Uchikake, or Japanese bridal kimono, are some of the most elaborate garments in the realm of traditional Japanese ceremonial clothing. They are heavy and thick with padding, and extend to the floor. Until the Edo period, the Uchikake, a full length outer robe, was worn by women of nobility for formal occasions, but is now an essential component of any traditional Japanese bridal costume. It is a robe worn atop the kakeshita kimono, and is fastened with the kakeshita obi.
Shiromuku, combines shiro, translated “white” and muku, translated “pure” signifying the brides pure intention to accept and conform to the customs and practices of the husband’s family. The Shiromuku is a special type of kimono that is worn only with a furisode uchikake which is a multi-colored over-kimono. It has cotton filling in the hemline to weigh it down and extend to the floor. The shiromuku is entirely white except the red inner lining of the uchikake. The designs are usually beautiful chrysanthemum or pine which symbolizes good fortune.
Kuro tomesode, the most formal Japanese kimono for married women is the five crested Kuro tomesode. Kuro means black, and tomesode implies sleeves of short width. The shorter sleeves and smaller sleeve opening are more appropriate for the married woman unlike the longer wavy sleeve of the Furisode for the unmarried woman. Kuro tomesode typically have five family crests, two on the front and three on the back.
Iro tomesode, is another formal Japanese kimono for married women which ranks next to the kuro tomesode for formal kimono wear. It too has five crests and sleeves of short width. The word iro implies color, which differentiates this formal kimono from the kuro tomesode. The lighter colors and designs of a married woman’s iro tomesode make this kimono more appropriate for less formal events such as festive occasions, formal parties and gatherings.
Furisode, is the most important Japanese kimono for a single woman. The furisode kimono has long swinging sleeves, elaborate decorations beautiful designs and colors made of very fine, brightly colored silk. The furisode is a form of kimono commonly bought by parents for their daughters when they turn 20, to celebrate the Coming of Age Day. They are generally worn for major social functions such as the tea ceremony, or wedding ceremonies of relatives.
Houmongi, is a modified version of the furisode or tomesode. Houmongi are meant for formal visits. Homongi literally translates as visit (homon) wear (gi) and can be worn by both unmarried and married women. Unmarried women wear a simplified furisode kimono with slightly longer sleeves and married women wear an informal tomesode with slightly shorter sleeves. A homongi is distinguished from other patterned kimono by an asymmetrical pattern that continues unbroken across the side seams to the back hem. Homongi kimono are made from bolts of silk that were temporarily stitched to the finished length, hand painted, and then taken apart to be dyed before being re-sewed. This complex process makes these kimono highly desirable and valuable.