Please remember that you are the expert in your own body and your own look. There is more than one way to wear kimono, and we have seen (and tried) some amazing “non-traditional” styles produced by Japanese kimono fashion magazines, instagram personalities, and fashion brands. We provide the following information, taken from Japanese sources, if you would like to wear kimono the way most commonly deemed “traditional.”
But first, a word about units of measurement. Kimono and fabric measurements on our site are given in centimeters. Yes, we’re in America, and yes, we measure length in inches, feet, yards, dishwashers, football fields, etc. But Japan (and, well, just about everyone else in the world) uses the metric system. The vast majority of kimono resources from Japan–books, websites, pamphlets, products, etc. are therefore measured in centimeters. So in keeping with Japanese methods, we provide measurements in centimeters. We hope America will consider someday switching to this simpler and far superior system of measurement.
Measure your height from the nape of your neck to your heel. The mitake of the kimono is the length of the back middle seam. If you would like ohashori, (the tucked up portion of the kimono under the obi line, typically seen most prominently in women’s kimono) add 20-30 cm to your mitake measurement, and you will be in a good range. 31+ centimeters may require a double tuck or a basting stitch in order to avoid a very thick, almost bubble-like ohashori below your obi. If the kimono is shorter than 20 cm + your mitake measurement, you may have a very small or even no ohashori. Depending on your gender identity, how high on your torso you tie your koshihimo (the sash that holds the kimono closed while you get your obi on), and comfort level, you may find this preferable.
Sleeve Drop (sodetake):
The sodetake is the length of the sleeve measured vertically if you hold your arm straight out and measure from your wrist to the bottom of the sleeve. We tend to translate it as “sleeve drop” because it doesn’t measure how long the sleeve is along your arm, but rather, how far the sleeve drops from your wrist. Most kimono are going to have a fairly similar sodetake, with the obvious exception of the very long sleeve drop kimono called furisode, as well as wedding kimono. A good rule of thumb is your sodetake should be around your height in centimeters divided by 3. However, some kimono will have a longer or shorter sleeve drop (e.g. houmongi originally intended for younger women, kimono that are roughly 80+ years old and older, children’s kimono, etc.). So this measurement has some “fudge factor.” Our advice is that if you are new to wearing kimono, don’t worry about this measurement as much as the others, unless you are specifically looking for a furisode or wedding kimono, or unless you are especially tall or short.
Middle Back to Wrist (yuki):
This measurement starts at the middle of your spine, around the nape of your neck. You need a cloth tape measure to obtain it. Let your arm hang to the side and place the tape measure along the slope of your shoulder, and then angle it down to match the length of your arm to your wrist. This is called the yuki, and it helps to ensure that the sleeve of the kimono is not too short along your arm. Please bear in mind that as people have grown taller over the last 100 years or so, the yuki measurement of many kimono may be significantly shorter than your measurement. Our suggestion is to try to get your kimono yuki measurement as close to your arm measurement as is reasonable so that you don’t feel like you’re going to burst your sleeve seams every time you move your arms.
Hemline ((okumi + maehaba + ushirohaba) x 2)
This last measurement has been simplified for the convenience of our mostly American audience. At custom kimono salons and tailors, the width of the maehaba (front body panel), ushirohaba (back body panel), and okumi (half-panel that helps the kimono cover the front of the body) are calculated from your body measurements. But for wearing kimono that have already been created, the easiest thing to do is to measure the width of the entire hemline, from the front left-hand corner to the front right-hand corner. In other words, the “circumference” of the kimono. This measurement helps you determine if you will be able to close the kimono when wearing it, or if the kimono would be better suited for another look for you (e.g. wa-lolita, Harajuku style, worn as a long jacket, etc.).
Use a cloth tape measure to measure your hips at the fullest area, usually around the fullest part of your buttocks. If the hemline of the kimono you’re interested in minus your hip measurement is around 40 cm, you can close the kimono comfortably. If it’s between 30 and 40, you will be able to close the kimono, but it may be a bit tight. If it’s significantly greater than 40, you may have to take care when wrapping it to keep yourself from looking like you’re swamped by the fabric. If the number you get is 20 cm or less, you may struggle to keep the kimono closed when walking or sitting. Again, that doesn’t mean you can’t wear it–it just means you may not achieve the closed-front “traditional” look.
Illustrations for How to Wear Kimono and How to Tie Basic Obi Knots
Although we are still creating video and digital tutorials for wearing kimono, please enjoy the tutorials we have so far! All of them can be found here as downloadable PDFs, but also as scroll-able directions that can easily be viewed on mobile platforms as well.
Need the tutorials in PDF format? Here you go!