How To Wear A Kimono A La Pia Wurtzbach
Interested to wear a kimono on your next Japan trip? Pia Wurtzbach schools us on some history, tips, and things to keep in mind!
Beauty, grace, and delicate femininity—these words perfectly describe the character of a kimono and a woman wearing one.
The kimono, Japan’s traditional garment, is probably one of the most popular national costume that you can identify anywhere. It is also quite interesting that unlike other countries where the national costume is rarely worn in public, many Japanese continue to wear the kimono today to special events like formal parties, tea ceremonies, and festivals.
Pia Wurtzbach visits Saga, Japan for Metro Channel’s Pia’s Postcards and of course, she made sure she didn’t miss the opportunity to wear the traditional kimono in time for the Ohitaki autumn festival.
The history of kimono
The kimono dates back to more than a thousand years ago during the Heian period (794-1192) in Japan. By the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), everyone was wearing it everyday; as the name “kimono” suggests, it means “thing to wear.” It’s pretty straightforward. Four pieces of fabric were sewn into a T-shape pattern, and then tied at the waist with a belt.
When the kimono officially became the Japanese’ everyday outfit, it became the identifier of a person’s age, status, and rank in the society. There were specific types of kimono to wear depending on the occasion, and the wealthier you were, the more beautiful were the kimono that you were able to commission or buy.
More than an article of clothing, the kimono became a wearable art. Some of the finest kimono owned by families were passed down the generations and some can even cost up to 1 million Japanese yen.
Choosing a kimono
Pia Wurtzbach says that it was the first time for her to finally wear a kimono during her trip to Saga, that’s why they went to great lengths to find a store that rents out good quality kimono.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a kimono is to get the appropriate type of kimono for you and the event you are attending since there are many different types for men and women.
A tomesode is a traditional kimono that can only be worn by married women at formal occasions. The more mon or crests the fabric has, the more formal the occasion. There’s also the susohiki, which is worn by geisha and stage performers. The susohiki is longer at the bottom and trails along the floor. A mofuku is made with plain black silk with five crests and is a mourning clothing. A yukata is a more informal kimono made from cotton that is usually worn during festivals in the summer.
There are more types of kimono but what Pia wears on her visit to the Yutoki Inari shrine is a furisode, a kimono with long sleeves that can only be worn by unmarried women.
Wearing a kimono
One of the reasons why a kimono can be so expensive is that it is usually made from handmade or hand-decorated fabrics. Traditionally, kimono are only made from linen, silk, and hemp. But nowadays, cotton and rayon has become popular if you want to wear one during the hotter seasons.
The kimono has layers of layers of cloths—that’s why it also makes for a perfect outfit during the colder seasons. Pia visits Saga in time for the fire autumn festival and wearing a silk kimono was perfect because it protected her from the cold.
When wearing a kimono, you must first wear a Japanese style undergarment called the nagajuban. These are traditionally just plain white undergarments but some nagajuban are prettier, like those worn by geisha because the nagajuban peaks under the kimono that they’re wearing.
It’s possible to wear the kimono on your own, but it can be difficult, especially for first timers. Pia has the help of two ladies to help her wear hers so all the elements are in their proper places.
Wearing a kimono is a like a ceremony in itself because there are certain elements to follow. Before wearing the nagajuban, insert a collar core into the neckband of the nagajuban. After wearing it, pull down the nagajuban at the backto make a space about the size of a fist between your neck and the collar at the back.
In front, make sure the left collar is over the right collar. The collar should cross over the collar bone. And then place the soft sash under the bust to secure the nagajuban.
After you secure your undergarment in place, that’s when you can put on the kimono. Fold the collar of the kimono in half and then put it over the nagajuban. Pull the kimono so it’s 10-15 cm above the floor (the kimono should not be long enough to graze the floor), and then bring in the right side first to the left, before closing the kimono’s left side to the right. Hold the kimono firmly and tie the waist cord to secure the kimono. Tie the next soft sash called datejime over the waist cord from the back to the front to keep the kimono in place.
The most challenging part when wearing the kimono is tying the obi, the last and thickest belt to be worn around the waist. There are different lengths and ways to tie the obi. Some obi can go up to 12ft long and some of the most intricate obi knots can take hours to finish.
Wearing the kimono does not stop at the kimono. The hairstyle, the accessories, and the footwear is part of the whole outfit. The two ladies who helped Pia wear the kimono also helped her fix her hair up in a bun and put decorative hair accessories, which are common during festivals. She also wore a pair of socks called tabi and a pair of traditional Japanese sandals called geta.
Walking around in a kimono is challenging, and Pia says both the dress and the slippers would only allow her to take tiny, delicate steps. When walking up the stairs, use your right hand to pull the kimono up a bit to make sure the hem of the kimono does not graze the ground. Wearing a kimono forces you to be more delicate and gently with your movements, which is considered the proper way for women to act in traditional Japan.
When in Japan, look for shops that rent out kimono so you can try the full Japanese experience yourself.