Translatned roughly to "swinging sleeves", the Furisode is a long-sleeved kimono worn by young ladies for a variety of occassions, ranging from casual to formal and ceremonial. In Japan, it is only considered proper for unmarried ladies to wear Furisode. When kimono were common dress for Japanese ladies, it was common that a woman would cut the sleeves of her Furisode when she married, in order to continue using her old kimono.
Today, Furisode are considered very valuable, and most women would rather hold onto their Furisode to pass down in their family, rather than cut them. Few young Japanese women own Furisode today, but services for renting them are common. It can cost between ¥20,000 and ¥50,000 (roughly $250-$630) to rent a Furisode and all of its accessories, and around ¥100,000 (roughly $1270) to purchase.
The formality of a Furisode is based on two key elements: the length of the sleeve, and the presence of mon. Any level of mon can be applied to a silk Furisode, either one, three, or five. The various sleeves lengths are described below in greater detail.
Also referred to as "Honfurisode" or "Kakeshita", this is the longest sleeve length. The standard length is 115cm, though it may range from 114cm to 125cm. It is typically worn by dancers and singers, or by the bride at a wedding ceremony or reception. The hem is padded to give it extra weight so that it can be worn without an ohashori, and allowed to drag the ground (see also hikizuri). It is very heavy compared to other Furisode and can be difficult to move in.
This is the most common length of Furisode sleeve, that most Japanese girls would wear. Traditionally, the length of sleeve is around 100cm (ranging from 96cm to 106cm). Because recent generations of Japanese girls are growing taller, Chufurisode sleeves are becoming longer, and some are even made as long as Ofurisode. Unlike the Ofurisode, the hem of the Chufurisode is not padded, making it much lighter and easier to wear.
Chufurisode is often worn for Coming-Of-Age ceremonies and for the first visit to a shrine after the New Year.
This is the shortest length of Furisode sleeve. Kofurisode are rather uncommon today, though some girls rent Kofurisode for their graduation ceremonies. Pairing Kofurisode with hakama creates a classic look that resembles a Meiji Period schoolgirl. This style can be paired with tabi and geta, or for a more retro look, can be worn with western-style lace-up "granny boots". With boots, the hakama are usually worn shorter than with tabi and geta.
A Kofurisode with a Komon pattern and an informal material can even be considered a casual garment for young unmarried ladies.