Facts on Japanese Traditional Clothes

Updated April 17, 2017

Traditional Japanese clothing is known as wafuku, and dictated by the season, a person's age and the event. Despite Western influences on Japanese dress, the traditional styles of items such as the kimono and hakama have remained popular, and almost unchanged for centuries.


The kimono, the most recognisable part of wafuku evolved from a style more like an ancient Chinese robe. The garment reaffirms the nation's cultural values, as well as social messages of gender status and aesthetics. Europeans became enamoured with the kimono garments in the 16th century, particularly by its sleek fabric called silk. The garment is worn by both genders, with only a few differences.

Women's kimono sleeves are rounded, while those of men's garments are square-cut. A mens' kimonos are typically a neutral colour with a little to no pattern, and are worn with a narrower obi, or belt. A woman's kimono is longer and can be made of any colour and with a wide range of intricate prints. Special-occasion kimonos also exist, such as the shiro-maku, worn for weddings .


These trousers are typically worn over a kimono and were intended to protect a samurai warrior's legs from getting scratched from brush when riding horses. They are either split between the legs like trousers, or not split at all, more like a skirt. Today it's worn for ceremonies, and by dance and martial artists. Today, the hakama can be worn by men and women.


The time of year greatly affects the type of prints and patterns worn on traditional clothing. For spring, you will see floral patterns and bright colours. In the fall you may see maple leaves or chrysanthemums. For winter, bamboo, plum blossoms and pine trees are popular. The temperature also effects the fabrications, as can be seen by the lightweight cotton worn in warm months, and the heavy, lined fabric of winter.


Everyday traditional clothing can be worn within the home, at bath houses, or informal visits to friends and family. Cotton yukatas, a lightweight kimono, woven cotton haori jackets and dyed ikat kimonos are all popular traditional items.


Traditional formal clothing can be extremely elaborate, such as the uchikake kimono and happi coats, which are worn to festive events, or very simple. The more understated formal attire is typically in subdued solid colours and may be worn for formal visits, funerals or by married women to weddings.

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About the Author

Misty Witenberg has been a magazine and freelance writer (including "Shape," "Fit Pregnancy," "Natural Health" and "Mom & Baby") since 2004. Her experience is in fashion, beauty, travel, fitness and culture writing.