Guest Post: Kimono in Cosplay

I found this on Melatiputhi’s journal on Deviantart, and have brought it over to the blog, as it’s a great article. Enjoy!


Since I am currently working on a kimono costume, I may as well get this issue off my chest which has been bothering me for a while… If you have been cosplaying, you would have come across traditional costumes that are kimono in style and that means you need to don a kimono.

However, I noticed that some cosplayers tend to overlook some finer points when it comes to wearing a kimono… Therefore, I would like to state here that the purpose of my article is NOT to diss any cosplayer/tailor. I am not an expert on kimono nor am I a kimono connoisseur. I am just a cosplayer who loves reading up on kimono and have a fascination for this unique traditional clothing. I just wanna point out some of the finer points which we may not know of or may had overlooked. If you feel offended by my article, then maybe you didn’t do enough research on your kimono cosplay. 😀

My mantra is simple: “If you can’t get the real thing, at least fake it to the extent it looked like the real thing”

I shall list out my points for easy reading. 😀

1) Do Your Research
– I think this is the “standard procedure” for any cosplay you do but more so for kimono. With the availability of the internet, this shouldnt be a problem.
– This is cuz most traditional outfits like kimono have “rules” that you need to be aware of, pretty much like kebaya has its own rules to wearing it. For non-Japanese natives like most of us, this is all the more reason for us to do more reading on our own regarding a kimono before actually debuting the cosplay.
– Kimono cosplay isn’t about just donning the costume and posing for photographs. If you think it is so, then you are doing a disservice to yourself and injustice to the cosplay and to the character.

2) Know Your Kimono Design
– By design, I don’t mean the pattern on the kimono. What I mean is the cutting of the kimono cuz there are many types of kimono and that also depends on what sort of character you are cosplaying and your own body shape.
– Kimono is a deceptively simple costume cuz it looks simple with straight lines but a wrong pattern/cut can result in you looking like an oil barrel (aka tong minyak in Malay).
– Men’s and women’s kimono are different, so be aware of the difference in design as well as the obi.
– For example someone like Rikuo or Saitou from Hakuouki, their kimono design is pretty simple cuz the kimono is simple in its cut and men’s kimono/kinagashi are simpler as well.
– If you are cosplaying someone like Hinoto Hime from X/1999, then your kimono needs to have a very flared hem cuz her outfit is very dramatic.
– Some of the male characters have “low-cut” kimono neckline (thus exposing a bit of the chest) and some don’t. This is akin to a modern man wearing his shirt with some buttons unbuttoned. So double-check your reference for it.
– What I usually observe is, characters who are more easy-going like Okita from Hakuouki wears his kimono top rather “low-cut” and characters like Saitou from Hakuouki. who is more serious. would not expose his chest.

3) Know Your Material.
– One of my pet peeves when it comes to kimono cosplays is some people use the inappropriate material for the kimono. @__@
– I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to get the right material for the cosplay, even if it is just a “simple” kimono cosplay.
– The material for a kimono can also make you look good in it or look like an oil barrel. In other words, it together with the cutting of the kimono can make or break a cosplay.
– If you use a material that is too stiff, you end up looking like an oil barrel cuz the material doesn’t wrap around your body nicely.
– If you use too thin of a material, it ended up looking like a nagajuban instead or some hotel bath robe. @__@
– To get an idea on which material to use, I usually look at the character. For characters like Megumi from RK or Kenshin, you would expect their kimonos to be cotton material cuz synthetic material wasnt available in Meiji-era Japan and that they are just normal civillians.
– For character like Yuuko from XXX holic, you can use dull satin/bridal satin for her dramatic kimono cuz for someone like her, you can expect her to be decked in silk instead of plain cotton. Still, I wont recommend shiny satin as material for a kimono cosplay cuz it’s very unflattering on the body and you won’t find kimonos with so much shine on it (unless you count bath robes as one, LOL).

4) Get The Length Right.
– I know I am being anal here but nothing is more cringe-worthy than to see a kimono that is way too short or way too long. @__@
– One of the “rules” for wearing a kimono is the hemline has to fall around the ankle area. For a real kimono, they will fold the excess cloth at the waist. For cosplay, you can opt to do it for real or just fake it like I do LOL..
– If you are faking it, then you need to get the length spot-on cuz unlike the real one, you can’t adjust the length once the cloth is cut @__@
– I remember making that mistake when I sewed my Megumi kimono cuz the hemline ended up 4 inches shorter than the desired length. @__@ I had no choice but to do damage-control on the kimono and ended up lengthening it to get the right length.
– There is nothing more embarrassing than seeing you tabi socks and some of your calves while wearing a kimono that is way too short. @__@
– If the kimono is way too long, you can always sew up the hem (unless your kimono is meant to be long, like what some onnagata in kabuki wears).

5) Faking The Nagajuban
-Wearing a nagajuban (aka kimono underwear in layman term) is a must when you don a kimono, but for me, I tend to cheat cuz I don’t wanna wear so many layers in tropical Malaysia (I would have been roasted to crisp perfection by the heat LOL!)
– Nagajubans are usually white in colour, although I have seen in it in light pink, etc…
– Usually for a nagajuban, only the collar part is visible. For some characters, it may be visible at the sleeves as well.
– I usually cheat for the collar by making a fake nagajuban collar and I think most cosplayers do that as well.
– What I notice is, they cheat it “wrongly”.
– The V-shaped neckline of the fake nagajuban should go underneath the kimono, not along the V-neckline of the kimono cuz the nagajuban is supposed to be worn first before wearing the kimono.
– I dunno how to describe it in words but if you want clearer explanation on it, please message me and I can send you examples of what I mean.
– In other words, if you wanna fake it, make sure you fake it well!

6) Footwear
– I have seen people wearing all sorts of Japanese slippers for kimono cosplays and believe me, not all Japanese slippers are meant to be worn with kimono. Definitely not the white and blue rubber variety LOL..
– Again, check your reference cuz some characters don’t wear traditional Japanese footwear…
– For males, it’s usually getas.
– For females, it’s slightly more complicated. You can wear getas and zoris depending on your character or the occasion. If you are cosplaying a maiko character, then you need to wear okobos.
– Since we are on the footwear topic, usually you need to wear tabi socks as well. Some of the characters don’t wear them, so always check your reference for accuracy.
– If you are wearing a yukata, it is acceptable not to wear the tabi socks. Again, check your reference cuz footwear is equally important as it completes the entire look.

I hope this article would provide some insight into wearing kimono for cosplay. I am aware that it may just be for cosplay but do remember that you are cosplaying the character and you are wearing a traditional outfit, so the least you can do justice to the cosplay is to look good while wearing and be as accurate as possible to the character’s outfit (I wanna emphasise on portrayal as well, but that’s another story LOL!)

Again, I wanna emphasise that my article is not to diss anyone but just to provide some insight on kimono in cosplay. If you wanna know my reference, I am sorry I didn’t keep the links for it and I write it this out based on my memory and my personal experience from sewing kimonos. I may have left out some points here cuz these are the points that came to my mind when I write out this article. You may have better/more ideas than me, so feel free to share it here. 😀

If I do miss out anything or get any of the facts wrong, please feel free to point it out to me and I will double-check it and rectify it. Hope it helps! XD

P/S: I didn’t touch much on obi cuz that itself will need an article alone to cover that topic LOL!

About Yunie

I am a cosplayer, a nerd, a geek. I am whatever you call me. However, I have a brain and tend to use it.
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