Kimono and the "Western" body

It is well known that Japanese are, on average, shorter than Europeans or Americans. The proportions are also different: The legs are shorter in relation to the torso, and the whole body more compact. Various difficulties arise for the Westerner who wants to wear Japanese attire.

Women generally have a slim and delicate figure with a waist width Western women only dream of, and a bust and hips that is the nightmare of all but those who worship the current drug-addict-ironing-board aesthetic. The standard height is 155-160cm, and the shoe size 22-23, which is the Japanese size that corresponds with the foot's length in centimetres.

The kimono with its angular shape and straight lines fits well with this straight figure but tends to look ridiculous on a woman whose body features are what is considered a feminine shape in the West or wide, non-sloping shoulders. If you have that kind of figure, it is probably best to bury all dreams of wearing a kimono.

But let's go from the aesthetic to the practical issues of these differences: ^Traditional Japanese clothes and shoes are modeled on Japanese bodies, and to make it more difficult, on obsolete measurements. The Japanese have grown considerably during the last decades, but traditional clothing hasn't reflected the change. Young Japanese are facing the same problems as Westerners when it comes to clothing sizes, only to a lesser extent.

Height: If you're significantly taller than the Japanese average, you'll have difficulties finding a kimono. With a height of 165cm (women) you can just about use an original kimono, but above... see Making a kimono. *smile*

Width: Fortunately, kimono easily accomodate somewhat wider figures. However, an original obi might be too short.

Shoe size: The largest shoe size readily available to women in Japan is 24.5, which roughly corresponds to Anglo size 5 1/2 and European 38 1/2. This goes for tabi, too. Geta and z˘ri tend to be smaller (<24), and finding shoe size 24+ can be difficult. Unfortunately, footwear is the most difficult to make oneself or substitute. Bugger. Your best bet is to find a geta or z˘ri maker and have shoes made to measure. Wander the backstreets of Ky˘to (especially the quarter south of the Shinkansen tracks) to find workshops.



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