Mamechiyo, a kimono designer and the owner of an antique kimono shop. (

Young Women Create New Tradition
March 24, 2003

A kimono boom is spreading among young women in Japan. Antique kimonos that are available at affordable prices have arrived on the market, and women are enjoying wearing them in casual, nontraditional ways.

Antique Kimonos Popular Among Young Women
The kimono is the traditional clothing of Japan. They are quite beautiful, especially those worn by women, but looking good in them is another story, because there are tricks to wearing them. It takes time to learn how to put on a kimono, and there are detailed conventions about the right type of kimono and pattern for different occasions. Furthermore, kimonos are generally expensive. What all this means is that just about the only opportunities for young women to wear kimonos these days are when they take part in a traditional occasion, such as a tea ceremony, or when they attend a wedding or some other formal ceremony. They usually get advice or help in putting them on from their more experienced grandmothers or from a beauty salon.

Recently, though, the kimono has been making its way into the fashions of women in their twenties and thirties. But the way these women wear kimonos can be a major departure from the past. Kimonos are now sometimes worn over Western clothes like a coat, and some women pin a favorite brooch on the obi. Another popular twist is to wear tabi (Japanese socks with a split big toe) that are color patterned instead of the traditional white. Each woman is coordinating her own kimono style.

No Different from Western Clothes
The kimono boom got started around three years ago with the help of the Internet. The number of kimono shops and individuals posting pictures of people in kimonos began to increase, and interest in traditional Japanese clothes has grown accordingly. Soon afterward, with a fad for vintage clothes taking root in Japan, used kimonos became popular. While it generally costs more than ¥250,000 ($2,083 at ¥120 to the dollar) to purchase a kimono and its related accessories new, a used kimono can often be had for around ¥5,000 ($41.67). At such an affordable price, young women can buy several and enjoy the traditional custom of wearing kimonos with motifs that match the season, such as bamboo for January and ume (Japanese apricot) blossoms for February. They can also wear these kimonos on a variety of everyday occasions. As for the matter of how to don them, many young women learn only the very basics and wear these kimonos as though they were Western clothes. Interestingly, the most popular colors and patterns are those that were prevalent in the early half of the twentieth century. These bold designs have caught the fancy of women today.

Young women wearing antique kimonos with bold, colorful designs were a common sight at coming-of-age ceremonies in January 2003. These ceremonies are held all over Japan every January for people who turn 20 during that school year. The overwhelming majority of young women in attendance wear kimonos, and this year saw a dramatic change in their kimonos from the dark hues and subdued patterns that had been the rule over the past few years to a bright splash of color.

On a side note, the influence of the kimono is being felt in the fashion world overseas as well. At one party a famous woman designer was seen wearing a kimono-style coat with a fashionable handbag and shoes. Popular now are corsages and small bags made from kimono fabric, and another item that seems likely to enjoy a boom is belts made using a combination of leather and Japanese fabric.

Copyright (c) 2003 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
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