Kimono patterns can signify the kimono’s rank in formality by how wide spread or pervasive the pattern is as well as the kimono color. Three distinct categories of Japanese kimono which define degrees of formality are, Komon, Tsukesage, and Homongi.
The Komon by virtue of the wide spread stenciled or painted repeat patterns which cover the entire kimono is at the lowest most informal level of formality. Komon dyeing, which has the meaning of “small-figured designs,” has a tradition of about 400 years. It started as a method of transferring the family crest to the “Kamishimo,” the ceremonial attire of the warrior class. During the Edo Period, Komon dyeing gradually spread among the people in general. This Komon dyeing is a traditional technique of high quality that makes use of stencils cut in intricate patterns.
The Tsukesage is next in rank to the Homongi kimono. The tsukesage kimono can be worn by both married and single women to both formal and informal gatherings. For formal occasions, a crest should be applied to the back seam at the top. Tsukesage kimono have designs dyed from the hemline in the front and back which travel to the top of the shoulders. Designs on the sleeves also travel upward.
The Homongi pattern because of its asymmetrical patterning which continues without a break across the side seams to the back hem is the highest level of formality Homongi kimono are made from bolts of silk, which are sewn up into the finished length, then hand painted, taken apart, dyed, and then resewed