Kimonos are the fashion gal’s cardis of today’s style world, an easy way to add a layer of warmth and a shot of color to any outfit for fall. The best kimono can pitch hit as a lightweight jacket for most climates, depending on how hard and early your fall/winter kicks in, and what fabric you are shopping for. Velvets are great for autumn, as are some of the beautifully embroidered wool versions we’ve found. But where to buy the best kimonos? Since kimonos are meant to be loose and flowy, they are an easy online purchase. Below, we have a few of our latest favorites for fall that will even take you into winter—but first, let’s talk history.
Although kimonos date back to the 8th century, they are a huge fashion trend that continues unabated, stronger and stronger each season. In my closet alone I have short, long, and nearly every length in between, in a variety of fabrics, a range of decorative details and colors of the rainbow. At any given moment I may have four hooked on the back of the door, close at the ready for a quick fashion fling-on as I swoop out of the apartment.
At any given moment I may have four kimonos hooked on the back of the door, ready for a quick fashion fling-on as I swoop out of the apartment.
There’s the authentic one from Japan, in casual, brightly hued cotton accented with long geisha sleeves that I wear as both a robe and a hostess gown. My black silk iteration plucked from an upstate antique shop is embroidered on back with zen florals. It’s thigh length with an inside string tie and attached exterior sash—very much sartorially and historically correct.
A more modern fashion kimono, silky and printed, has deep slits in its floor-length sides (and truth be told, was one I fell for after featuring the style in this Next Tribe fashion shoot from last year). I have a few short ones, sheer and scarf-like, that I pop on as cardigan replacements (they can act as bathing suit cover ups, too). I don the long ones—meant to be worn open, loose, and flowy, Stevie Nicks-style—over dresses and jeans alike.
Kimonos Through the Years
Literally translated, kimono means “the thing worn.” From the beginning, this almost shapeless silhouette was the go-to garment for both Japanese men and women, its T shape characterized by straight seams and often luxurious decorations and embellishments. Social status could be interpreted by tapestry-worthy embroideries, paintings, and prints on each garment.
Another variant of a kimono was the length of the armholes: the long-sleeved osode was probably too ostentatious for everyday wear, while the small-sleeved kosode spread as the fashion choice of the rich and powerful. Interestingly, red was forbidden, considered too risqué, but fashion provocateurs thumbed their noses at propriety with vermillion undergarments, actually another kimono layered underneath, to “flash” a shock of red to passersby.
Literally translated, kimono means ‘the thing worn.’
The art of how to fold a kimono for wearing was once a heritage handed-down from mother to daughter. But today the art of dressing in a kimono—which the Japanese usually only do now for traditional ceremonial events—is taught by stylists and training schools.They’ve taken up the torch to pass along the techniques of how to adjust a kimono into place on the body. Wrapping and sashing the kimono correctly has certain ceremonial meaning: sashing a kimono right over left is meant only for dressing a corpse for a funeral, never for a living body.
These styling tricks will probably never be necessary in the fashion vernacular of this spring’s top styles, since most new kimonos are a combo of a shawl and cape, ready to be thrown on to give a soupçon of style to even mere jeans and a tee.
Who Wants Cute Kimonos?
Check out some of our favorite modern options for this season. Updating your wardrobe has never been easier or more fun.
By Johnny Was, $315; at Neiman Marcus.
This one is $98 at Free People.
By Spell and the Gypsy Collective, $305; at Free People.
Stay comfy all day in this kimono duster, $65 at Gap.
Embroidered embellishment enlivens this stunner from Lucky Brand.
We love the hippie vibe of this beauty from H&M.
By Tolani, $131; at Neiman Marcus.
A version of this article was originally published in April 2018.