Kimonos are traditional Japanese clothes. Even though people tend to describe kimono in a single word, there are several kinds of kimonos and each kimono is worn for a suitable occasion by a particular person. For example, some kimonos are only for young people.
Others are for official ceremonies, a causal party or a funeral. This means there are certain rules that apply to wearing kimono depending on the occasion and age of person whom will be wearing. You need to know which kimonos you should wear for certain occasions. It might be considered as disrespectful and impolite if you don’t wear the appropriate kimono – especially to an official ceremony such as a wedding or funeral. You wouldn’t wear jeans and a T-shirt to your friend’s wedding and you wouldn’t go to a casual pizza place wearing an evening dress – would you? Kimonos are the same! That’s why, it would be better to keep in your mind if you need to follow traditional rule in formal occasion in Japan.
‘Furisode’ is one type of kimono and I would say it is the most gorgeous kimono of all. It is a long sleeved kimono and is only worn by young women, to be exact, unmarried young women. It’s a primary formal kimono for them. There are 3 types of Furisodes depending on the length of the sleeves; Oh-furisode (around 113cm), Chu-furisode(around 100cm) and Ko-furisode (around 85cm). Nowadays, Ko-furisode isn’t worn so often. People are more likely to wear Oh-furisode and Chu-furisode. Furisode is especially worn at the coming of age ceremony. Some wear it for their wedding and to their family members’ or friends’ wedding. It is also worn on New Year’s Day.
There are many different patterns in Furisode and each pattern has a different meaning, symbols and wishes. Flowers are often used for patterns for Furisode. I’ll show you some examples as below.
–Botan (Tree peony): Botan is known as the king of the hundreds of flowers in Japan. It expresses gorgeousness happiness and wealth.
–Kiku (Chrysanthemum): This flower is used for the Imperial crest and is considered as very royal flower. Kiku has been honored as a lucky charm to drive off bad luck.
–Sakura (Cherry blossom): Sakura is the national flower of Japan. It’s pattern is very popular for Furisode. It expresses prosperity, doing well and wealth.
As I mentioned above, Furisode is for unmarried young women. Thus, if you want to wear it, you have to meet 2 conditions; unmarried and young. It is easier to define who is married and who is not. It’s clear that women cannot wear Furisode once they get married.
It’s because weaving sleeves was considered as a way for unmarried women to express love and affection to men in Edo era. Once women got married, their long sleeves were cut short because married women didn’t need to weave the sleeves to show their love. This short-sleeved kimono called ‘Tomesode’ which means fastened-sleeves is for married women. In addition, weaving sleeves was considered a similar ritual which could drive off bad luck in order to attract good luck. Therefore, Furisode is the most appropriate kimono for wedding and coming of age ceremony.
Now let’s talk about another group; young. Teens will certainly be categorized as ‘young’ but… how about unmarried women in late 20s, early or middle 30s? Are they still ‘young’ enough to be able to wear Furisode? Isn’t it a good question? Yes, and many Japanese women also ask this question. It is said that Furisode had been originally a primary formal kimono for age between 13 and 24 years old. But times change and kimono culture also adapts to the changing times.
Nowadays, it is said that unmarried women up to their early 30s are OK to wear Furisode. However, you should pay attention to the pattern and color of it. If it’s too fresh and flashy for your age, you must pick one which is suitable and appropriate for you. If you wear Furisode to your friend’s wedding or casual wedding party, you don’t need to worry about it too much. However, if you are invited to an official ceremony or wedding at a high-class venue, you had better think deeply.
In addition, kimono culture is somehow different in each area. I would say that rural areas are more conservative than urban areas. If you have any questions or concerns about wearing Furisode due to age or occasions, ask your grandparents, parents or elderly neighbors who know traditions and culture in your area. You can also ask a kimono dresser who helps you get dressed.
From Kyushu, Japan, based in Germany. Obsessed with the beauty of kimono. Wearing my grandmothers’ and mother’s kimonos when I go back to Japan is becoming a routine activity. I especially love the unique and cute antique kimonos!