Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
In January, we went to a photo studio to have our family portrait taken. It is to commemorate our kiddos’ Shichi-Go-San event. We were all in kimono. I wore an Iro-Tomesode (色留袖), which is a typical kimono for married woman. I totally relied on my MIL to help me to put on the Japanese traditional costume.
So, I was thinking, maybe if I blogged about it, I will remember the steps. Then, I will have the courage to wear the kimono without any assistance in the future. I am so grateful to have a beautiful friend who was willing to model for me as I photographed the sequence*:
Before we begin, it is important to have all the necessary items laid out and within easy reach (if you are doing this alone, place the items on a rack or table above waist-level).
* Note: This is how my MIL dressed us, I am sure there are many other ways to do it. For more information, I highly recommend this book: The Book of Kimono – The complete Guide to Style and Wear by Norio Yamanaka (1982).
These are the things you will need (in red)…
Wear the  Tabi (split-toed socks) first because wearing them later may cause the kimono to lose its shape. The  Hada-juban (undershirt) and  Susoyoke (half-slip) are worn directly over our underwear. Kimono will look better if its cylindrical outline is maintained. So, it may be necessary to use  towels or body pad to “straighten” body curve lines. My MIL sewed two white hand towels into one long piece, and it worked really well. Just fold it into half length-wise and wrapped it below your breasts.My  Nagajuban (full-length under-kimono) came with a sewed-on Eri Shin (half-collar lining), which is easier for beginners. Leave a fist-sized spacing between your neck and collar, and secure the nagajuban with its cord and fasten the  Date-jime (waistband) in front.
Temporarily clip the collar of the kinono to the under-kimono with a  clothespin. Make sure the BACK mid seam is centered. Raise the kimono off the floor, then lower it until its hem is even and slightly above the floor. Wrap the left panel over the right panel. Tie a  Koshi-himo (sash) to secure kimono. The excess kimono fabric should be neatened, hanged out evenly and covered over the koshi-himo sash. It takes a lot of practice to get all these steps right.Next, fasten one end of the elastic  kimono belt to one side of the kimono panel. Wrap the belt around the back and clip on to the inner panel.Use another, a wider  Date-jime (waistband) to secure the kimono.
The Obi that we used here is known as the  Nagoya Obi, which is pre-folded and part of it is stitched in halves. Drape the folded short section over left shoulder. Wrap around the waist once, then insert the  Obi Ita (obi stay) before wrapping the waist the second time round.Use a  Kari Himo (a temporary sash; in our case, we just used an extra obi cord) to hold the obi briefly, freeing our hands to work on other part of the obi.
The  Obi Makura (obi pad) is used to help form the drum-shape of the bow. A  Obi-age (bustle sash) is piece of fabric used to wrap and cover the obi makura. Here, we used a crepe fabric. Center the obi pad and raise the drum part of the bow onto your back, then temporarily tie the ends in front.This is how my MIL fold the rest of the trail section, and she tucked the short sections neatly into the drum. Then she passed the  Obi-jime (obi cord) through the drum and tied it in front. She then removed the  kari-himo (temporary sash).Here is the front view showing how the obi-jime is tied and how the ends of the obi-magura is tucked on top of the obi.
Yes, the steps to wearing a kimono (especially the Obi) can be very intimidating, especially for beginners. I highly recommend these videos. The instructor speaks in Japanese but she is very thorough and her steps are easy to understand. Enjoy Kimono!