Parts of Kimono : A Guide to Traditional Japanese Dress

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What are the Parts of Kimono?

The kimono is the national dress of Japan and a tangible symbol of Japanese culture. Kimonos have several parts that each serve a purpose when put together. 

Learning the names and functions of the different kimono components provides insight into this historic garment.

What are the Parts of Kimono Called?

A kimono consists of the following identifiable elements:


The kosode is the main body or robes of the kimono, consisting of a long T-shaped robe with very wide sleeves. The long, flowing sleeves are an iconic part of the kimono, intended to accentuate graceful arm movements. The length of the kosode varies, with some modern versions shorter for mobility.


The obi is the belt that is wrapped around the waist over the kosode. The obi is usually the most ornate part of a kimono ensemble. It can be up to 13 feet long and 13 inches wide. Obis may be brightly colored or have lavish embroidery. Properly tying the obi in various knots is an intricate art form in itself.


The eri is the stiff “collar” found at the back of the neck. It is made of fabric covered cardboard and helps the kimono retain its shape. The eri is secured by silk ribbons tied under the collar. An eri is not always present on modern kimonos.


The susoyoke is a thin half-slip that goes under the kosode. Usually white, it prevents the outer colored robe from clinging too closely to the body. The susoyoke opens in the back to allow access for using the bathroom.


The datejime is a sash tied around the susoyoke. Datejimes may be simple cloth or elaborately decorated. The datejime helps hold all the layers in place.


Tabi are traditional Japanese split-toe socks. The split makes it easy to wear tabi with zori sandals. Tabi are usually white and made of cotton. For formal wear, they may be silk and even have embroidery.


Zori are flat, thonged sandals made of rice straw, cloth, lacquered wood, or leather. They easily slip on between the split toes of tabi socks. Zori allows for quick on/off when entering and exiting temples or homes.


The nagajuban is an under-kimono, usually white cotton. It protects the outer silk kimono from sweat and wear from the body. A nagajuban also helps the robes slide smoothly over each other.


A koshihimo is a narrow waist cord or ribbon. It ties around the waist over the obi for extra security and to help hold the kimono robes in place.


Wooden getas are sandals elevated off the ground by two teeth. They keep the feet clean from dirt and mud outdoors. Getas make a distinctive clacking sound when walking.

How to Wear Kimonos Properly?

Putting on a kimono properly involves knowing how to layer and tie all the different garments. Here are some tips:

  • First put on the tabi socks and zori sandals so they don’t wrinkle the rest of the ensemble.
  • Next, wrap the susoyoke around your body under the kosode, with the open part in the back.
  • Put your arms through the kosode sleeves and pull it closed in front. Adjust the neckline and eri collar.
  • Wrap the datejime snugly around the waist over the susoyoke.
  • Wrap the obi several times around your waist over the datejime and tie it in an appropriate knot in the back. The obi knot should be tight and secure.
  • Fan out the kosode layers smoothly once the obi is tied. Adjust the sleeves to drape evenly.
  • Add the koshihimo waist ribbon for extra stability if needed.

More Kimono Tips and Facts

  • Kimonos are traditionally worn right over left. Only the deceased are dressed left over right.
  • There are many symbolic obi knots and colors to suit different ages, occasions, and seasons.
  • Men’s kimonos have a simpler obi knot but otherwise have similar robes, socks, and sandals.
  • Modern kimonos use a variety of fabrics like cotton, silk, polyester beyond the traditional silk.
  • Short kimonos that fall below the knee offer younger generations easier mobility.
  • Visiting a kimono dressing service allows you to experience wearing kimono without buying one.
  • Vintage kimonos from the Taisho period of the 1920s have become collectors’ items.
  • Kimono motifs and accessories follow seasonal themes, like cherry blossoms in spring.
  • Japanese fashion designers such as Kenzo and Issey Miyake have incorporated kimono elements into modern fashion.


How do you put on a kimono?

Putting on a kimono has a specific order starting with undergarments and socks, then the robes, and finishing with tying the belt. For simpler kimono styles, you may be able to wear it like a robe and tie the sash in back.

How much fabric is in a kimono?

The many yards of silk needed for the long sleeves and robes means 12-20 meters or more of fabric go into a traditional kimono. Simpler cotton versions may use less fabric.

How do you walk in a kimono?

The robes limit leg movement, so walking in a kimono involves taking small, gliding steps while keeping your feet pointed forward. Practice helps achieve the elegant gait.

Can you wash kimonos at home?

Depending on the fabric, some kimonos can be gently hand washed at home and air dried. But expensive silk kimonos are best taken to specialty cleaners familiar with kimono care.

Do men wear kimonos too?

Yes, men’s kimonos are similar in style to women’s but less ornately decorated. Men wear kimonos for ceremonies, festivals, tea rituals, or relaxing at home.


The kimono has many parts that each serve a specific purpose and allow the wearer to achieve the overall iconic kimono silhouette. From susoyoke undergarments to eri collars to obi belts, every element contributes to the unique beauty of the kimono. Knowing the parts and how to wear kimonos properly provides deeper insight into this national dress of Japan.