How to wear a traditional kimono (men)
First of all, choose the style of kimono as there are many different types available. The most formal are usually black with a gold obi that is tied around the waist. The exciting part of the kimono is the jacket that is laid over the top of the main part of the kimono.
So here are the steps to follow. The First layer is a white cotton sleeveless garment that is a bit like a tunic. There is usually some colourful silk embroidery that is on one side. The idea is that it is visible when you wear the jacket over the top. The sleeveless vest is fastened to the body with a lightweight band that is fixed tightly above the waist.
The next step is to wrap the kimono itself around the body. The kimono I wore was long enough to reach my ankles and needed to be wrapped around twice until it was tight. The difficult part is fitting your arms into the sleeves. They are very loose and baggy – half-sewn up so that your arms can fit through them easily.
A thick braided sash called an obi is then tied tightly over the kimono so that it acts as a belt to keep the kimono in place. I felt very warm by the time this had been done. The obi is always tied at the back – this was done for me but I’m sure that you could do this yourself with practice. The ladies obi is really impressive – almost like a handbag that is attached to the lower back.
You’re almost there. The final part is to where the jacket over the kimono. This is the most delicate and elaborate part. There is a great choice of kimono styles and motifs. Various birds, flowers and Japanese symbols are sewn on to the jacket rather than being printed, this gives them a wonderful decorative flourish. I saw several different colours with many in deep greens and golds and reds. Most would be worn on formal occasions such as weddings and graduation ceremonies. It is also common for children to wear kimonos on their fifth birthdays.
Wearing a kimono for the first time is a special occasion, if a little daunting because of the choices available. Even in Japan, its fairly unusual for people to wear them very often. This being said, I did enjoy wearing it. I had to be extra careful not to damage or stain the sleeves when eating, but it felt great to open the jacket loose and let the sleeves puff out. It certainly is an impressive garment, and the wide sleeves give the wearer plenty of impact.
There are resources on the history of kimono available on line, and the V&A is holding an exhibition of kimonos from 7 August. Titled Kimono – Kiyoto to Catwalk*, it will look at how the style of the kimono has evolved over the years.
Various kimonos are available to hire from kimonodego** in London.
*For details of the exhibition: https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/kimono-kyoto-to-catwalk
**For kimono hire, contact Mamiko Sato, director of Kimono dego: 07813 710582.