If you purchase only one traditional Japanese garmet, make it a haori.
With a haori, you don't need to learn kitsuke rules for wearing one. They don't require any special accessories (although you may want to get a few beaded haori himo- far easier than the traditional ties), you don't have to wear multiple layers, they come in all kinds of colours, designs, and fabrics, and fit isn't as much of an issue when compared to kimono.
|Silk haori, hand-tied (not printed) shibori.|
- How much space you need for your back/waist around, and sleeve-to-sleeve measurement... and sleeve-to-sleeve is flexible, if you don't want the sleeve hems at your wrists. Haori do not wrap around in front. They hang open, with four to eight inches to spare.
- What kind of fabric you are prepared to take care of. Silks are sometimes difficult to clean, but they are awfully luxurious and comfortable. Synthetics are most common, and some are washable, but being synthetic, they don't breathe and they can sometimes seem 'cheap'. Hemp and wool haori exist, too; these are durable in the extreme, warm in winter and cool in summer, but the fabric can be stiff instead of 'flowing' like synthetics or silk. On people with wide shoulders like mine, a stiff, boxy appearance is probably the LAST thing you want to see!
- What you're going to wear it with. This one is easy. You can't go wrong with a plain, neutral shirt (tank top, blouse, whatever 'matches' the formality of the haori), and jeans or a nice skirt. Add some jewellery or bright makeup, and you've got the perfect outfit.
|See that black + white shibori on the right? Haori!|
When you're done with the day, haori are like other wafuku; they do need to be folded and put away. Silk pieces especially need to be aired out to ensure that humidity will not get trapped in the fibres and cause it to rot, so I suggest wrapping them in acid-free tissue paper (or in a pinch, plain white tissue paper) or tatoshi (rice paper for kimono storage). Since insects tend to like natural fibres, and the occasional moth does seem to find it's way into every home, I suggest a cedar chest instead of using moth balls whenever possible. Otherwise, hemp, wool, and synthetics seem to do OK hanging in the closet, provided that the hangers are fairly wide to support the seams. I fold all of mine to keep stress tears or stretching from occurring, but this is up to you.
What is your signature style?