Tomesode (留袖)

Tomesode is a type of Japanese traditional clothes and is a formal dress of the highest rank worn by married women. In the rank of kimono, tomesode is the no. 1 formal dress and is equivalent to the evening dress of the West.

Originally, there was a custom according to which the long sleeves of furisode, which were worn by young women, were held up after marriage and the miyatsuguchi (small opening in the side of some traditional Japanese clothing) was sewed up; these types of kimono were collectively called "tomesode" regardless of the patterns. From this custom originated the name "tomesode" itself, which eventually came to have the meaning of "formal dress for married women".

The type of kimono called "tomesode" today refers to the kimono having patterns woven only in the lower body part of the kimono called "edozuma", which were worn by geisha (Japanese professional female entertainer at drinking party) at first and became popular among women in Edo. Also, hakkake (inside cloth used around cuff and hem) (susomawashi (lining at the bottom of a kimono)) is called "mukujitate" and is tailored by always using the same cloth as the outer surface of the kimono. In this case, even hakkake, although it cannot be observed from outside, may have patterns woven in.

"Black-tomesode", which is often worn by a married woman at a wedding ceremony and the like who is a relative of the couple getting married, uses crepe which is black in ground color or has no patterns, such as Hama-chirimen crepe and Tango-chirimen crepe, with patterns woven in on sleeves and having a total of five family crests on the back, both back sleeves, and front. Tomesode of colors other than black is called "iro-tomesode", and the number of family crests is not necessarily five depending on the purpose of wearing the kimono and may be fewer in number, such as triple family crest or single family crest. Also, sometimes the fabric used may be not only Mumon-chirimen crepe (having no crest) but also Monisho-chirimen crepe, with ground patterns woven in, or rinzu (a Japanese silk satin damask) or satin. Although tomesode was originally worn by a married woman, recently an unmarried woman may wear it as a formal dress. This custom came about because of some instances in which a relatively elderly unmarried woman may be hesitant to wear furisode; in such instances, she would normally wear homongi (semi-formal kimono for women), but tomesode came to be worn in its place in order to give relatively modest appearance and the appearance of composure appropriate for her age.

Furthermore, in the Imperial Court where black is regarded as the color of mourning, black-tomesode is not used but iro-tomesode is used instead. When tomesode is worn by someone of the Imperial family or when an ordinary person pays a visit to the Imperial Palace for bestowal of an order and the like, it is customary to wear iro-tomesode.