Kimono & Other Information
1 About Kimonos
I also have a lot of information on my Wafuku blog. This link opens in a new window, leaving this window open
In the photo above, you can see the purple kimono that started wafuku.co.uk; when my daughter bought herself that kimono it started my passion for them. I bought myself one and then another and another until my collection became so vast that I ran out of room to store them.
The name for traditional Japanese clothing is wafuku, ('wa' means Japanese and 'fuku' means clothing) and western or any non-Japanese style it's yofuku. Of all wafuku, the kimono is the most instantly recognised Japanese garment and considered the national costume of Japan. In Japan, the wearing of kimono is somewhat dying out, it's certainly extremely rare as daily wear now. Its demise began in earnest in the 1920s. They are worn now mostly on special occasions, people owning perhaps only one or even just hiring them two or three times a year instead.
Some kimono suppliers offer a 'lay away' plan for Japanese working women, to allow them to buy one of their own; gradually paying for their exceedingly expensive wafuku outfit and letting them have the pleasure of actually owning one. The kimono alone will cost thousands of pounds (UK GBP) and the obi just as much, then there are the numerous accessories.
Of course, geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) still make an art of wearing them and wear them all the time. Non-geisha women in Japan, who wish to wear kimono only from time to time, attend kimono wearing classes to learn what to wear, how to wear it and when to wear it and the correct deportment required when wearing one
When most people wore a kimono daily, they each tended to build up a sizeable collection over the years but now the Japanese are starting to part with those collections (and so many entire collections were lost during the Tokyo earthquake in the 1920s), opting for more western clothing and lifestyles. This does, however, make now a good time to get a vintage kimono, while there are still many beautiful kimono in Japan but while there are less people there now wearing them or keeping their collections of them. On the other hand, that also means the supply in Japan is not being maintained as before, so there won't always be the fabulous variation of kimono available that there currently is.
Even the plainest of silk kimono cost well over £1000 (UK GBP), most cost a several thousand. Few people realise that kimono greatly exceed most couture western clothing in price, but when you consider the quality and quantity of silk involved, it's not really surprising. Even the synthetic textile ones are not at all cheap.
Below you can see the cost, in 2011, of renting a kimono (pick up one day, return the next) from Moonlight Kimono in Japan. You can see that renting a silk kimono starts at £384 for just one night's hire, with a £1268 deposit, and at £287 plus deposit for a synthetic textile one and even a good quality, casual, unlined, cotton yukata kimono is £193 for the night. Hiring a furisode kimono or an uchikake is so expensive that they don't even show the starting price on the site.
Now, doesn't buying from wafuku.co.uk seem like an excellent deal?
When considering the cost of a vintage, traditional, Japanese garment, think of what you could buy for the same sum in a high street fashion shop; a mass produced, unoriginal garment, most often not terribly well made from some mediocre synthetic fabric and a garment you are likely to come across many other people wearing, which will go out of fashion in a very brief time; in short, nice but throwaway fashion. This, of course has its place and its use but with a vintage Japanese garment you get something much more special; a garment made from exquisite material (even the Japanese synthetic fabrics are superior to those used in modern day western clothing), wonderful artwork, often in the form of hand printed or even hand painted fabrics, great workmanship, an item that was vastly expensive when first bought, a touch of the history and tradition of old Japan; an item that is so different that, in western culture, it doesn't date, plus a very stylish and elegant garment that you are not going to come across on any other wearer, as one almost never sees two the same.
The haori, in particular, are very wearable items in the west, either dressed up for a glamorous special occasion or dressed down with jeans. It would be very easy to spend the same money, in somewhere like Gap, for an item that will not turn heads in admiration and that will be discarded six months later.
Purchasing a vintage kimono, haori etc is also extremely eco-friendly, as you are giving a new home to a beautifully cared for, pre-owned garment, so you contribute nothing to global warming due to product manufacture. Most Japanese vintage garments are looked after lovingly, maintained and stored with great care, so, although vintage and pre-used, they are in fabulous condition and most are good as new. I have had buyers check with me, upon receiving their garment, that it is actually a vintage item, because it was in such new and pristine condition that they wondered if it could really be several decades old.
Tailoring a kimono is called wasai and it takes one to two months just to hand tailor a kimono, add to that the time it takes for the textile art to be applied by various artisans to the fabric and the fact that most are silk and you realise why a silk kimono can cost as much as a small car and why the Japanese take such care of them and expect each to be used by at least three generations.