November 19, 2011

What not to wear: the fakes

Some kimono kitsuke websites and blogs have  posted info on what is not a kimono but rarely do I see images, so I went out on a limb to find and post these.
I see these various "kimono" on eBay all the time and if you do an image search for "kimono", you can find this stuff easily. Ironically, if you do a search for "fake kimono", you won't find very much. So I thought I would offer a compendium of "kimono" so you can see how to spot a fake.

A couple of these dresses are actually labeled as a costumes or as kimono bathrobes, which better than calling them kimono; no fooling what they are. However, just because it says "Geisha Costume" or "Kimono robe" doesn't mean it's accurate and a real kimono.

Here I have gathered together 11 variations of  fake kimono. Let's go through them one by one. 

  1. This one is really a bathrobe and besides the shiny satin fabric, contrasting collar, and incorrect sleeves, it has pockets. Kimono do not have pockets. Never, ever, ever.
  2. I'm not sure what this is...a shirt? It's too short to be anything remotely kimono-like. It's shiny silk and has flared sleeves. Sorry. but this is not it. 
  3. This one could easily fool a's cotton and looks somewhat like a yukata. However, check out the contrasting white collar (Kimono are all of one material, no contrasting cuffs or collars) and the flared sleeves. Not a kimono or a yukata.
  4. Again, contrasting collar give it away, but the fabric should scream fake to those of you who know better: shiny satin.
  5. You've probably seen #5 at Frederick's of Hollywood- "kimono" lingerie! This one is just wrong ten times over. Sometimes called "Sexy costume geisha kimono dress". There is no cleavage when a kimono is worn properly.
  6. This was described as a kimono coat. Shiny silk brocade, flared bell-shaped sleeves, right over left (Fastening with invisible buttons!), and very short. Interesting but not a kimono.
  7. This is actually supposed to be a "deluxe geisha character costume". It's pretty awful all around:  satin fabric looks like Chinese brocade, the bell-shaped sleeves, the cinched-in waist and bunched up obi, contrasting trim, strange purple underskirt, and bizarre black cotton-candy wig! For the same price you could buy a real yukata, obi, and geta. But you wouldn't be nearly as scary.
  8. More shiny satin and contrasting trim; plus even some on the sleeves this time. Sleeves are wider on this version, the obi has a cute little bow in front! All this from a website supposedly selling "Japanese Fashion".
  9. More lingerie I believe. Maybe a short bathrobe? Too shiny, too short, too weird. Plus it's right over left...only seen on dead people in Japan. Don't become a kimono zombie!
  10. This is brilliant; it's reversible and unisex! All of this versatility is available in Thai silk in three different colorways! Hugh Hefner wold love this. 
  11. And lastly, the "Vintage Yukata Japanese Haori Kimono with Obi".  These are all over eBay unfortunately. Shiny polyester satin brocade, check. Contrasting collar and trim, check. Sewn-in obi of matching fabric, check. Weird "box" obi bow stuck on the back, check. I see this type at festivals all the time. Sadly, these are cheap, unattractive, slippery, and ridiculous if you are expecting to be taken seriously at a Japanese festival. Save it for lounging around the house.
From these examples you can probably figure out what's not a kimono, but here are a few more tips on the general characteristics of a kimono:
  • Kimono can be made from various silk fabrics, wool, linen, and even polyester. Yukata (Unlined summer dress) are made from cotton. Neither are made from Chinese brocade or satin.
  • A kimono is made from a single bolt of fabric. Every part except a lining (If it's lined) is made from the same fabric. All contrasting bits you may see are separate but essential pieces: obi, under kimono, and separate collar worn under the kimono.
  • Men's and woman's kimono have differences, they are not unisex garments.
  • Kimono are worn in a way to accentuate a straight, almost boyish figure. The waist is not cinched, the bust is not prominent, and there is never cleavage.
  • The basic shape of the dress is like the letter "T"; the shape doesn't vary. What changes the way it looks is the fabric, sleeve length and most of all, the wearer's personality.
  • Kimono are not one size fits all. Originally they were custom made for the wearer.
And finally, clarification: I don't totally dislike the robes and costumes, including cosplay; I just don't like false advertising and feel sad when people buy them and expect it to be the real thing. At a recent event a young girl asked me to dress her in her "kimono yukata". It was a cute satin bathrobe with pockets. Good enough to wear as a costume but not a real kimono. The store she bought it from had signs on the display "Japanese kimono", so of course she thought it was real.



  1. Thanks for this collection! Now I have another thing to show friends if they think about buying a kimono/yukata.
    One of my friends recently asked me to dress her in her kimono while I was visiting her - and was sad when I had to tell her that this in no way is a kimono (it's similar to number 11). I was very unhappy when I had to tell her "yes, the fabric is cute, you can wear it around the house - but please don't go out in this or everyone who knows a bit about kimono will feel sorry for you".

  2. Hi mysli
    Thanks for the nice comment! I feel sorry for these people as hopefully through all the kimono blogs and websites out there, we can prevent prevent the spread of fake kimono ugliness!

  3. Pictures definitely help! I think another thing that's very important, and helps spot the fakes, is right-over-left. Some of those "costumes" have it, and it's a dead giveaway.

  4. Hi Lyuba-chan!
    Good point! I should add that in...otherwise the kimono-zombies will take over the world! :)

  5. Hello, Rebecca-san.
    Thank you for the article. It helps a lot. I shared the link into this page:
    I LOLed at #9 and #10. Love the sarcasm teehee~

  6. It sucks I just bought one and thought it was real from a Epcot Disney place. I thought it was real because like you said on the doors it said kimono's. I feel stupid for blowing money on something that wasn't even authentic. The only thing though is that I don't agree with the pricing for the kimono's. (I live in the us) so spending all that money on something you wouldn't wear that much doesn't make sense. But I would love to buy one and wear occasionally to con's. Next time I go kimono shopping I will make sure to look for fakes.

  7. Hi Anonymous!
    So sorry to hear you got "sucked in" at Disney! For something authentic that won't break your wallet, try eBay. I've found wearable kimono for $15 + shipping, which is usually around $20-$25. Better if you can combine items or get more than one item with a friend and split the shipping cost. Or if you are in a town with a Japanese Buddhist Temple, try an Obon festival. Sometimes you can find cool used items- last year I found a yukata for $10.
    Good luck!

  8. Well, 7 and 8 are actually modified from Chinese gu-zhuangs! People call it a yukata/kimono because of the similar sleeves and collar designs. Fancy comparing them?

  9. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and
    I'm impressed! Extremely helpful info specifically the last part :
    ) I care for such info a lot. I was looking for this
    particular info for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

    plus size bras

  10. It's a shame you don't have a donate button! I'd certainly donate to this fantastic blog!
    I suppose for now i'll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group.
    Talk soon!

    Offer free online