How to Make a Traditional Japanese Kimono

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Japanese kimonos have been around for several thousand years.
Japanese kimonos have been around for several thousand years. (Image: kimono image by Francis Lempérière from Fotolia.com)

Kimonos are possibly the most widely recognized article of traditional Japanese clothing. Kimono styles have evolved steadily since their origins in the Jomon period (14,000 B.C. - 300 A.D.), and the style we're most familiar with today came about during the Edo Period of the 19th century. Its naturally loose-fitting cut and flowing lines compliment many body types, and can be used by both genders for formal and casual occasions. Made up of six panels of equal length, cut and folded to different proportions, a kimono is a fairly straightforward garment to make.

Things You'll Need

  • 6 yards of 45" silk or cotton fabric
  • Scissors
  • Needle
  • Sewing thread
  • Iron

Wash and iron the material you're going to use for the kimono, then trim the ends to achieve a square edge around each of the four corners. Silk can be torn easily to give you that sharp, square edge; other material should be cut with care.

Cut the fabric lengthwise in half, then cut each half into three parts to create six panels of equal length and width. Four of them will act as the main body, with the other two panels providing the smaller accouterments of the kimono. Stitch the edges of the panels to prevent fraying.

Sew together two panels to form the back of the kimono, leaving a 2-inch gap at the top for the neck. Place the panels with the side that will be seen so they are facing each other. Stop sewing when you're about 12 inches from the bottom. When you finish sewing, open it so the sides that will be seen are face up.

Attach the front panels to the back panels by sewing them at the shoulder. Place them so the sides that will be visible are facing each other. Sew the panels together at the top, again allowing room for the neck at the top. At this point the kimono should look like a sleeveless robe.

Cut one of your remaining panels in half equally to form the sleeves; they should be approximately 22 inches wide and 1 yard long. Stitch the fabric to prevent fraying, then fold each sleeve in half to create a square that’s only a half a yard long. Turn the kimono body right side out, then sew the sleeves to the body while ensuring the fold of the sleeve matches the shoulder seam along the outer edge.

Cut the last panel in half lengthwise; one half will form the collar, and the other will form two gores. The strip for the gores should be cut in half diagonally, then sewn directly onto the bottom of each front panel of the kimono. The square end of each gore should line up with the inside, or center edge, of each panel.

Fold the collar in half lengthwise, and iron a half-inch hem around the edges. Fold it in half with the right side out and the hems facing each other. Match the center point of the collar to the center of the kimono’s back, and tuck the neckline into the hem before sewing the collar to the kimono.

Match the underarm seams and, starting 4 inches below the underarm, sew the sides of the front and back panels together. Hem the garment with a half-inch hem.

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