How to Wear a Kimono
Table of Contents
Extravagant fashion is best defined by designer goods, haute couture, and timely runways. Those lucky enough to afford such lavish things like to flaunt what they’ve got, whether it’s the next Giambattista Vali dress or a Chanel tweed suit.
Obviously, not all of us are blessed with Kate Moss money, but there are ways to dress opulently without spending a chunk of our savings. While most opt for gold-tinted jewelry or a tailored suit, the best way to look rich is to don a silk kimono.
Typically decorated with accents, motifs, and floral embellishments, the traditional kimono is the peak of lavish wear. They’re considered the more dressed-up version of a bathrobe, as most versions are made out of silk or satin.
Despite its historic role in regal society, kimonos have evolved to be an everyday styling piece. For instance, celebs such as Nicole Richie, Kendall Jenner, and Gigi Hadid have all been spotted wearing them.
Due to its extravagant pattern and flowy silhouette, you’ll need some fashion know-how in order to style them. Fortunately, we’ve cooked up a helpful guide on how to wear a kimono. From the casual jean and tee combo to body-con dresses, we have an assortment of delectable OOTDs to consider.
What is a Kimono?
Considered a traditional Japanese garment, a kimono is a t-shaped robe with boxy sleeves. They’re typically decorated and dyed with colors, motifs, and accents. While it’s common to own a silk kimono, varieties made out of crepe, linen, and satin weaves are not unheard of.
Japanese kimonos, depending on the design, often hold deep symbolism and significance. For instance, they can dictate class and spiritual beliefs. They’re often worn as formal wear to certain events, such as festivals and weddings.
It’s worth noting that they are different types of Japanese kimonos. This includes varieties such as the Yukata, Furisode, Hikizuri, and Tomesode, to name a few.
History of the Kimono
Before we teach you how to wear a kimono, it’s best to delve into its rich history to better understand its cultural significance. The story begins in 794 AD when the first inklings of the kimono started to sprout in the Japanese Heian period.
Often worn with Chinese Hakama pants, the garment offered a generous amount of room and comfort for all body shapes. Practical and easy to wear, the robe was soon adopted as traditional Japanese attire. It wasn’t until the Meiji period that kimonos received their iconic name.
Kimonos continued to be a popular choice throughout the Kamakura period and towards the Edo era. Over the decades, sewists, artisans, and visionaries offered their own renditions of the garment, which led to a divergence of designs. Kimonos were now color and pattern specific, as they symbolized class, status, gender, and family ties.
Today, kimonos are still considered an integral part of Japanese culture. Of course, you won’t see every Nipponese citizen donning a silk robe. Instead, they’re commonly worn as formal attire for weddings and funerals. The art of kimono-making has evolved too, as we’re spoiled by hundreds of unique, eye-catching designs.
When to Wear a Kimono
By now, you’re probably wondering how to wear a kimono respectfully. Cultural appropriation is a heavy topic to discuss, and arguably—it warrants an article of its own. According to a majority of Japanese citizens, it’s not only okay to wear a kimono, but it’s actually heavily encouraged.
Of course, you should treat the garment with a decent level of respect. Costumes, ‘Asian-inspired’ makeup, and mock-centric props are considered ill-advised. Despite what the internet says, we highly suggest that you ask these questions in person, as the answer may differ in terms of the situation and occasion.
It’s worth noting that the western equivalent of the kimono is drastically different from the traditional Japanese attire. For one, it’s a lot looser in silhouette, and most people choose to leave the robe open instead of tying it with a customary obi. They’re not worn as formal attire. Instead, they’re typically fashioned casually during the warm season.
How to Wear a Kimono
For the purposes of this article, we’re covering the western side of the traditional kimono. We’ll highlight styling tips commonly fashioned by celebrities and influencers. We highly recommend visiting Pinterest and Instagram for ways to fashion the customary Japanese kimono if you plan on visiting Nipon any time soon.
10 Outfit Ideas with a Kimono
Chic, sleek, and perfect for brunching, this stylish outfit features a stunning robe embellished in red print. For those wondering how to wear a kimono with jeans, this is definitely the look to consider.
Paired with a simple white tee, strappy heels, and a matching carry-on, the ‘under layers’ of the outfit are relatively simple in order to show off the extravagance of the kimono. In terms of accessories, we recommend wearing dainty jewelry, such as a pendant necklace and a set of stacked rings.
Most Pinterest results showcase an open-front robe paired with a high-waisted set of jeans. I know, it’s an overdone aesthetic—which is why we’ll teach you how to wear a kimono with a dress. Featuring a brown patterned wrap, a white mesh gown, and a chunky suede waist belt, it’s a stylish number to don for those feeling extra.
Obviously, you don’t need an excuse to dress extravagantly, but we highly suggest wearing this look to gallery exhibitions and networking parties. The pointed-toe heels are a must, as they help imbue that final sophisticated touch.
For those wondering how to wear a short kimono with jeans, you can never go wrong with a spaghetti strap top and a pair of distressed shorts. Obviously, the focal point of this outfit is the sunflower patterned robe.
To ensure a cohesive fit that’s free of noise, it’s best to opt for simple clothing. The white tank and the ripped jorts create a sort of background for the kimono to shine. Summer-friendly and perfect for beach days, this ensemble isn’t complete without a pair of Converses and a set of cool shades.
Considering that most kimonos come decorated with interesting patterns and colors, it’s best to don a monochrome fit to ensure a clean, cohesive fit. The beige hue of the robe pairs well with the mustard yellow top and pants.
The pinstripe details featured on the sleeves and sides add some visual interest, and it helps break the monotony of yellow tones imbued in the outfit. This OOTD doesn’t require any accessorizing, but if you’re adamant about jewelry, we recommend a gold pendant necklace to match.
The best way to tackle the ‘how to wear a kimono’ question is to opt for full print. While most prefer monochrome fits to let the robe shine, there’s nothing wrong with the maximalist approach. For instance, this kimono outfit features a yellow floral kimono, a white graphic tee, and a navy blue midi skirt decorated with peonies and roses.
It’s definitely a more retro take on the traditional Japanese wrap due to the tassels lined on the sleeves. We suggest topping this 70s inspired look with a headscarf and period-appropriate platform shoes.
Do you consider yourself a boho fanatic? If so, we suggest donning this number in our ‘how to wear a kimono’ lineup. Composed of a retro-inspired robe, a white graphic tee, and a matching tiered skirt, this hippie-centric look is perfect for music festivals and spiritual road trips.
The brown lace-up boots work to juxtapose the ‘feminine’ attributes of the ensemble. Stilettos or streetwear sneaks would definitely not work with the vintage notes imbued in the OOTD. This outfit calls for big statement jewelry, such as hoops, bangles, or a set of layered necklaces.
Kimonos are a 50/50 blend of pattern and silhouette. Here, Kim Kardashian chooses to play around with exaggerated shapes by donning a boxy robe with a body-con dress. Offered in coffee cream, this kimono clothing outfit keeps things subdued but sultry.
Arguably, the best thing about this ensemble is that it’s relatively conservative—which is great for those not keen on showing too much skin. Paired with nude stilettos, this is how to wear a kimono in a semi-formal manner.
Given that some traditional kimonos were symbolic of the upper class, why not don a regal-themed look instead of casual? This stunning outfit features a gold robe with black decals, red pants, a white blouse, and a pair of rouge loafer heels.
Extravagant and undeniably sophisticated, it’s the perfect look to wear to fashion week or a black-tie event. We recommend wearing chandelier earrings and a cute clutch to match.
For some, silk robes are meant to be worn indoors. If you’re wondering how to wear a kimono as loungewear, we suggest opting for the lingerie route. Composed of a matching top and bottom set, this jaw-dropped outfit is made of mesh fabric decorated with floral accents.
The robe helps to tie the whole look together, as it comes with the same motifs and colors. Finished off with a bucket bag and sandals, this is certainly a look to consider if you’re feeling especially extra.
Composed of a thick burgundy robe, this ensemble comes with a puffy blouse, cream pants, knee-high cowboy boots, and a wide embellished belt to help cinch in the waist. Yes, this OOTD involves a lot of layering, but it’s definitely something to consider during the fall.
What Type of Kimonos Can You Get?
As we previously mentioned, the traditional Japanese kimono is offered in several varieties. We won’t delve into the specifics of customary robes, as our top 10 involve western renditions of the Asian kimono. Below, we’ll feature the designs that are commonly worn in Europe and North America.
- Long kimonos: Considered a popular choice among trendsetters, opting for a full-length robe is the best way to look expensive without the added effort.
- Short kimonos: For those in fear of dirtying their robe, we suggest opting for a cropped cut as a better alternative.
- Highly-decorated kimonos: Most traditional Japanese kimonos come embellished with intricate designs and motifs. Western versions have adapted the same iconic style, but most of them feature typical prints instead of customary accents.
- Monochrome kimonos: If you prefer simplicity over loud designs, kimonos dyed in singular colors are the way forward.
How to Choose The Best Kimono
It’s easy to cop a $15 robe and call it a day. But, if you want to become a responsible shopper, it’s best to stay clear of fast fashion alternatives.
Obviously, opting for designer labels isn’t the only recommended option, as you can easily find a decently-made garment for an affordable price. To help our readers out, we’ll discuss how to choose the best kimono by using three key factors: price, quality, and material.
As aforementioned, kimonos are typically made out of silk, satin, linen, and crepe. They’re relatively delicate and soft to the touch—but like any type of garment, they should feel durable.
Fabrics such as polyester will often leave a crunchy and plastic-like texture, which is not what you want with a kimono. Remember, a high-quality robe should feel extravagant to wear and not like you’re donning a shower curtain.
Western kimonos don’t come with the same level of stitching or draping detail as their Japanese counterparts. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s any lesser in quality. Cheaply-made garments will usually come with loose threads, haphazard hems, or raw seams.
In terms of price, we’d say that the estimated ballpark would be around $50 to $100, depending on the brand and the materials used.
How to Style a Kimono
So, have you figured out how to wear a kimono yet? There are various ways to fashion the good ol’ silk robe, ranging from high-waisted jeans to body con dresses. If you’re looking to up your Instagram game, we’ll share some styling tips to consider.
- Leave the front open: If the rest of your outfit involves graphics, embellishments, and patterns, it’s best to leave your kimono unwrapped. Not only does it show the rest of the ensemble, but it’s considered a smart way to layer an OOTD
- Wrap it up: For those wondering how to wear a kimono traditionally, we suggest tying it at the front. It’s a great way to keep loud outfits noise-free
- Belts: Most kimonos come with intricate patterns and loud colors. With that in mind, we recommend topping your look off with an embellished belt. Think of cowboy buckles and MMA fighter-type designs instead of thinly made alternatives
- Statement jewelry: This styling tip follows the same logic as the belt. Loud print marries well with bling, such as hoop earrings or stacked necklaces
- Graphic tees: The best way to style a kimono casually is to wear a vintage graphic tee. Don’t forget to top the look off with a pair of distressed jeans
Fashion Tips to Avoid With a Kimono
Once you’ve figured out how to wear a kimono, it’s time to address some fashion faux pas. Believe me, there are dozens of fashion tips to avoid when it comes to the silk robe. If you want to stay clear of the fashion po-po, we’ll offer some styling advice to heavily consider:
- Hoodies: The regal accents imbued in the kimono pairs awfully with the laid-back attitude of the hoodie. If you prefer the loungewear aesthetic, we suggest a hood-free sweatshirt instead
- Bomber jackets: This also extends to any kind of cropped pullover. If you intend on wearing a full-length kimono, you’re better off wearing an uncut trench jacket as a more stylish option
- Snow boots: Kimonos are usually worn with stiletto heels or sneakers. Chunky stompers, such as Moon Boots and Uggs, are considered poor taste
- Baseball caps: Like the hoodie, the sporty attitude of the baseball cap doesn’t pair well with the extravagant kimono. We suggest a newsboy cap as a better alternative
How To Take Care Of a Kimono
The traditional Japanese kimono requires some serious care and maintenance. Western versions offer a bit of leniency, but regardless—it still warrants some special attention. For those who can’t visit their local cleaner, we’ll show you how to take care of your kimono at home.
- Use mild detergent and cold water: setting your laundry cycle in hot water can often lead to color bleeding. To prevent this from happening, it’s best to opt for a cold rinse instead
- Gentle cycle or hand wash: This ultimately depends on the care instructions sewn onto your kimono. If the garment comes with no care label, it’s always a good idea to hand wash your garment instead of throwing it into the laundry machine
- Air dry or toss in the dryer on its lowest setting: There’s nothing more disappointing than a shrunken or shriveled garment. To err on the side of caution, we suggest letting your kimono air dry for the time being. For dryer-friendly, we recommend setting the dryer on its gentlest cycle
Best Places to Buy a Kimono
Take this as a sign to breathe a sigh of relief. You finally figured out how to wear a kimono robe. Now it’s time to address the final question: Where exactly can you buy one?
Don’t worry; we’ll provide some recommendations to consider the next time you shop.
- Urban Outfitters
- Free People
If jeans are considered the ‘cake’ of casual wear, then kimonos are thought of as the complementary cherry on top. Worn as the ‘piece de resistance,’ there are hundreds of beautiful designs to choose from.
Yes, it does require a bit of styling know-how, which is why we developed this helpful guide for curious trendsetters. Our top 10 list is nothing short of outfit ideas, as it includes such classic fits like the tee and shorts combo and the iconic body con dress.
Are you ready to shake up your Instagram game? We can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with using our kimono outfit guide.
Have any other burning fashion questions on your mind? We’ve got you covered: