“Kimono” (着物) quite literally translates as “wearing thing” (as in “thing you/to wear”). While this was the original meaning of the word, the modern-day meaning is a specific type of traditional Japanese garment. Most of the things you see online and in stores calling themselves “kimonos” have almost nothing to do with actual kimonos.
I am in the boat of wanting strict regulations on being able to use the word “kimono,” but I guess I can’t do much more than to keep talking about what is actually a kimono and shunning those that call things disassociated with Japanese culture kimonos.
A few months back, the mayor of Kyoto wrote a letter to Kim Kardashian about how to respect kimonos and Japanese culture, so I think it’d be fitting for the Japanese government to petition for “kimono” to be a protected term. Read more about that here:
And see the official letter in PDF form:
So, kimonos have evolved from their humble origins into a range of types, which typically keep up the traditional design, but change in weight, type of fabric, use (as in weather conditions and time of year), and cultural use (as in for unwed women, weddings, or funerals). Women’s kimonos also have a much larger variety of not only styles/cultural types, but much more variety in colors, patterns, etc. than men’s kimonos. If you are a guy and ever find yourself in Japan and are looking for a cool kimono, I suggest finding one that you like and don’t even ask if it’s for women or men. Just get what you like and wear it with pride.
A furisode (振袖) is a formal kimono worn by unmarried women. The sleeves hang down over 3 feet, which makes it stick out quite a bit.
Tomesode (留袖) are usually black and have patterns on the bottom, which range from village scenes, mountains, flower arrangements, and anything else in Japan that inspired the artist. The sleeves don’t hang down anywhere near as low as on a furisode, as tomesode are meant for married women.
The breeziest of all is a yukata (浴衣), which is meant for summer use and for more casual events. They are breezy because of the hot and humid summers of Japan, when layers upon layers of fabric just won’t do.
There are many more styles of kimonos, but I’ll take a detour right now to haori (羽織). These are kimono coats/jackets that are nowadays oftentimes coated with water-resistant chemicals to protect the delicate silks and dyes of genuine kimonos. These can range from just being decorative to being thick and heavy, to protect the kimono and the wearer from outside elements, such as rain, snow, and the cold.