Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge Interlude: Questions?

In my effort to bring examples only from my personal collection, I seem to have sabotaged myself in regards to Q. Realizing my quandary, I did what any logical person does these days and reached out to my social circle for assistance. From them, I have received several questions regarding kimono, kitsuke, and, of course, motifs, that I am using today to answer. If you, my kind readers, have questions of your own, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments!

How much should one expect to pay for a quality authentic kimono?

There area  variety of factors that can go into the price of a kimono, from the materials and style in which it is made to who is selling it. Pre-worn kimono tend to go for a lower price, and many sellers will be sure to point out any flaws or stains that might be present. I do a fair amount of shopping on ebay and have found several reputable shops based in Japan who specialize in used kimono and offer some starting as low as $10-$15 USD. While that price is more reflective of yukata or other unlined kimono, you can sometimes find lined kimono at such deals if you know what you're looking for. Bear in mind, however, that if buying from Japan, you will also be paying a greater amount for shipping. This is definitely the low end of the price spectrum and realistically, you are more likely to see prices in the $50 to $200 range, again, depending on the quality and formality of the material. Also to bear in mind, prices like this do not even come close to what something exceedingly formal, like an uchikake (wedding kimono) is likely to fetch.

I should add here that I have never bought a new (never worn) kimono that was not a yukata, and it's my understanding that modern kimono have significantly higher prices. They are also more likely to be bought for a specific formal occasion and will see minimal wear.

As for the caveat of 'quality,' I do not consider pre-worn kimono to be of an inferior quality to new. What is important to me when looking for a kimono is fit, coloring, versatility and wearability (good sellers will be frank if a garment is no longer wearable and better suited for taking apart and used for other projects) What I would consider to be inferior quality are garments are Asian-inspired prints on cheap satin fabric, such as 'costume pieces' that you might find at Halloween.

What's a good source for buying your first kimono and obi?

The most ideal situation for a first purchase is to be able to do your shopping in person, where you can hold the garment up to check for size and fit, and compare it to a selection of obi for the best match. If a shop or vendor is selling kimono, one would hope that they would be able to offer some insight into best matches for motif and color. This is not always the case, especially if you have managed to find a vendor at an anime convention or similar, but at least you would be able to handle the garments in person.

I realize that this is not possible for everyone and so my next recommendation would be to have a look at Kimono Flea Market Ichiroya. Ichiroya has a very good 'sizing guideline' and an excellent reputation for customer service, so if you have further questions, I feel confident that they would be able to assist.

Are there gender specific kimono?


While patterning on a kimono can be a huge tell as to whether it was meant for a man or a woman, the best way to be sure is to look at the sleeves and side seam on the body. If you look at my left sleeve in the photo below, you can see where I am showing how it is open at the back.

Taken at my 'Don't be That Gaijin' kimono panel at Clockwork Alchemy 2015.
Women's kimono will always have this feature at the sleeves, and at the side-seam, there will be a space of approximately 3 inches between where the sleeve is affixed at the shoulder and where the top of the side-seam begins. This space is built in to allow for ease of movement with the wider obi that are worn by women.

On a man's kimono, the seam affixing the sleeve to the body will be much longer, leaving only 2 inches or so of fabric at the back of the sleeve where they are not connected This section of sleeve will be closed on a man's kimono, and there will be no gaps in the side seam as there are on women's kimono. As the obi for men are narrower, and the obi itself is worn more about the hips than waist, men have no need for the space at the side seam to allow for mobility.

Also to note: A women's kimono should be as long as she is tall, as it is folded in the middle to take up any extra length. A man's kimono need only be as tall as he is at the shoulders as a fold is not taken when he is dressing.

Whenever questions surrounding kimono and gender arise, I feel it necessary to point out that kimono are decidedly gendered and there really isn't any sort of middle ground. People, on the other hand, are not so easily categorized, so my best recommendation is that if you wish to wear 'men's' garments, wear men's garments. If you wish to wear 'women's'  kimono, then wear women's kimono, but in either case, be aware of what guidelines should be followed and don't try to mix the two-- centuries of fashion have come to dictate that the articles for one are not meant for wearing with articles of the other.

What are 'mon' and how can I identify them?

Mon are family crests that can be found dyed or embroidered at certain specific points on a kimono. The number of mon found on a garment will dictate just how formal the garment is.

The mon in this example is a stylized flower, placed at center back.
If you find only one crest at the center back, that marks the least formal of formal kimono. next in level of formality would be three crests: one at the center back, and then one on the back of each sleeve, a couple of inches from where it attaches to the body. The most formal kimono will have five crests: the first three as outlined above, plus one on each front panel, just inside where the sleeve attaches to the body.

If you have a kimono that has mon, I highly recommend making the effort to discover which family it belongs to, and there are resources and guides to mon to assist this. To do so is to show respect for whomever previously owned the garments, and it can help you answer any questions that may arise if someone notices the crest.

Thank you for joining me for this brief reprieve from motifs. We'll be back to the theme properly tomorrow with Rangiku (spider chrysanthemum, but I'll likely talk about other chrysanthemum too). If you have any questions that we didn't manage to answer today, please feel free to ask in the comments. I am happy to help, if I may.


  1. Very good explanation - I am learning so much. I need to check that pattern that I have to see if it complies with your guidance.

    1. I'm so glad that there are people like you who are finding this useful! If it's the Simplicity pattern you're talking about, I haven't really used that one though I have seen it floating around. If you are interested, the Folkwear kimono pattern is the one that I use and find it to be considerably more authentic in its suggestions and research.