Kimono are simple, straight-seamed garments. They are worn wrapped left side over right and secured with a sash called an obi. The length of the garment can be altered by drawing up excess fabric under the obi. Other adjustments can be made to suit the wearer, such as pulling back the collar so that the nape of a woman's neck can be more sensuously revealed. The wrap style allows for ease of movement - a useful feature for a culture where many activities are performed while seated on the floor. The kimono is also well-suited to Japan's climate, with unlined kimono worn in the humid summers and multi-lined kimono worn in the winter.
In kimono it is the pattern, rather than the cut of the garment, that is significant. Indications of social status, personal identity and cultural sensitivity are expressed through colour and decoration. Only the elite regularly wore luxurious kimono; the majority of people would only have worn silk garments on special occasions. The choice of obi and accessories, such as combs and pins worn in the hair, are also important.
The images used on kimono often have complex levels of meaning. The most popular bird depicted on kimono is the crane. Believed to live for a thousand years and to inhabit the land of the immortals, it is a symbol of longevity and good fortune.
Specific motifs were used to indicate virtues or attributes of the wearer, or relate to the season or occasion such as weddings and festivals where it bestows good fortune on the wearer.
Colours also have strong metaphorical and cultural meanings. Dyes are seen to embody the spirit of the plants from which they are extracted. Any medicinal property is also believed to be transferred to the coloured cloth. Blue, for example, derives from indigo (ai), which is used to treat bites and stings, so wearing blue fabric is thought to serve as a repellent to snakes and insects.