Kimono: The Art of Revealing True Form

Kimono, literally "thing (mono) to wear (ki), is without a doubt one of the world's most exquisite national costumes. While Western style clothing is usually fixed in form before being worn, with various styles and designs that suit a person or not, all kimono, from the simple to the more intricate ones are essentially the same basic T-shaped, straight lined robes that reach the ankles. If you have been to a kimono shop, you will most likely be struck by the sheer assortment of color, patterns, prints, and textile quality available. Then there are the different combinations you can mix and match with its various layers and parts. But the true beauty of the kimono's form only reveals itself when and only when it is worn.
Founder of the Sōdō Kimono Acadamy, Norio Yamanaka, wrote what I think is the definitive paragraph to fully appreciate the art of wearing kimonos: "Since it is what is inside that gives the kimono its true form, it is meaningless for the wearer to merely imitate another person's outer or physical presence. Those who would make the beauty of the kimono their own must first make their own spirit and character a thing of beauty. This is the wisdom of beauty for those devoted to the kimono... the kimono reveals, rather than disguises, the wearer's inner qualities. There is no other garment which does so uncompromisingly."
I had the opportunity to try out a kimono when my Japanese language class organized a tea ceremony and hired professional kimono outfitters to come dress us up. I watched myself transform with each layer and tied knot. While it's possible to put on a kimono by oneself or with the help of one person, the best and fastest way is to have two people help keep the balance and the symmetry of the garment.
Cotton padding is used to suppress the contours of the body and fill out the hollow areas, unlike in Western clothing where the same might be used to accentuate a women's curves. The result makes the wearer's body more cylindrical which makes the kimono fit snugly and flow more smoothly.
I learned why Japanese women look so graceful in a kimono. In a properly fitted kimono, the most comfortable position is upright. One is forced to take slower and smaller steps and move carefully so as not to expose one's legs, rumple the folds, or drag the sleeves.
The best way to understand this is to experience a kimono fitting yourself.
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Sherilyn Siy