Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kimono Coordination: Forbidden Colors

Much as in Western culture, there are two colors you have to be careful with when it comes to getting dressed in kimono: black and white.

Occasionally online you'll see solid black (women's) kimono with family crests, black or black-on-black pattern obi, or other black accessories going for dirt cheap. This is because they're for funerals (the kimono itself is called a mofuku 喪服). Traditionally, a woman would wear solid black for and immediately after a funeral of a close family member. After some time, the kimono would become a dark color while the obi and obijime cord around the middle of the obi remained black. Next would be the obi, leaving only the obijime black. When that finally changed, the official period of mourning was considered over. The subtle cues sent by this slowly shifting ensemble allowed a complete stranger, at a glance, to determine how recently a loved one had been lost.

Black is a formal color for men, but is not restricted to funerals.

All-white or white-on-white pattern outfits suggest one of the following: death or marriage. Brides, depending on the style of wedding, will at times wear a solid white outfit (shiromuku 白無垢, as seen below), and corpses are dressed in the same solid white.

If colors appear with white or black as a base, that changes things and renders the kimono or obi wearable outside of the former ceremonial circumstances. One example is the kurotomesode, the most formal kimono for a married woman, which is always black (kuro) with a pattern along the hem. "Normal" obi can also be found incorporating black or white.

Image copyright Ichiroya and used with permission.

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