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What is a Samurai Kimono?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2016
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A samurai kimono is the garment worn by men, women and children of samurai and Japanese families. It is a Japanese robe with a different fabric type for each season. It has the appearance of a T-shaped garment resembling a dress.

The kimono got its beginnings around the year 794. Before that time, the Japanese wore separate top and bottom clothing pieces. Traditionally, kimonos were not wildly patterned or brightly colored during their early introduction. It was not until about 1192 that bright colors and Japanese fabric pattern styles began to appear. Many people associated the quality and style of kimonos with financial and social statuses.

Japanese warriors called samurai warriors often wore colors that reflected who their leaders were. The samurai wives would wear the colors and fabrics that represented the status of their husbands as well as the leaders. Extremely bold colors and patterns were considered inappropriate for adults, but children were dressed elaborately until they had their traditional coming of age ceremony. Elders often chose to dress in bland colors except on special occasions.

During the winter, kimonos were worn over underclothing such as loincloths. This cross-front robe was made to be more protective. By using a thicker cotton, warmth could be created. Many Japanese, however, particularly preferred their summer samurai kimono.

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Summer kimonos needed to be made from a lighter fabric, which usually was silk. The summer heat of Japan and the need for increased movement required a fabric that was cooler yet could allow a great range of movement. With a silk wrap robe, both of these goals were met, and it could often be worn without the need for underclothing.

The samurai kimono does not have the closures that other robes might have. There are not any attached ties, snaps or buttons to hold the robe closed. An obi serves this purpose. The obi is a wide strip of fabric that is wrapped around the waist and tied in the back to hold the kimono closed. There are a few different types of obis that can be used.

The maru obi is formal and has an elaborate pattern that runs the whole length of the fabric. The fukuro obi is not as formal and has a pattern on one side of the fabric that runs only about two-thirds of the fabric's length. The nagoya obi is lighter than the previous two types and is stitched at half-width on the front section; the narrow section wraps around the front, and the wider section is used to tie the bow in the back. The hanhaba obi is a half-width type and is used for casual dressing; the whole length of the fabric is half of what the formal types are.

Although the samurai kimono is no longer worn as it was many years ago, there are still occasions when traditional Japanese attire is used. During special occasions, many Japanese will wear extremely formal and elaborate kimonos. The birth of a child and a wedding are two such occasions.

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SteamLouis
Post 3

The obi, or belt, is a part of every kimono outfit. But it served a second purpose for the samurai who often tucked their swords into the obi.

Samurai are popular in Hollywood films and they show them wearing elaborate kimonos. But I wonder how realistic those outfits are to what was truly worn in those eras.

donasmrs
Post 2

@ysmina-- I'm not a historian or an expert on samurai kimonos but I think that the kimonos worn by samurai were still different than the ones worn by their family members. They can't be the same because of the very active lifestyle of samurai. They were warriors and they had to have the comfort to move and fight easily.

The kimono of a samurai's wife would represent her husband's status and the lord he served. But obviously, the kimono itself was not the same

Overall though, kimono worn by samurai and their families were distinguished in that they had a very dignified look with silk fabric and basic colors.

ysmina
Post 1

I didn't know that the wives and children of samurai wore samurai kimonos as well. I thought that samurai kimonos were just worn by samurai.

I've always found kimonos to be very interesting. Of course, they're not worn regularly anymore, but when they were, there were many meanings associated with them. There were different types, colors, designs based on the person's social standing and even the current season.

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