Sunday, January 24, 2010

Furisode vs. Tomesode

Clothing is used around the world to tell society a little about yourself, and in Japan kimono actually say quite a lot.

For the rare occasions a modern Japanese woman will wear full-on kimono (as opposed to the cute, common yukata worn to summer festivals), the first choice to make is furisode 振り袖 vs. tomesode 留袖.

If she's young and unmarried (up to mid-late 20s depending on who you talk to), she can wear a furisode, or "swinging sleeve" kimono. The sleeves on a furisode can go all the way down to your ankles when worn at their most formal length, and as they get shorter the more casual the furisode becomes.

In comparison, adult single or married women always wear tomesode, the shorter "stay-at-home sleeve" (you get married and stay at home after that). A 35-year-old single woman, a rarity in traditional times, walking around in a furisode would look very strange to most Japanese eyes.

Tomesode sleeves hang to around the hip, though pre-WWII ones tend to be longer. (War rationing involved using less material in clothes, so women were asked to chop their sleeves shorter to support the war effort. After the war the shorter sleeves stuck and became normal).

Both furisode and tomesode can be casual or formal, simple or fancy, though these days furisode have largely crystallized into the formal variety as they're not worn on a day-to-day basis anymore.

Images copyright Ichiroya and used with permission.

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