Kitsuke 101: Building a Beginner’s Wardrobe

Image Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Starting a wardrobe of wafuku can be daunting. There’s all these new words and different styles, different types, different seasons, all these rules and suggestions. So where should a newbie to kimono and kitsuke begin? I’ve written this guide to help you build a basic ensemble that is perfect for practicing beginners kitsuke.

What are you going to need?

  1. A kimono or yukata
  2. Obi maeita
  3. 2 koshihimo (3 if you intend to buy a nagoya obi)
  4. 2 datejime
  5. Korin belt
  6. Nagajuban or hadajuban and susoyoke
  7. Padding and/or kimono bra
  8. Cotton juban
  9. Tabi
  10. Zori
  11. Obi
  12. Obiage (Optional – see Choosing an obi)
  13. Obijime (Optional – see Choosing an obi)
  14. Obimakura (Optional – see Choosing an obi)

Choosing a kimono

Most people start with a kimono, then work backwards to accessories. It’s as good a place as any to start but that flashy furisode you’ve seen on Ichiroya is probably not a great place to start.

Instead, I’d suggest a simple komon in a non-seasonal pattern for your first purchase. Asa no hayagasuri or even something whimisical and modern like a cat pattern, are perfect for a first kimono as they can be worn all year round without breaking any rules.

Alternatively, even though yukata can only be worn during summer months, they are light-weight and inexpensive and can often be bought in prearranged sets. For the sake of practice, it may be cost-effective for a beginner to choose this route.

Look out for the length! You want a kimono that is around your height + 10cm. (For me at 166cm, I often settle for 175cm kimono and yukata which is often as tall as it gets). There is an excellent post on how to measure yourself for kimono here.

Kimono to look for: non-seasonal patterned komon or yukata.

Choosing an obi

Although the most common obi worn with modern kimono is a Nagoya obi, in my opinion it is better to start with a hanhaba or a yukata obi. You can learn basic obi musubi (obi knots) with hanhaba with fewer accessories needed. In fact, with a hanhaba or yukata obi, you do not need an obiage, obijime or obimakura, meaning you can start practicing kitsuke immediately without collecting other items.

If you decide to use a nagoya obi first, then you will need to buy an obiage, obijime and obi makura as well as an extra koshihimo. This will enable you to tie the traditional and popular taiko musubi, but is a higher start up cost compared to a hanhaba.

Avoid heavy embroidery and heavy brocade silks! These are much more formal obi which you won’t have the opportunity to wear often.

Obi to look for: hanhaba or yukata obi.

Choosing undergarments

I’d suggest buying plain colors like white that allow you to mix it with a wide variety of different kimono. Also, a hadajuban and susoyoke is easier to adjust and wear than a nagajuban, in my experience. You can always sew on colorful collars when you need to.

Padding can be created with towels for the beginner. For flattening a larger bust, a kimono bra may be a good investment if sports bras don’t work.

Choosing accessories

Simple and clean is best. Buying something to start that has a high possibility of reuse means that you do not have to buy new things with every kimono ensemble you put together. Try not to buy plain white or black items (white because they are likely used for marriage, black because they are likely used for funerals), but other than that, choose things that you like in colors and patterns that you feel you will get the most use from.

For tabi, white is the most versatile color and the one that must be worn with most kimono that are not fashion kimono.

Accessories to look for: white tabi, versatile zori, and other accessories in your favorite colors.

And that’s it! That’s my advice for building a beginner’s wardrobe for kitsuke. You’ll have everything you need to go out and about in kimono without making a fool of yourself here! Hunt around for bargains on places like Rakuten and Ichiroya and you may even be able to do it cheaply as well!

Good luck!

Note: I am not sponsored by any of the links, nor have I ordered from many of these stores. They are merely there to provide a visual and to show options. Please consider and research all purchases carefully.

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