You may not be able to experience Spring in Japan this year with all the travel restrictions and stay home notice but you can still see cherry blossoms in Singapore! Whether you choose to attend the Hanami at Gardens by the Bay at the annual Sakura Matsuri or have a small gathering with your friends, you can experience the fun of spring by dressing up in kimonos.
Just in case you are thinking of renting kimonos online, remember to rent the RIGHT one for the occasion you choose.
Many people consider the Yukata as a kind of kimono, but that is actually technically incorrect.
Yukatas are actually bathrobes worn after a relaxing bath, and its soft cotton fabric also helps absorb any remaining moisture left.
However, since around the mid-1980s, brighter and bolder designs for the Yukata began popping up in the market. Now it is common to see the Yukata being worn in summer festivals and by locals and foreigners alike.
It's fine to wear yukata for photos at Gardens by the Bay but if you're going for a more formal event e.g. black tie dinner with a Japanese client / company, we would recommend you to choose an actual kimono rather than yukata as a form of respect.
Not sure which kimono is best for you? Read on to find out which is suitable.
Perfect for: Single women on formal occasoins
The term Furisode stands for swinging sleeves. The large-sleeved kimono was created in the Edo period and was designed for young unmarried women. It is often worn by girls on formal occasions such as weddings or Seijin Shiki, a Japanese holiday celebrating those who have become adults. In Japan, wearing the Furisode can mean that you are mature and ready for marriage.
A key design point is that the sleeves are long and large enough to cover your hands. This kimono is further categorised into 3 kinds based on sleeve length: Kofurisode for short sleeves, Chu-furisode for medium sleeves and Ofurisode for longe sleeves.
Perfect for: Married/unmarried women on semi-formal occasions
The Houmong literally translates to "visiting wear". It was created during the Meiji era as a Japanese answer to the visiting dress worn in the west, and it became an instant hit with upper-class Japanese when it first came out. It is normally worn by married women when they attend formal ceremonies and parties. Unmarried women can wear them too, but most prefer the more eye-catching Furisode. Parents in Japan buy Houmongi for their daughters as a gift before marriage.
This kimono is plainly coloured but it has patterns on the shoulders, sleeves and lower lap.
Perfect for: Married women on semi-formal occasions
Often confused with Homongi, Tsukesage is the considerably more modest, with its pattern covering a smaller area than that of a Homongi.
The Tsukesage is worn during parties, but not in highly formal events such as weddings. It is usually worn by married women to events hosted by their friends.
Perfect for: Married women on formal occasions
The term Tomesode literally means "fastened sleeves". Like the name suggests, the Tomesode has short and narrow sleeves. It is easily recognised with its single-colour top half and a traditional design below the waist. It is often worn by women who are or haven't been married in formal occasions as its simple design essentiate those who wear it.
Perfect for: Everyone
The Iromuji is the simplest kimono as it is a solid colour with no pattern. Both married and unmarried women wear it and the colours are usually more elegant when older ladies wear it. It is common to wear the Iromuji during tea ceremonies.
The kimono can be in any colour except black or white and it can be with or without a crest. By adding a crest, you make the kimono more formal.
Perfect for: Casual occasions
The Komon can be worn when you go out and about as it is a casual kimono. The dyeing technique was invented by the samurai classes during the Edo period. The Komon from the Edo period was always made using silk, but modern Komon can be made using a variety of fabrics including silk, wool, polyester and rayon. In Japan, it was the most common dress before Westernisation.
You will find small, repeating patterns throughout this kimono, making it a beautiful outfit on a casual event.
Perfect for: Super formal occasions
The Uchikake is only worn by brides or stage performers as it is extremely bold and bright. As it is worn on top of a kimono, it is not tied with an obi. The dress is longer than other kimonos with its tail trailing the floor, making it unsuitable for everyday wear.
Perfect for: Traditional weddings
The Shiromuku is a complicated kimono that is worn during a traditional Shinto wedding. It has a long, trailing dress that requires assistance in order for the wearer to walk in it. The Shiromuku is accessorised with a full getup, with its own specific hairstyle, hair accessories and a sensu fan to complete the outfit. The white in the kimono symbolises purity and maidenhood as the bride-to-be walks down the aisle.
Perfect for: Geisha, Kabuki actors, traditional Japanese dancers
The Susohiki is worn during traditional Japanese dance. In comparison to the usual kimono length of 1.5m-1.6m, the Susohiki can be up to 2m long! Besides its long trail, the Susohiki is also different from other kimonos with its low-neck collar and long shoulder seams.
Perfect for: Your eyescosti
The Juunihitoe is an elegant and complex kimono that was only worn by Japanese court-laides during the Heian period. It consisted of up to 12 different layers, costing it to weight as much as 20kg! It has many layers of silk garments, making it one of the most expensive kimonos.
Sadly, none of the Juunihitoe from the Heian period exist anymore. Now, you can only find this incredibly complex kimono on the big screen, museums, festivals or during events regarding the Imperial Household such as the coronation of a new empress.
Perfect for: Mourning
The Mofuku is an all-black kimono that is worn during mourning. It is worn with matching black accessories which symbolises a formal grieving. The black ensemble is reserved for deaths of family and close friends.
After the initial grieving, the mourning would slowly dress up in colourful outfit as time passes.
Need help dressing up in kimono after seeing the above?
Sara from COVO Japanese Hair Salon is one of the few Japanese stylists who has attained official certification to properly dress ladies in their kimono. While it looks deceptively simple, the process of putting on a Kimono is actually a very complex process; wearers often need help putting it on and styling the bow at the back.
In fact, the process is so difficult that stylists have to undergo years of training and pass several examinations before they can be professionally certified to do so. The very experienced Sara herself had learned this art since 20 years ago and still finds herself picking up new knowledge about kimonos even today, thanks to the myriad of kimonos available.
To give you an idea of how difficult kimono dressing can be, we follow Japanese Emcee Mayumi at her Kimono Dressing session at COVO Japanese Hair Salon. A top Japanese emcee in Singapore, Mayumi often wears Kimono when hosting official events in Japanese companies or when doing photoshoots. Understandably, she was very excited after hearing about the arrival of Hairstylist and Kimono Expert Sara.
As she had an upcoming photoshoot, Mayumi made an appointment for both styling and kimono dressing at COVO Japanese Hair Salon.
Here's a sneak peek of her final look:
Read on to see how COVO Japanese Hair Salon helped her to achieve her desired look for the above photoshoot
As Mayumi did her own makeup, Sara proceeded directly into hairstyling.
The first thing Sara did was to create some temporary curls that will allow the hairstyle stay in place longer and give it some volume.
She sectioned Mayumi's hair and hooked it up to a heating device.
Once the curls was created, Sara could then start the styling proper.
In a few deft moves, Sara managed to braid the hair
into a classy updo that goes very well with the kimono.
Braiding, twirling and curling were all involved to create this fancy bun!
With all the ends were tucked under the hair, the eventual bun looked classy and neat.
Sara then inserted the orchid accessory that Mayumi painstakingly created on her own!
A little hairspray to fix everything in place.
Sara checked if Mayumi is happy with the hairstyling before proceeding to the next step.
Time to get the kimono on!
The process looks simple but it was certainly a lot more complicated than that.
There were SO MANY pieces of cloth that Sara had to fold and nudge into place to achieve the neat classy elegant feel that the kimono exudes.
The obi was especially challenging.
It is almost impossible to do a complicated design by yourself as there are many different steps to achieve the final bow.
Sara specially designed one that is sophisticated but not too "much" for Mayumi as she is already married. As you may have read above, there is symbolic meaning behind every obi design!
Slipping on the sandals to complete the look.
This is how it looks like afterwards:
We loved all the above photos but if you asked us to choose, this must have been our favourite photo of the day:
If you ever need advice on what type of kimono to get or where to style your hair / dress your kimono, consider asking advice from the experts at COVO Japanese Hair Salon!