About Kimono

When I was about six years old, my grandparents visited Japan and brought back a kimono as a gift for me.

As an adult, I love costume. I bought a kimono at the Palo Alto cultural festival; for years, my favorite casual jacket is a jacket that a friend bought in Japan.

Back in 1990, when I heard about a "kimono bale buy" on the net, I joined the group and bought two shares. Most of the other people who bought shares were quilters who bought these vintage kimono for the fabric. The variety and uniqueness of the fabrics and clothing in the bale got me interested in Japanese textiles and clothing.

I've done some research and found some resources on the net about kimono. The word "kimono" means clothing. I've put together a list of resources (stores, books, links) and information.


Send me info about anything I can add here!


  • Ichoya Japanese Kimonos and Textiles at www.ichoya.com
  • Yoko Trading at yokodana.com
  • These are East Bay stores (local to me) which have items of interest.

    Thousand Cranes Futon Shop 
    1803 4th Street
    Berkeley 94710 
    (510) 849-0501

    Thousand Cranes carries traditional textiles and vintage kimono.



    Kimono Hypertext:Introduction is a great set of web pages about kimono.

    The Textile Museum in Washington DC has valuable information on caring for textiles.


    I've gathered information from many sources over the years.

    Kimono, obi, and Haori Jackets

    The bale had many kinds of clothing in it- mostly kimono, but also some haori jackets, and michiyuki.

    Obi, the decorative belts which are traditionally tied in intricate knots, are harder to come by. Very old obi are narrow and quite plain; more modern obi are stunning and very expensive. The older wide obis are of beautiful fabric all the way through; some of the more recent ones are pre-folded and only have the fancy cloth at the ends where it will show when tied.

    You can sometimes find obi in antique stores sold as table runners, or made into centers for folding screens.

    Kimono come in many kinds. The most splendid modern kimono are the wedding kimono, called uchikake, which are worn open over a kimono and have a thick padded roll at the hem (because they drag on the ground).

    Unlined thin kimono are yukata (bathrobes?), summer kimono, or the under-robes.

    Michiyuki are a shorter wrapped "overcoat" with snaps or ties, and a square neckline or collar.

    Haori jackets are kimono-shaped but shorter. The outside fabric doubles up as lining from the bottom and sometimes the lining inside the back is hand-painted or beautiful, tempting you to wear the jacket inside-out.

    I also found a kesa at an antique store. Traditionally, well-to-do families gave their used kimono to the Buddhist monks, who cut them up and made them into altar cloths and drapery robes, called kesa, which have 5 traditional patches.

    I asked for help in identifying the age of the kimono from my bale buy. I got the following information from jane@swdc.stratus.com:

    "All the shaded pink/red linings are 1950's/early '60's. If it's a different fabric used for sleeve edges/bottom, it's most likely 1920's/'30's. Solid color (like the pink) is probably 1960's."

    Here is more information from Sue Castner (scast100@aol.com):

    "Linings aren't necessarily the benchmark. Kimonos were and are often re-lined after cleaning because different types of silk shrink at different rates. A lining might be 30 years old while the actual kimono might be much older. And different fabric for sleeve edges might just may mean that it was made after the war - when there was a horrible shortage of silk but people still wanted to make something beautiful to wear. Taisho Period kimonos are the easiest to identify because of the sleeve length - somewhere between furisode length and the shorter sleeves of today. And the 1920's saw a slew of radical patterns and colors. People had money then and were willing to go out on a limb in terms of fashion."


    Shibori is the name of Japanese "shape resist dyeing", or Japanese tie-dye. The fabric is carefully hand-tied before dyeing to make beautiful patterns on the cloth. Some designs are tied and dyed in multiple stages. In modern Japanese printed cloth, you can see areas printed with a bird's-eye pattern which mimics the shibori dyeing.

    True shibori has a 3D effect and leaves a crepe-like feel to the cloth, as you do not iron out the folds and puckers created by the tying after you remove the threads. The result is a fabric with body and give, almost like a knit, with a depth and beauty that I find fascinating.

    Examples of shibori

    These examples are pieces I own. Click on the thumbnails for a detailed scan, and please ignore the moire-patterns from the scanner.

    End of an obi-age (the silk scarf used to help hold kimono layers in place under the obi)

    A butterfly

    Caring for Silk and Other Fabrics

    The traditional way to wash kimono is to disassemble them and hand-wash, then stretch the fabric out when drying it.

    The best soap is Orvus, which is a pure soap manufactured by Procter and Gamble. Some quilting stores carry it in small amounts; it is also available in tack stores. You can also mail-order Orvus through tack catalogs such as State Line Tack at 1 800 228 9208.

    To figure out what the fabric is, the best way is to burn a small amount.

    Caring for Kimono and Obi

    Fold kimono to store them, and store them flat. Because kimono are made without curved seams, they fold into compact rectangles.

    Fold obi in a back-and-forth pattern. The wider obi have a 90-degree pleated fold in them; fold the main part in the back and forth fashion, center the 90-degree fold on the bulk of the folded material, and wrap the tail end of the obi around the folded material.

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