How to Dress Like a Maiko

How to Dress Like a Maiko

A Maiko is a label for a lady who is studying to be an entertainer in Kyoto, fully trained in Japanese time-honoured arts. She typically wears a kimono, a traditional long robe that is worn as a formal outfit in Japan. A kimono is the most recognized of Japanese clothing, but the term was once used to identify a range of different clothes from Japan. Maikos wear more traditional clothes and fabric designs to appear more sophisticated and graceful, like their counterparts from Ancient Japan when Maikos originated.

There is a range of items that make up a kimono and they have traditional Japanese names. These include:

Datejime: Belt that sits underneath the obi belt and ensures a perfect kimono silhouette Geta: Traditional Japanese shoes without a heel Hanhaba: Obi sash that is matched with everyday kimonos Juban: White cotton slip that fits underneath the kimono Koshi himo: Cotton belt that holds the kimono in place Obi: Decorative silk sash Zori: Traditional Japanese shoes that have a heel

The process of putting on a lady’s kimono is a complex one, as most need another person to help them put it on properly.


The steps of putting on a kimono are below.

  • 1. Firstly, a slip called the juban is put on. It should feel like a light bathrobe and should be tied snugly at the side.
  • 2. The second step is when the kimono is put on. Your arms should go through the top slits of the silk outer kimono robe. After it is put on, make sure the back panel of the robe is centered with your back.
  • 3. Next, wrap the right side of the robe first around your body to the left. If there is excess material, it is okay that the robe reaches around to your back. Wrap the left side so it overlaps. Adjust the juban slip if showing.
  • 4. To keep the kimono in place, the first belt is tied. This is called the koshi himo. Hold the belt behind you first and tie it across your front. The kimono robe should now be adjusted so that the koshi himo belt is hidden under the excess material in the front.
  • 5. Now the second belt is tied. This is called the datejime. Tie this belt like the koshi himo, but this belt sits on top of the kimono and is visible.
  • 6. The final decorative obi or sash should now be tied. A simpler obi sash is the hanhaba. To tie this sash, first, measure the sash at one end so that you can tie a knot with enough material. Leave this material loose for the obi tying. Hold the rest of the belt to your back and wrap it around until two ends are now in the center of the back.
  • 7. Next, tie the two obi hanhaba ends together and tighten the sash. It will need to be quite tight for the next step. The obi ends should now be tucked into the obi or datejime. If the obi is tight enough, the sash will not fall out. Make final adjustments to the kimono robe so all the panels are level and centered.
  • The final step of putting on a kimono is the styling of the hair and accessories chosen. This is what sets Maiko apart from other ladies wearing a kimono. Their hairstyle and accessories are more traditional and extravagant than other choices out there. Maikos also dress and style themselves differently, depending on what stage of their training they are at. A typical hairstyle of a Maiko is a simple updo like a bun. They show off a band of unpainted skin at the hairline, proving that they have not earned the wigs that the geisha ladies wear. Their updo is decorated with delicate hair ornaments or kanzashi. Maiko likes to wear flower kanzashi that ties into the different seasons or holidays.
  • The final accessories include shoes, a bag, and a fan. A kimono should be worn with a pair of sandals, of either the geta or zori style. The bag chosen is also typically more traditional as well. These are called kimono bags and match the fabric of the kimono in some way. They are called kimono bags as they are typically made out of similar fabric to traditional kimono robes. Finally, a Japanese maiko shouldn’t go out without her fan. These are usually made out of thick paper and are available in a range of colors. Some even have partial designs or are covered in a metallic paint – or even a gold leaf! These fans are important as they are not just props for aesthetic purposes. Maiko uses their fans in a range of activities, including dancing and the tea ceremony. These are usually kept in an obi or silk belt for easy access.
  • Maikos are usually found around the Kyoto region, where they continue to give high-class performances to professionals as they have done for hundreds of years. Many maikos have found a calling to demonstrate their traditional arts to tourists and visitors, just like those found at the Maikoya Centre.
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