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What are the Different Types of Kimono Fabric?

By N. Kalu
Updated May 21, 2024
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Kimono fabric usually consists of hemp, polyester, silk, cotton or rayon. A kimono is a Japanese-style robe worn for a variety of occasions including weddings, funerals, and regular everyday events. Patterns on kimono fabric usually have some sort of meaning attached to them and typically feature an item from nature such as an animal, a plant, or a type of fruit.

Chirimen, or crepe fabric, is the most popular selling kimono fabric in Japan. It is very wrinkly, yet soft like silk. If a kimono is made with this fabric type, then it is important to note that the kimono will shrink after washing.

Kinran, or gold brocade, is an expensive type of kimono fabric. It is made with gold foil or silver foil and oftentimes contains gold and silver threading. The obi, the sash used to tie the kimono, is usually made from kinran.

Kyo yuzen, dyed fabrics, are decorated with traditional Japanese stenciling that allows for eye-popping, colorful design. Originating in the 1700s, this fabric type has maintained its popularity due to its versatility. Thin lines can be drawn and the harmonious mixing of color can be achieved using kyo yuzen.

Nishijin ori is the highest quality and most luxurious kimono fabric type of all. Kimonos made from this fabric are typically worn at weddings, state functions, and important ceremonies. It is made from gold or colored brocade on silk, and it is well-known for its beauty and sophistication. To make nishijin ori, more than 20 different steps must be taken. Designs are made using stitched yarn patterns that are then dipped in high-end dye and applied to silk.

Due to its delicate nature, nishijin ori must be hand washed in cold water. When ironing, a low setting should be used. Typically, kimonos of this type are hung to allow contact with fresh air. Nishijin ori fabric, along with other types of kimono fabric, can also be stored by folding them into tatoshi paper, a thin, tissue-like, Japanese paper form.

Kimono fabrics differ depending on the person wearing them. Furisode is typically worn by single, unmarried women. It is characterized by long sleeves, bright colors, and patterns all over the garment. Silk is the most popular fabric for furisode because it is the most formal of garments for young, unmarried women.

Married women typically wear kimonos made from neutral or black-colored fabric. Kimono fabric for these garments consists of all types, from silk to basic cotton. The most formal type of kimono for a married woman is called tomesode. It is made with single-colored fabric and only contains designs below the waist.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1005110 — On Jun 24, 2021

I wear bright furidode even though i am over 30 and married. We are not in Edo period anymore, right? It would be a pity not to wear beautiful old kimonos.

By fBoyle — On Oct 03, 2014

Since Nishijin Ori is the best type of kimono, this must have been what the emperors wore, correct?

I can't even imagine how much one would cost. Do they really use real gold in it? Is it like gold dipped thread? It must be amazing. Do they even make them anymore? And who buys them?

By bluedolphin — On Oct 02, 2014

@ZipLine-- Well, it's not really an issue anymore because most Japanese now only wear kimonos on special events. They do not wear a kimono in their day to day life.

In the past, kimonos had different fabrics and characteristics based on who was wearing them. It was sort of like an identity card that allowed people to easily identify the person and their social status and marital status. It might have made it easier for mothers, for example, to select a bride for their son. So I don't think that the goal was to oppress married women by limiting the fabric colors they could use for their kimonos. The kimonos served a purpose.

Nowadays, most people only have a few kimonos, usually silk ones, reserved for holidays and special occasions like weddings or tea parties.

By ZipLine — On Oct 02, 2014

Isn't it kind of sad that married women's kimono fabrics have dull, dark colors? She wore colorful, bright patterns before marriage and now she has to wear dull colors, as though her life is over. I find it kind of strange.

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