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Types of Traditional Japanese Clothing

Traditional Japanese clothing changes based upon season, events, age, and sometimes even gender. The changes in clothing are usually matched with the weather (for example, thinner fabrics in the summer) or by the formality of the event (more elaborate clothing for a child’s first visit to the temple or a wedding). All these different choice can get a bit confusing, so let’s take a look at the different types of traditional Japanese wear.

Japanese Clothing and the Seasons

Seasonal changes are generally based upon the fabric and the patterns. In warmer months, thinner, unlined kimonos are popular, while in the winter thicker lined kimonos help maintain warmth. Popular fall patterns include chrysanthemums or maple leaves. In the winter time, particularly near the holidays, patterns such as bamboo, pine trees, or plum blossoms are to bring good luck and prosperity.

Japanese Clothing and Events

The type of clothing worn customarily depends upon the type of event. More casual kimonos include woven and repetitive patterns and would be worn at home or in informal settings. More formal wear generally includes elaborate designs and higher quality fabrics and would be worn for festivals, weddings, and other special events.

Japanese Clothing and Marital Status

Particularly for women, traditional Japanese clothing are worn based on seasons, events, but also marital status. Young unmarried women wear kimono with long sleeves with vibrant colors and rich with patterns. Married women or older women generally wear simpler more subdued kimonos.

Traditional Types of Japanese Clothing

In current Japan, clothing is divided into two forms – western wear and wafuku (traditional Japanese clothing). Traditional Japanese clothing can be broken down into many different categories. Here are some of the basic types.

Kimono – Literally means “a thing to wear”, but is used to refer to the traditional floor length robes.
Yukata – An unlined casual summer kimono made from cotton or light synthetic fabrics.
Nagajugan (also Nagajuban) – A kimono shaped undergarment worn beneath a kimono. Only the collar shows when fully dressed.
Happi Coat – A loose, informal jacket similar to a kimono.
Haori – Hip length jacket which looks similar to a kimono. Used to add formality to an outfit.
Michiyuki – Protective overcoat, often very elaborately designed.
Hakama – Divided skirt, most closely resembles wide legged pants.
Tomesode – Single colored kimono with pattern only below the waist. Generally worn by married women.
Uchikake - Most formal kimono, generally only worn by a bride or during a stage performance.
Shiro-maku – Traditional wedding kimono, usually pure white.