15th Lesson: Wedding Kimono

Probably the most special kimono among all kimono: the wedding kimono. What’s so special about it? How many kinds of wedding kimono do exist? And what do all those little items symbolize? Read all about the fashion of Japanese brides.

There are two kinds of wedding kimono: the shiromuku (白無垢) and the uchikake (打掛). The difference: shiromuku is white and uchikake is dyed in a vivid color and magnificently embroidered.

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Uchikake

Uchikake is traditionally red, but now there are plenty more colors. This kimono was prepared by the groom’s family. The more gorgeous it was, the richer was the family the bride married in. So this was a chance of the groom’s family to show they’re wealthy and their son is a good match.

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The tradition of the uchikake as a wedding kimono was born in Edo-Period (1603-1868) and is inspired by the fashion of princesses and daughters of wealthy families.

Shiromuku

Shiromuku was the bridal fashion since Muromachi-Period (1392-1491). During the Meiji-Period (1886-1912) when the Japanese people started to admire western culture and western wedding dresses the shiromuku boomed again.

In former times it was prepared by the bride’s family when she headed off to her new home. The color white also meant that she was ready to be “dyed” into “color” of her groom’s family. Simply said she’ll take over all traditions of her new family. In Japan it was believed that when a woman marries, she leaves her own family and becomes a part of the new one. Which means that a bride’s mother-in-law is more related to her than her own mother. Of course, in modern Japan this opinion has already changed, but still stuck in some heads here.

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The veil (綿帽子 wata-bōshi), which is worn with a shiromuku, was in in former times an item princesses or daughters of wealthy trader families wore to protect their skin from sunlight or mosquitos when they were outside. Nowadays the wata-bōshi is only worn by brides. (Read more about kimono from all centuries!)

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Other items

Instead of a wata-bōshi some brides put on a tsunokakushi (角隠し) which says: “I’ll hide my horns and obey my husband.” Maybe this meaning is one the reasons why it’s less worn nowadays.

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Wedding in Meiji-Jingu-2305 ⓒ Gideon Davidson / Flickr CC2.0

The hakoseko (箱迫) she puts into here kimono is a little purse for a small mirror and a comb. This was another way to day: “I’ll always be pretty”. And she also has a fan (扇子 sensu), which is an indispensable item for formal kimono.

The bride also brought a dagger (懐剣 kaiken) with her. The first priority of this item was to show that she can protect herself and the family. It’s a symbol for strength.

Nowadays, the shiromuku is worn during the wedding ceremony at a shrine and the bride gets changed into an uchikake for the wedding party afterwards.


 

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