New Type Kimono: Maximum Princess

So, check out one of my all-time favorite Japanese fashion trends – the Kimono Princess!

Your typical Japanese gyaru might be happy to see kimono-wearing go the way of ballroom dancing and tea ceremony, but a growing number of hip young women are adopting the techniques of alt fashion subcultures to breathe new life into old-skool clothes. Kimono hime lovers flaunt convention with a mash-up of vintage patterns, non-trad color combos and Western accessories to spawn a style that is utterly new, yet still utterly Japanese. First of all – just for comparison – here’s what it’s not:

Beautiful, but not stylin'
Beautiful, but not stylin’
A true Kimono Princess uses every accessory – shoes, sox, purse, wrap, hat, gloves – to flaunt convention in some subtle way.
A true Kimono Princess uses every accessory – shoes, sox, purse, wrap, hat – to flaunt convention in some subtle way.

So, how do you build your very own Kimono Princess look?

First of all, a Kimono Princess shuns typical seasonal designs and colors. Pink for cherry blossom season? So 10th century...unless it's the kimono LINING! Vintage jazz-age patterns or modern ironic graphics are the most popular for new style kimono hime.
First of all, you can toss seasonal designs and colors right out the window. Pink for cherry blossom season? So 10th century…unless it’s the kimono LINING!
And Kimono Princesses sometimes wear jewelry. (There's actually a reason Japanese women don't have a big history of wearing rings, necklaces and pins – kimono fabrics were often more costly than jewels, and nobody wanted to risk something snagging or AI YI YI putting a hole in the priceless fabrics. But new style kimonos aren't expensive – most of them are vintage – so even cheap costume jewelry is safe to wear.)
And bring on the jewelry! The reason rings, necklaces and pins weren’t usually worn with kimono is that the fabrics were often more costly than jewels and nobody wanted to risk getting a snag or AI YI YI putting a HOLE in the precious material. But because most Princess Style kimonos are inexpensive cotton or vintage, cheap costume jewelry – and lots of it! – is totally safe to wear.
Not only do modern kimono warriors shun white undercollars & sox, they sometimes even layer on frilly Western pieces to add a little spice.
Raid your closet and layer on some frilly Western pieces & excellent hats to add a little spice.
Or go totally nouveau in a kimono made of some alt fabric like lace. Even more radical – make it all one color!
Or go totally nouveau in a kimono made of some alt fabric like lace. (Even more radical – make it all one color!)
Uh oh, obi tied in the front? This is sure to bring a gloved hand to grandma's lips to hide her shock at the resemblance to an oiran of the pleasure quarters!
Uh oh, obi tied in the front? This is sure to bring a gloved hand to grandma’s lips to hide her shock at your resemblance to an oiran of the pleasure quarters!
Or really fling every convention to the wind, and change the length too.
Or really fling every convention to the wind, and change the length too.

Thanks to Kimono Hime magazine (#12) for the gorgeous new style kimono photos, and きものサロン magazine for the modern photo.

As you’ve probably guessed, I actually love kimono in all its forms. I always thought I’d feel like a hopeless wannabe if I ever tried to un-ironically wear one, but kimono hime style is such an eclectic mix and match, it feels like it can work on anybody. And finally…I got to try it for myself! If you’d like to see the pix and hear what it was like to on a kimono tour with stylist extraordinaire Anji Salz of SALZ Tokyo, click on over to this:

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for
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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Published by Jonelle Patrick

Writes all the Japan things.

26 thoughts on “New Type Kimono: Maximum Princess

  1. Jonelle, I had never heard of kimono hime but totally adore them! Especially the white lace one. Is that first one (gasp!) a bunny print?

    1. Yes, bunny print! There were some really cute cat ones too, but I think I’ll save those for another post. And I looooove this magazine – they stopped publishing for a long time, and I had to just buy up back copies whenever I found them, but I think they’re back in business!

  2. FYI, the email notifications of your posts have gone kind of hinky–huge blank spaces with the link hard to find. Thought you’d want to know.

    1. Arg, I have no control over them, because WordPress does it automatically. +_+ Is it just this post, or have others been weird too? (If it’s just this post, I’m wondering if it’s because the photos are much more hi-res than I usually post. Could be that they’re too big to load in email, and I ought to switch them out for lower-res ones, hmmm…)

      1. It’s all of them recently and I don’t think it’s because of the photos. They don’t load in the email version. Sometimes I think the interwebs ghosts are out to get us!

      2. Arg, that’s awful! I’ve never had a complaint about WordPress before, but lately their servers seem to have glitchy patches. +_+ bleah. Well, I’ll try to take this as a random intercession of Fate, a sort of non-American lesson to learn in this incarnation (笑)

    1. I love them too! This magazine has the BEST photos and ideas – they stopped publishing for a while, but I think this issue is the first of a new batch! Keeping eyes open for MORE…

  3. They are so beautiful especially with the socks and accessories. My dream is a kimono looking garment that’s stil wearable every day ^^

    1. Me too! My body is actually totally wrong for kimono (way too short-waisted to be able to wear the width of an obi comfortably) so I’m kind of thinking I might try kimono hime this spring…

      1. post some pics! I sometime wear haori they are easier to match with european clothes but it’s till too cold in Paris.

  4. Ah, this post is awesome, and about one of my favorite subjects! I’m really glad that KimonoHime is back in print. 😀 (And thanks so much for the shoutout!) I LOVE hime-style. It’s super-versatile and allows for so much customization. And I am of the opinion that kimono suits everyone, you know, so you can definitely rock it. 😉 Please do try it!

    1. I am working up to it! Am going to scout a shop I found in Tokyo, and if I get my nerve up, will go in and try some on. And I always love it when you post new photos of you wearing kimono in America. I hope more of my readers discover your blog, so they can enjoy it with me!(^O^☆♪)

      1. You should definitely wear it to hanami! Perfect time, I think! There will probably be others in kimono too, so you won’t be alone. 🙂 I’ve got a few planned kimono outings coming up myself…gonna go on a cruise tomorrow with my KDJ group, then to sakura matsuri in a few weeks as well! And thanks! It’s a mutual admiration, I enjoy reading about your adventures and finds!

  5. Loved your cruise photos! And sadly, I won’t be in Tokyo until the tail end of hanami this year so I’m missing all the parties, but I plan many outings to see peonies, iris, wisteria & hydrangeas, so maybe I can get inspired to put together a kimono hime outfit for one of those!(^O^☆♪

  6. The Kimono Hime (Or Kimono Michi as it was called back then) was actually the first mook I bought in Japan! This brings back memories. Being a stylist for that mook is about as cool as you can get among kimono stylists right now. Due to the complexity in putting these outfits together you still almost never see them in the wild though. It is a shame! It looks so sweet.

    1. I think so too! I have always loved that wearing kimono is about the whole assembly of colors and patterns and motifs, not just stepping into a readymade thing and zipping it up. It takes a real eye to put so many different pieces together, especially because tossing the usual rules out the window makes it harder, not easier!

    1. Ha, we should never go shopping for them together, then, because no doubt we’d snap up the priciest ones in the store! But one thing I do love about the kimono hime style is that they don’t have to be expensive – I actually visited a store that stocked one of the kimonos in this collection, and it was only a few hundred dollars (compared to a few thousand for regular kimono!) Plus, you can use accessories you already have, so you don’t have to buy the entire outfit from the bottom up. (><)

      1. That’s true, but somehow I only like the more expensive ones haha. Because I feel like in the cheap ones the design would make me feel like playing ”dressing up”. I think it’s because those designs are too traditional/flowery for me.

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