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Wedding Kimonos

New Styles Win the Hearts of Brides-to-Be


A shiromuku wedding kimono. (C)Tsuruya Bridal Salon.

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Wedding kimonos are enjoying renewed popularity among brides-to-be. The shiromuku, a pure white ensemble that has long been the centerpiece of traditional Japanese wedding ceremonies, is being joined by an array of new styles, including variations of the hikifurisode (a kimono with long, flowing sleeves and a padded, trailing hem), and new effects are being achieved with the use of organdy fabrics and contemporary coiffures. The growing range of wedding kimono options is one of the factors behind the traditional garments' popularity.

Types of Wedding KimonoTraditional Japanese bridal garments include the shiromuku, irouchikake (an unbelted, padded outer robe in various colors and designs), hikifurisode, and furisode (a kimono with long sleeves but without a trailing hem). The shiromuku, which has been used since the Muromachi period (1333-1568), is the most treasured of the wedding outfits. Everything in the ensemble is white, from the uchikake (outer robe) and kakeshita (kimono worn beneath it), to the obi sash, wataboshi and tsunokakushi head coverings and zori sandals.


A strikingly elegant black hikifurisode combined with a western hairstyle. (C)Tsuruya Bridal Salon

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The irouchikake is an uchikake in a color other than white that is worn on formal occasions and decorated with cranes, tortoiseshells, and other auspicious objects that symbolize longevity and prosperity. The hikifurisode came into widespread use in the latter part of the Edo period (1603-1868) as a formal wedding garment for women of samurai (a high-ranking social class of warriors in feudal Japan) lineage. The garment features a long trailing hem and is worn with a tsunokakushi headdress.

The furisode, meanwhile, is a colorful kimono with long flowing sleeves worn by women who are single. The coming-of-age ceremonies held each January for 20-year-old men and women are extravaganzas of colorful furisode. Many brides, having worn a Western wedding dress for the marriage ceremony, change into a furisode for their wedding reception, wearing it one last time before they begin their married lives. 

New Kimono Styles Over the past few years, a number of TV stars and other celebrities who are also fashion trailblazers have got married in stunning kimonos, fueling young women's dreams of having a "kimono wedding." Widespread interest was sparked when one celebrity bride wore a shiromuku with pink trim and frills that she designed herself, and a popular actress and model got married in an elaborate 12-layer junihitoe kimono in the style of court women of the Heian period (794-1185). Another wedding of a famous singer and actress earlier this year was the talk of the town for the bride's lustrous uchikake robe embroidered with cranes, which was combined with a contemporary hairstyle featuring an artificial lily head corsage covering half of the bride's head.


Organdy uchikake robes are popular. (C)Bridal Salon SHICHIFUKUJIN

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Hikifurisode are the most favored type of kimono today. These kimonos have an elegant silhouette reaching down to the trailing hem for an overall effect that is feminine and sophisticated. Black hikifurisode are particularly popular. The material is embroidered in dyed, gold, or silver threads, and the style is both elegant and radiant. The colorful designs are themselves works of art. Black hikifurisode are often worn with a nontraditional hairstyle, and this contrast is yet another reason for their popularity.

Traditional Japanese garments made with organdy are another new trend. Organdy uchikake robes have a soft, floating quality. Roses and other Western motifs grace material colored in pastel shades like pink and purple, for a modern, Western undertone. These garments have a refreshing, contemporary beauty that marks them out from more traditional styles.

Katsura Yumi, a world-class wedding gown designer, recently turned her attention to the kimono and unveiled a number of stunning original garments. Her creations, which include an uchikake with a long, attractive train, defy categorization as Japanese or Western. Indeed, most of the outfits that are popular today feature a blend of Japanese and Western styles. A growing number of women are opting for a nontraditional hairstyle, such as a large corsage, when wearing a wedding kimono, instead of a traditional wig or headdress. The freedom to choose and adapt is a major factor behind the allure of the kimono.

The renewed popularity of kimono styles is also extending to the yukata (an unlined cotton kimono usually worn in summer), and the trend for creating new looks in wedding kimono by blending traditional and contemporary elements appears set to continue. (November 2009)

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