Oriental style – Kimono

The ethnic style for the coming season (summer 2011) is ‘oriental’, according to the UK Elle magazine March issue.

Meaning the Japanese kimono and obi belt, and the Chinese cheongsam. This all got a bit long, so I’ve put the cheongsam in a later post.

Make from a border print or a chinese brocade. Also many oriental style prints available in quilting cottons. The Japanese use luxurious silks to make kimonos for special occasions.

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The classic kimono has a straight neck band, straight armhole, straight side seams perhaps with long slits, and big deep sleeves. So they’re simple to make, and often used as a beginners pattern. The simple shape also means they’re a popular starting point for embellishment.

Cut-on sleeves are sometimes called kimono sleeves, but that isn’t what is meant here.

If you prefer a Big 4 pattern, there are several from Simplicity.
Simplicity 4080 is a pattern for a geisha costume.


Simplicity 4134 (left) and Simplicity 2940 (right) are more fashion oriented versions.


Japanese kimonos are traditionally cut in rectangles, using every scrap of what may be very expensive fabric.

For authenticity, try a Japanese pattern book. In Japanese, but the instructions have many illustrations. This book includes photos of how to wear kimonos, and how to tie the obi belt – simplified for modern wear.

There are two main western books in English. For focus on the clothes, try Make your own japanese clothes by John Marshall. Or Jenni Dobson’s book for kimonos used as the background for embellishment and art-quilting.

Do a book search for ‘kimono’ as there are some stunning books with photos of historic garments as works of art. And everything I’m saying is very simplified, as in Japan there are different styles of kimono for different purposes and with different names. Here’s a summary.

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Independent patterns

There are many kimono styles from independent pattern designers. Here are a few with different approaches.

Folkwear 113 (left) is for a kimono and Folkwear 143 (right) is for a michiyuki, meant to be worn over a kimono.


Folkwear have several other patterns like the kimono, in their Asian section.

Deborah Brunner’s Ragstock patterns are similar in approach to a traditional kimono pattern. She doesn’t give you a tissue pattern. She tells you the size to cut fabric rectangles, then to cut sections off them to make the pattern pieces needed. Here are her Kimono (left) and Wrap shirt (right).


Other similar Ragstock patterns are the Sashiko vest (left) and Signature jacket (right)

(not correct relative sizes)

(Sadly these patterns are no longer available, but I’ve left them in for ideas.)

Or how about retro patterns from a time when kimonos were high fashion. In the 20s, fashionable women were celebrating being able to wear loose clothing for the first time. EvaDress has kimonos from that era, dated about 1923 (left) and 1924 (right).


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Obi belt

For a touch of oriental style wear an obi belt, traditionally tied round the kimono. In a very simple western version, it’s just a wide fabric strip.

Here’s a video on how to tie it.
The instructions for making one that she refers to are here.

Not at all the same as tying an authentic Japanese obi belt, which involves many yards of fabric and special supports and is considered an art form.

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Sashiko quilting

Or for another taste of the orient, add some Japanese embellishment.

Japanese sashiko stitching traditionally has large white stitches on a dark blue ground. Here’s a clear tutorial.

The Folkwear 113 kimono is embellished with sashiko quilting.


There’s full information about sashiko quilting supplies, patterns and books at Shibori Dragon (about a third of the way down the home page).

Sashiko is not as heavy as western quilting, as it just uses 2 layers of fabric, no wadding/batting.

Here’s a stunning example of sashiko on a garment, the back of a jacket pattern from Betty Gant (sadly no longer available).


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I love the relaxed easy styling of the kimono shape and have collected a lot of information, so this got a bit long. My planned post on the Chinese cheongsam is much shorter !

P. S. YouLookFab has 2 posts on wearing a short kimono layer with casuals, here and here.

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Patterns and links available February 2011

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P.S. 2017. Kimonos are now very current, so there are many patterns for them. Here are just some :

Independents :
Burda Style, 121,06/2011
Ralph Pink Amayo Drape
Sewing Workshop Ikina
Sewing Workshop Plaza
Sew Over It kimono

Big 4 :
Butterick 6176
Simplicity 1318
search ‘kimono’ at Simplicity for many more, both fashion and costume.
Vogue 9115

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2 Comments on “Oriental style – Kimono”

  1. Nancy Says:

    New Look 6203 is similar to the traditional Qi Pao dress design.

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