Kimonos are a rightfully popular choice for beach cover-ups. Feminine and stylish, as well as practical and easy-to-wear, the beach kimono is definitely a garment you should be packing into your travel bags next time you are headed for a sun-drenched weekend away.

Make the right cover-up choice, and you’ll feel smart enough for drinks at a waterfront bar, yet comfortable and cool enough should you wish to take a barefoot walk along the sands. There are beautifully designed kimonos out there in which simplicity is combined with subtle, hand-crafted detailing.

Here is all you need to know about beach kimonos and how to find the perfect example.

What exactly is a kimono?

What exactly is a kimono

To understand this, we first need to look into the history of a fascinating item of attire.

Kimono is a Japanese word that translates roughly as “thing to wear.”  In reality, a kimono is a far more specific garment. Traditional Japanese kimonos are made from four single pieces of fabric sewn into a T-shape. This simple construction is given loose sleeves and a simple neckline, and is tied with a belt known as an obi.

In Japanese culture, kimonos are hugely significant. In fact, it’s believed that kimonos have been worn since the 8th century and they have become truly symbolic, perhaps more representative of a nation than any other apparel.

In traditional Japanese culture, the kimono often signifies much about its wearer. For instance, variations in the appearance of the sleeves, fabric patterns and symbols used to indicate a lot about the marital status, gender of the person beneath, and the occasion it is being worn for.

Of course, kimonos are less often worn in this strict way these days. However, the shape and structure of the attire continues to influence both Japanese fashion and designers all around the world. The latter have fallen in love with the simplicity of the kimono, which is a blank canvas for their own signature styles.

The kimono is such a versatile and feminine style that suits every body shape. As such, many stylish women have adopted the kimono as a beach cover-up, amongst other reincarnations.

5 features you must find in any kimono purchase

The soft shape and easy-to-wear structure of contemporary kimonos mean they are ideal for wearing as quick and simple cover-ups, and to pop in and out of your bag as needed.

However, be sure to follow these tips so that you pick out the very best fabrics, colors and styles to suit you. These are the exemplary qualities to look out for in a kimono.

1. A truly effortless garment

The idea of a kimono is to get from the hotel, to the shore, to the pool and perhaps even to a casual waterside lunch. You’ll be wearing your swimwear beneath. So, the absolute must for a kimono is that it is utterly effortless to put on and take off. Avoid awkward fastenings and always choose loose sleeves to avoid a poolside tangle.

Kimonos should be loose-fitting with ample fabric for effortless wear. They may be open-fronted, or they may have a simple, delicate tie at the front, or a belt tie to add some practical but elegant detail.

2. Breathable fabrics

Natural fabrics are generally more breathable, and in hotter climates you’ll be really thankful for this. Look out for cottons or linens, or a blend of both. The fabrics are ideal for helping to keep your skin cooler and some of the sun rays off your skin.

A semi-synthetic alternative is viscose, a particularly breathable fabric with a semi-transparent appearance. Viscose is made from wood pulp and not plastics like fully manmade materials, so it is a more environment-friendly choice. It’s a popular fabric for beach cover-ups because it is particularly flowy in appearance, delicate, but lightweight and easy to care for. 

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3. Contemporary styling

A traditional Japanese kimono is formal in style and a very neat, smart garment. A beach kimono may owe its origins to this type of robe, but you’ll soon see there’s an array of more contemporary options that better suit vacation life.

Many kimono designers pay homage to a variety of cultures in the silhouettes they create and in the details they add. You may, therefore, find Indian-inspired handiwork, or billowing boho creations, or bold patterns and bright florals, every length possible, and much more. This means you should find something that fits well with your personal tastes.

4. Easy to dress up and dress down

You’ll certainly want to wear your kimono with your bikini or swimwear. However, choose the right kimono and you’ll also have a versatile item to wear that you can style with other pieces for your wardrobe for a casual daytime look.

Kimonos can look great with, for example, skinny denim, over a tube or vest top and shorts, or a minidress. Therefore, keep these garments in mind and choose colors or styles that would complement them.

5. Detailing

While you will want to get the practical side of choosing a kimono right, you’ll also need to find a style you’ll fall in love with. You could opt for stylish simplicity with a kimono in the crispest white or deepest black. Either would be perfect for accessorizing with colorful, playful jewelry and an oversized hat.

Alternatively, you could seek out something more bohemian. In this case, look out for a kimono that is particularly oversized with billowing sleeves. Check for subtle, thought-out detailing that elevates the kimono to another level, such as the pieces presented in the recent Scarlett Poppies sunstone collection.

Designers may favor, amongst many possibilities:

  • Raw edges and fraying for the most rustic of looks
  • Tassels to add textural detail and possibly color
  • Broderie Anglaise embroidery, a form of openwork embroidery that makes the garment even more breathable, as well as adding intricate, handcrafted patterns
  • Delicate lace detailing, perhaps around the neckline or on the sleeves
  • Geometric patterns, often created using embroidery.
  • Hand beading
  • Mother of pearl embroidery
  • Contrasting stitching
  • Applique designs

Delve into the world of kimonos and you’ll soon discover that, firstly, there is a multitude of possibilities, and secondly, that not all beach cover-ups are created equally. Follow the above tips to find something in the most perfect, shape, fabric, and style for you. Get it right, and you’ll have a timeless, elegant poolside staple that will accompany you on your travels for years to come.

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