried women during important, social occasions. It is characterized by its long, flowing sleeves and bright, vibrant colors. The furisode kimono is popularly used in coming-of-age ceremonies for young adults.
  • Tomosode Kimono: This type of kimono is worn by married women during significant occasions, such as weddings and ceremonies. It is characterized by its short, rounded sleeves and elegant designs that run across the bottom half of the garment.
  • Houmongi Kimono: The houmongi kimono, known for its graceful design, is suitable for semi-formal occasions. It has a more intricate design than the tomesode kimono, and it makes use of various colors that blend harmoniously. It is often worn by bridesmaids during weddings.

In addition to the types of kimonos mentioned above, there are also informal ones that are popular for everyday use. These are usually made from lighter fabrics and have simpler designs that are more casual compared to the formal types. Some of the informal kimonos include:

  • Yukata Kimono: This kimono is a summer casual wear that is usually made from lightweight cotton material. It is commonly worn to outdoor summer festivals and comes in bright, fun, and colorful designs that appeal to the younger generation.
  • Komon Kimono: The komon kimono is an everyday wear, mainly worn by women, and has a repeating pattern or design. It is more casual compared to the formal kimonos and features natural or abstract designs that are subtle.
  • Mofuku Kimono: This is a mourning kimono that is predominantly black and worn for funerals. It has an austere design and is intended to convey sadness and loss.

Kimonos: A Tapestry of Culture and Tradition

The diverse types of kimonos available today are a testament to the rich Japanese culture and tradition. From the bright and colorful furisode kimono to the somber and imposing mofuku kimono, each type of garment serves a specific occasion, making it a fascinating piece of Japanese history.

Kimono Type Occasion Characteristics
Furisode Kimono Formal occasions Flowing sleeves, vibrant colors
Tomosode Kimono Married women at formal events Short, rounded sleeves, elegant designs
Houmongi Kimono Semi-formal events & bridesmaids at weddings Graceful design, intricate, harmonious colors
Yukata Kimono Summer festivals, informal wear Lightweight cotton, fun, colorful designs
Komon Kimono Everyday wear Subtle, abstract designs, casual wear
Mofuku Kimono Funerals Austere design, predominantly black

Kimono remains an essential part of the Japanese culture, and it continues to inspire and influence fashion around the world.

Cultural Significance of the Kimono

Kimono is not just a piece of clothing, but it also holds significance in Japanese culture. Its roots can be traced back to the 8th century when Chinese influenced the Japanese culture. Initially, it was worn by noblewomen, but by the Muromachi period (1336–1573), it became more popular among the commoners as well. Kimono has been through several changes over the centuries, but it’s traditional essence has been preserved.

  • Traditional values: Kimonos symbolize the traditional values of Japanese culture. In Japan, everything has a set of traditional values associated with it. They take pride in their heritage and the Kimono is a symbol of that pride. It represents their culture and lifestyle.
  • Ancestral significance: The Kimono has inherited a sentimental value from the previous generations. People tend to pass down their Kimonos to their kids, creating a sense of bonding and nostalgia in the family. It also represents the connection with their ancestors.
  • Simplicity: The Kimono is also a simple dress that represents the minimalist way of life. The Japanese are famous for their simplicity and the Kimono is one of the examples of it. The design of the Kimono is straightforward, and there are no frills or excessive embellishments on it, making it a perfect fit for their lifestyle.

Types of Kimono

The Kimono has evolved over the centuries, and now there are several types of Kimonos available in the market. Each type has its design and pattern, representing different seasons and occasions.

The most common types of Kimono are as follows:

Furisode: It is a beautiful long-sleeved Kimono that is popular among young unmarried women. It’s worn on special occasions like graduation ceremonies, weddings, etc.
Iromuji: This type of Kimono is a plain-colored one that is worn by both men and women. It’s mostly used for formal occasions.
Komon: It’s a casual Kimono that can be worn at home or for a casual meeting with friends. It has patterns all over it.
Yukata: It’s a casual version of the Kimono that can be worn during the summer season. It’s made of cotton, making it more comfortable and lightweight.


Kimono is not just a piece of clothing, but it’s a reflection of Japanese culture. It’s a representation of traditional values, ancestral significance, and simplicity. With the evolution of time, the Kimono has also evolved but has continued to preserve its essence. It’s one of the most iconic symbols of Japanese culture that has transcended borders and has become famous worldwide.

Kimono Patterns and Colors

The variety of patterns and colors found on a Kimono can communicate a lot about the wearer and the occasion for which it is worn. Here are some of the most common patterns found on Kimonos and their symbolism:

  • Chrysanthemum: A symbol of longevity and rejuvenation, the Chrysanthemum pattern is often found on Kimonos worn by older women.
  • Bamboo: A symbol of strength and resilience, the Bamboo pattern is a popular choice for men’s Kimonos.
  • Peony: The Peony pattern is associated with good fortune and prosperity and is often worn by brides on their wedding day.

Colors are also an important element of Kimono design, with different hues carrying different meanings:

  • Red: A symbol of good luck and happiness, red is a popular color for celebratory occasions such as weddings and New Year’s Day.
  • Black: Black is typically associated with formality and is often worn to funerals or other solemn events.
  • White: White symbolizes purity and is often worn by brides or for other formal events.

Here is a table showing the symbolism of some of the most common colors found on Kimonos:

Color Symbolism
Red Good luck and happiness
Black Formality and solemnity
White Purity and formality
Pink Love and femininity
Gold Wealth and prosperity
Green Growth and harmony

When choosing a Kimono, it is important to consider both the patterns and colors to ensure that it is appropriate for the occasion and conveys the desired message. With so much symbolism and meaning woven into its design, the Kimono truly represents a rich and unique aspect of Japanese culture.

Kimono Fabric and Textiles

Kimono, one of the most iconic traditional Japanese garments, is not just a piece of clothing, but it is also a work of art that reflects Japan’s rich cultural heritage and the meticulous craftsmanship of its artisans. Kimonos are made of various types of fabrics, each with its unique characteristics that determine the garment’s quality and price.

In this article, we will delve into the various types of fabrics used to make kimono and their symbolic meanings.

  • Silk: Traditionally, silk is the most commonly used fabric for making kimono. It is known for its luxurious feel, soft texture, and brilliant luster. Silk represents wealth, elegance, and sophistication in Japanese culture, making it a popular choice for formal events and celebrations.
  • Cotton: Cotton is another popular fabric used to make kimono. It is lightweight, breathable, and comfortable to wear, making it ideal for casual occasions. Cotton kimono is also less expensive than silk ones, making them a more affordable option.
  • Wool: Wool kimono is suitable for cold weather due to its warmth and softness. Wool kimonos are less common than silk and cotton ones, but they are still popular among people who enjoy the rugged texture and natural warmth of wool.
  • Linen: Linen is a popular fabric in summer kimono due to its breathability and ability to absorb moisture. Linen kimono has a natural elegance and simplicity that complements the season’s breezy feel.
  • Synthetic fabrics: Some modern kimono makers use synthetic fabrics such as polyester or rayon. These fabrics are less expensive and more durable than natural ones, making them an affordable option for everyday use. However, they may lack the natural feel and texture of traditional kimono fabrics, and they are less popular among purists.

Table: Kimono Fabrics and their Characteristics

Fabric Type Characteristics
Silk Luxurious, soft, lustrous
Cotton Lightweight, breathable, comfortable
Wool Warm, soft, rugged
Linen Breathable, moisture-absorbing, elegant
Synthetic Less expensive, durable, less natural feel

Each fabric used to make kimono has its unique symbolism and meaning, which reflects the wearer’s personality, occasion, and taste. While silk represents luxury and elegance, cotton symbolizes simplicity and comfort. Wool represents warmth and ruggedness, and linen represents freshness and a relaxed feel. During the summer, linen and cotton are popular choices, while silk and wool kimonos are more popular during winter. Knowing the symbolic meaning of each fabric is essential for creating the perfect kimono for the occasion.

Kimono Accessories

Japanese kimonos are a traditional garment that have been worn for centuries and are still worn in modern times. Kimonos are known for their beauty, elegance, and symbolism. The accessories that accompany the kimono have significant meaning and play a significant role in the overall outfit. Here are some of the most common kimono accessories and their symbolism:

  • Obi: The obi is a sash that is tied around the waist of the kimono. It is often the most ornate part of the outfit and comes in a variety of designs and patterns. The obi symbolizes the wearer’s social status, with wider obi belts indicating higher status.
  • Tabi: Tabi socks are a type of split-toe socks that are worn with traditional Japanese footwear. The socks are usually white and symbolize cleanliness and purity.
  • Zori: Zori are traditional Japanese sandals that are worn with the kimono. These sandals have a flat sole and are made of straw, leather, or other natural materials. Zori symbolize simplicity and humility.

Hair Accessories

In addition to the accessories that are worn with the kimono, hair accessories are also an important part of the outfit. Here are some of the most common hair accessories:

  • Kanzashi: Kanzashi are decorative hair ornaments that are used to hold the hair in place. These ornaments have various designs and can be quite intricate. Kanzashi symbolize beauty and elegance.
  • Himo: Himo are decorative cords that are used to tie up the hair. These cords are often made of silk and come in a variety of colors. Himo symbolize the wearer’s creativity and individuality.
  • Kushi: Kushi are traditional Japanese combs that are used to style the hair. These combs come in a variety of sizes and styles and are often made of bamboo or other natural materials. Kushi symbolize purity and simplicity.

Kimono Kitsuke Accessories

Kimono Kitsuke Accessories are the various items used to dress oneself in a kimono. They include:

  • Koshihimo: Koshihimo is a type of tie that is used to hold the kimono in place. It is made of a narrow, long strip of cloth that is usually white. Koshihimo symbolizes the importance of following tradition.
  • Eri Shin: Eri Shin is a type of stay that is used to keep the collar of the kimono in place. It is usually made of plastic and is placed on the back of the neck. Eri Shin symbolizes attention to detail.
  • Datejime: Datejime is a type of belt that is used to hold the collar of the kimono in place. It is usually made of silk and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Datejime symbolizes the importance of keeping things in order.


The kimono accessories mentioned above are just a few of the many items that are used to complete a traditional Japanese kimono outfit. Each accessory has its own symbolism and meaning, adding depth and richness to the overall look. Whether worn for a special occasion or simply for the enjoyment of wearing a beautiful garment, the kimono and its accessories continue to fascinate people all over the world.

Accessory Symbolism
Obi Social Status
Tabi Cleanliness and Purity
Zori Simplicity and Humility
Kanzashi Beauty and Elegance
Himo Creativity and Individuality
Kushi Purity and Simplicity
Koshihimo Tradition
Eri Shin Attention to Detail
Datejime Keeping Things in Order

Table 1: Kimono Accessories and Their Symbolism

Traditional Kimono Hairstyles and Makeup

Wearing a kimono is not just about the clothing but also about the overall look. The hairstyle and makeup are important factors that complement the kimono and give it a complete traditional look.

Japanese women have been following different hairstyles and makeup styles with their kimonos for centuries. Here are the traditional kimono hairstyles and makeup styles that Japanese women have perfected over time:

  • Bun: The most common and traditional hairstyle is the bun, where hair is combed and tied up at the back of the head. Japanese women use hairpins, combs, and chopsticks to hold the bun in place.
  • Chignon: Another popular hairstyle is the chignon, where hair is twisted and tied up into a knot at the nape. This hairstyle is often accessorized with a decorative hairpin or comb.
  • Shimada: The shimada is a fancy, traditional hairstyle worn by geishas and brides. The hair is styled into a large, elaborate bun at the top of the head, and decorated with accessories like combs, flowers, or ornaments.

Along with the traditional hairstyles, Japanese women also follow a specific makeup style when wearing a kimono. The traditional makeup style is called “maiko makeup,” which is a style often used by geishas. It involves:

  • Skin: A creamy, pale-white foundation is used to create a flawless base.
  • Eyes: Heavy black eyeliner applied to the upper lid and lower waterline, and a neutral eye shadow is applied on the eyelids.
  • Lips: Lips are often tinted with a bright red color, giving a vivid appearance.

It is crucial to note that these hairstyles and makeup styles are not just for aesthetic purposes but serve as cultural symbols as well. These styles are symbols of femininity, modesty, and elegance, all elements that are highly valued in Japan.

Hairstyle Makeup
Bun Pale-white foundation, heavy black eyeliner, and bright red lips.
Chignon Pale-white foundation, heavy black eyeliner, and bright red lips.
Shimada Pale-white foundation, heavy black eyeliner, and bright red lips.

The combination of a kimono, traditional hairstyle, and makeup can create a distinctive look that represents Japan’s rich cultural heritage.

Modern-Day Uses of the Kimono

The kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that is still widely used in modern times. Its popularity has not waned, and it is still considered a staple in Japanese culture.

  • Special Occasions: The kimono is still commonly worn for special occasions such as weddings, tea ceremonies, and cultural festivals.
  • Casual Wear: The traditional use of the kimono has been reinvented, with modern designs and fabrics that make it suitable for casual wear. Nowadays, people wear the kimono as a fashionable statement piece, pairing it with western clothing items such as jeans.
  • As Art: Kimonos have become a treasured work of art, and many designers have created unique designs with intricate embroidery and prints. They are often displayed as statement pieces in museums and galleries around the globe.

Another way that the kimono has been utilized in modern-day Japan is by integrating it into a new type of streetwear fashion, known as “wa-lolita.” This fashion style combines traditional Japanese clothing with Western Gothic Lolita fashion.

Furthermore, the kimono has inspired trends in the fashion industry globally. Many designers have taken inspiration from the traditional garment, and the influence can be seen in fashion lines across the world.

Designer Collection
Alexander McQueen Pre-Fall 2015 Collection
Tom Ford SS13 Ready-to-Wear Collection
Louis Vuitton SS16 Resort Collection

The kimono has evolved into a significant symbol of Japanese culture. It still retains its traditional meaning while simultaneously being reimagined in modern forms. The garment has become a symbol of elegance, grace, and beauty.

Techniques Used in Kimono Making

The art of making a kimono involves several intricate techniques that have been perfected over centuries. Each step of the process requires immense concentration and attention to detail. Here’s a look at some of the key techniques used in kimono making:

  • Yuzen: This is a dyeing technique used to create intricate designs and patterns on the fabric. The process involves using a paste made from rice flour and seaweed to create a barrier where the dye should not flow.
  • Shibori: Shibori is a technique of manual resist dyeing, where the fabric is tied, folded, twisted, or compressed to create intricate patterns before dyeing. There are several sub-techniques of Shibori, each with unique patterns and processes.
  • Nui: This is the process of stitching intricate designs and decorations onto the fabric, often using metallic threads to add a glimmering effect.
  • Katazome: Katazome is a technique of printing designs onto fabric using stencils. The stencils are usually made from mulberry paper coated with persimmon juice, which acts as a resist. The dye is then applied over the stencil to create the desired pattern.
  • Chirimen: Chirimen is a technique of weaving silk to create a crinkled texture. The process involves twisting the silk fibers tightly before weaving them, which creates natural wrinkles in the fabric.
  • Itajime: Itajime is a technique of resist dyeing that involves folding and clamping the fabric before dyeing to create geometric patterns.
  • Gin-buori: This is a process of weaving using gold and silver threads, used to create intricate designs and add a luxurious shine to the fabric.
  • Nishiki-ori: Nishiki-ori is a technique of weaving that creates a brocade-like effect on the fabric, where the patterns are woven into the fabric using colored threads.
  • Yukata-zome: Yukata-zome is a technique of dyeing used to make yukata, a type of summer kimono made from lightweight cotton. This process involves using indigo dye to create deep blue patterns on white fabric.

The Significance of Number 9 in Kimono Making

In traditional kimono making, the number 9 is significant because it represents longevity and good fortune. The kimono-making process involves folding the fabric into 9 layers, which is said to bring good luck to the wearer. The number 9 is also significant in the fabric-dyeing process, where the cloth is dyed 9 times to give it an even and rich color. Additionally, the obi, which is the sash worn with the kimono, is tied in a specific way that involves 9 separate steps. This attention to detail and symbolism in the process of making a kimono is what makes it such a cherished and valued piece of clothing in Japanese culture.

Step Symbolic Meaning
1 Preparation – setting the foundation for success
2 The first knot – taking control of the situation
3 The second knot – gaining confidence
4 Making a loop – being flexible and adapting to change
5 Folding the loop – recognizing and accepting limitations
6 Making a bow – showing respect and courtesy
7 Making the ends even – striving for balance and harmony
8 Tucking in the ends – taking care of details
9 The final adjustment – achieving perfection

Kimono making is truly an art form that combines symbolism, craftsmanship, and tradition. The techniques used to create these incredible garments have been passed down through the generations, and they continue to be appreciated and celebrated today.

Kimono Preservation and Restoration Techniques

The kimono is not only a garment but also a work of art that showcases Japan’s unique culture and creativity. Preserving and restoring the kimono is an essential step in maintaining the spirit of this traditional attire. Several techniques are used to repair, clean, and maintain the kimono’s fabric, including the following:

Preservation Techniques

  • Storage: Kimonos need to be stored properly to protect them from damage and aging. They should be placed in clean, dry, and cool environments, away from direct sunlight, moisture, and insects.
  • Documentation: It is essential to document the kimono’s origin, history, and significance. This information serves as a reference for future generations to understand the kimono’s cultural and artistic value.
  • Conservation: Conservation involves using preventive measures to slow down the kimono’s deterioration process, such as minimizing touching or wearing it, restricting exposure to environmental factors, and using protective covers.

Restoration Techniques

Kimono restoration techniques aim to repair damages and restore the garment’s original beauty. Some of the common restoration techniques include:

  • Re-weaving: This technique involves repairing holes or tears in the kimono’s fabric by re-weaving the damaged area with new threads that match the original fabric’s color, texture, and pattern. It is a time-consuming and delicate process that requires skilled artisans.
  • Stain Removal: Removing specific stains from the kimono’s fabric involves thorough cleaning or spot treatments, depending on the type and severity of the stain.
  • Re-dyeing: Re-dyeing is used to restore the kimono’s color, especially for faded or discolored fabrics. The new dye should match the original fabric’s color, and the process requires expertise to ensure even distribution and avoid damage to the fabric.

Kimono Preservation and Restoration Techniques Table

Technique Description
Storage Proper storage to protect from damage and aging
Documentation Recording the kimono’s origin, history, and significance
Conservation Preventive measures to slow down the kimono’s deterioration process
Re-weaving Repairing holes or tears in the kimono’s fabric by re-weaving
Stain Removal Removing specific stains from the kimono’s fabric
Re-dyeing Restoring the kimono’s color for faded or discolored fabrics

By understanding and practicing these preservation and restoration techniques, we can contribute to the longevity and beauty of the kimono and ensure that future generations can cherish this traditional Japanese garment.

FAQs About What Does Kimono Symbolize

1) What is a kimono?

A kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that originated in the Heian period. It is a T-shaped, ankle-length robe that is typically made of silk and worn with an obi belt.

2) What does the kimono symbolize?

The kimono symbolizes Japanese culture and tradition. It is a symbol of elegance, refinement, and grace. The patterns and colors used on kimonos can also symbolize specific things, such as good luck, prosperity, and happiness.

3) Who wears kimonos?

Kimonos are worn by both men and women in Japan. However, they are mostly worn on special occasions or for formal events such as weddings, tea ceremonies, and festivals.

4) Can kimonos be worn outside of Japan?

Yes, kimonos can be worn outside of Japan. However, it is important to wear them respectfully and to follow the proper cultural customs and traditions associated with the garment.

5) Are there different types of kimonos?

Yes, there are many different types of kimonos. They vary in length, fabric, color, and pattern depending on the occasion they are worn for.

6) How is a kimono worn?

A kimono is worn by wrapping the left side over the right and securing it with an obi belt. Traditional Japanese sandals called geta are worn with kimonos, and the hair is typically styled in an updo.

7) How has the kimono influenced fashion?

The kimono has had a significant impact on fashion around the world. Its elegant silhouette and beautiful patterns have inspired designers to incorporate aspects of the kimono into their own designs.

Closing: What Does Kimono Symbolize?

Now that you’ve learned about the rich history and significance of the kimono, you may have a newfound appreciation for this beautiful garment. From its elegant silhouette to the intricate patterns and colors that it embodies, the kimono is truly a symbol of Japanese tradition and culture. Thank you for reading, and we invite you to come back again soon for more articles about the fascinating world of fashion and style.