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The kimono (ki "wear" and mono "thing") is a polite, very formal, traditional Japanese garment worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, normally worn with a single layer on top of one or more undergarments. Made from a single bolt of fabric called a tan, which comes in standard dimensions (about 36 cm wide and 11.5 m long), it is a T-shaped, straight-lined, hand-sewn robe wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial) and secured by a sash called an obi, which is tied at the back. (Historically, bows in the front indicated a prostitute.) The kimono and obi are made of hemp, linen, silk, silk brocade, silk crepes (such as chirimen), or satin weaves (such as rinzu). The finished kimono consists of four main strips of fabric — two panels covering the body and two panels forming the wide sleeves that fall to the wrist when the arms are lowered — with additional smaller strips forming the narrow front panels and collar. The maximum width of the sleeve is dictated by the width of the fabric, since the distance from the center of the spine to the end of the sleeve should not exceed twice the width of the fabric. Historically, the kimono was entirely taken apart for washing as separate panels and then re-sewn by hand; this washing method is called arai hari. Because the entire bolt remains in the finished garment without cutting, the kimono can be retailored easily to fit another person and is often recycled to make it smaller for children or to transform it into a haori (a hip- or thigh-length jacket worn over a robe called a kosode ["small sleeve," referring to the sleeve opening] which is worn open or kept closed by a string that connects the lapels), to patch a similar kimono, or to make handbags and similar accessories or even covers, bags, or cases for implements such as the sweet-picks used in tea ceremonies.
A kimono needs specific folding methods to preserve it and to keep it from creasing during storage, when it is usually wrapped in tatōshi paper; a new, custom-made kimono is delivered with long, loose basting stitches (shitsuke ito) around the outside edges to prevent bunching, folding, and wrinkling, and to keep the kimono's layers aligned. A damaged kimono can be disassembled and re-sewn, and if it is damaged below the waistline it can be worn under a hakama (trousers, divided skirt). Historically, skilled craftsmen laboriously picked the silk thread from old kimono and rewove it into a new textile in the width of a heko obi for men's kimono, using a recycling weaving method called saki-ori. The kimono is usually worn with traditional footwear (especially geta, wooden sandals, or zōri, flat, thonged sandals made of rice straw, woven grass, or other plant fibers, cloth, lacquered wood, leather, or rubber) and ankle-high, split-toe socks (tabi) which are open at the back so they can be slipped on and have a row of fasteners along the opening so they can be closed. A man’s kimono should fall approximately to the ankle without tucking, but a woman's has additional length to allow for the ohashori, the tuck that can be seen under the obi. Today, it is most often worn by women, though men also wear it at weddings, tea ceremonies, or other special occasions. Kimono fabrics are frequently hand-made and hand-decorated. A formal kimono has free-style designs dyed over the whole surface or along the hem; woven patterns and dyed repeat patterns are considered informal. The level of formality is determined by the fabric (silk is the most formal), the color, and the type of kimono and accessories, as well as the number of kamon (family crests), with five crests (on the chest, shoulders, and back) signifying extreme formality. Techniques such as yūzen (hand-applied) dye resist are used for applying decoration and patterns to the base cloth. The pattern may determine in which season it should be worn. For example, a pattern with butterflies or cherry blossoms would be worn in the spring; watery designs are common during the summer; the russet leaf of the Japanese maple is a popular autumn pattern; winter designs may include bamboo, pine trees, and plum blossoms. Some kimono and haori employ shibori (intricate tie dye); patterns are created by minutely binding the fabric and masking off areas, then dying it, usually by hand; when the bindings are removed, an undyed pattern is revealed. Shibori work can be further enhanced by painting with textile dyes or embroidery. A kimono made with exceptional skill from fine materials is regarded as a great work of art. A woman's kimono can easily exceed $10,000, and a complete outfit can exceed US$20,000; an obi may cost several thousand dollars.
At first the kimono was worn with a mo, a half-apron, over it, but it became increasingly stylized during the Heian period (794–1192), when it was worn with a dozen or more colorful contrasting layers, with each combination of colors being a named pattern. During the Muromachi age (1392–1573), the kosode, a single kimono that had formerly been regarded as underwear, began to be worn without a hakama over it, necessitating the employment of an obi to fasten it. During the Edo period (1603–1867), the obi became wider, with various styles of tying coming into fashion, and sleeves began to grow in length, especially among unmarried women, leading to the furisode (“swinging sleeves”) style, with almost floor-length sleeves and colorful patterns that cover the entire garment; economic growth allowed the middle class to afford the haori, leading to laws against ostentatious display of wealth by anyone except the samurai, leading in turn to discreet haori designs with lavishly decorated lining. Traditionally a kimono was worn with hiyoku (floating linings) beneath, but modern layers are usually only partial, designed to give the impression of layering, and hiyoku may be just a second kimono worn beneath the first to provide the traditional layered look (Indeed, the hiyoku may just be the double-sided lower half of the kimono, which may be exposed to other eyes depending on how the kimono is worn.) Choosing an appropriate type of kimono requires knowledge of the garment's symbolism and subtle social messages, reflecting the woman's age, marital status, and the level of formality of the occasion. Since a kimono consists of 12 or more separate pieces that are worn, matched, and secured in prescribed ways, most modern Japanese women lack the skill to put one on without the assistance of licensed professional kimono dressers. So the kimono continues to be worn for formal occasions, it has largely been replaced as everyday wear by more convenient Western clothing or yukata (“bath clothes”), a casual summer kimono with straight seams and wide sleeves. Geta are often worn with it, but not tabi. Common accessories include a foldable or fixed hand fan and a carry bag (kinchaku) for cellphones and other small personal items; men may also wear a hat.
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