January 8, 2012

For kimono newbies or cosplay: Odori Kimono

This one looks like a yukata
I come across odori or dance kimono all the time on ebay and Ichiroya. These dance kimono are not the same as the distinctive trailing kimono that geiko (geisha) and maiko wear for their performances. By dance, I mean for a stage or festival performance in a parade or similar situation.
Dancers wearing matching odori kimono

Odori kimono are wonderful for people starting out with kimono but will only wear one to a matsuri festival a couple of times a year or for cosplay. They are a nice alternative to yukata and used ones are often less expensive than yukata. Plus you can find both men's and woman's odori kimono. The advantages to odori kimono for  an ocassional wearer are:

Dyed to look like kasuri- a woven pattern
  1. Inexpensive
  2. Bold colors and designs
  3. Unlined, so they are not as heavy as lined kimono
  4. Washable polyester 
  5. A great choice if you do other Japanese art forms such as taiko and need kimono for special performances
The are some disadvantages I can see:
  1. Not appropriate to wear to a more formal Japanese cultural event such as tea ceremony
  2. Synthetic material: if you live in a hot climate, these might not be suitable; if it's really hot, try a cotton yukata
  3. Color and design range is limited
  4. Not as easy to find as yukata and regular kimono
Men's odori kimono

Here are some examples of odori kimono I found today on eBay- you can see blue is easy to find right now!
Detail of the blue kimono above

Some of these have wonderful, subtle details and designs, like the dark green kimono below and the deep turquoise kimono to the right.  These are more versatile since the less they look obviously like a dance kimono, the more places you can wear them.

Detail of the crane motif on the dark green kimono
The lovely dark green kimono has metallic gold and beautiful detailing on the stylized waves and cranes. This could probably be worn to a casual party. It doesn't scream "odori kimono".

This is essentially a komon kimono
Cute fans are repeated all over this kimono

This deep blue odori kimono with the multicolored folding fans kimono looks like a regular komon kimono! This would be a wonderful first kimono for a budding enthusiast. It could be worn with a variety of casual obi and would probably be OK to wear to a cultural event assuming the fabric is of high quality.
A classic striped odori obi

Of course where there are dance kimono, there are dance obi...the perfect accessory!

Odori or dance obi are usually of two types: hanhaba (half-width) or nagoya. Dance obi are always bright, metallic, and have a simple, high-contrast design like checks, stripes, fans, etc. Many have a different pattern on each side, sometimes with gold thread on one side and silver on the other. They are made of synthetic material and usually polyester but sometimes are seen in rayon. (Described as synthetic silk).
A modern dance obi with lots of color and bling

Here are a few examples of odori obi.

The green side features a design of yukiwa or snowcrystals

White with silver on one side, gold on the other

A men's kaku dance obi with an elaborate design

Of course, you could wear a regular obi in a simple design with a dance kimono. A hakata obi would be a good choice, or a hanhaba obi for yukata. Stay away from fukuro obi or formal nagoya obi, even if they have gold threads. They will usually look out of place. And make sure you wear a juban underneath- these kimono are not usually lined.


  1. What occasions/TPO are ok to wear an odori kimono to and how do you accessorize an odori kimono formality-wise if you are wearing it for non-dance purposes?

    1. Hi Cuttlefishlove!
      That's a really good question! It would depend on three factors to start: Style of kimono (komon, houmongi, yukata, etc.), quality of fabric, and design will all determine TPO. I'd look at the fabric first. If the kimono is a heavier rayon or polyester and actually looks like silk and is lined, that can raise the formality level to the point you would wear it to an event as you would a regular kimono. A komon can be dressed up with the right obi to almost semi-formal level depending on design, and houmongi or tsukesage kimono as well if the quality is there. If it's an unlined odori kimono, I'd stick to very casual looks with hanhaba obi; similar to wearing a yukata. But it would depend on the kimono. If I could see what it looks like, that would help!

  2. I wear Odori Kimono for many occasions and I am not a beginner :) They are great for casual situations where komon would be appropriate.