This was writen as a handout for my (Marius Frøisland) keikoba.
Tea is very formal activity. During keiko (practice), as well as during events, this is shown in the way we dress. I have separated the discussion into western clothing (youfuku) and Japanese (kimono), but first some general comments.
Your clothing should be clean and whole, what ever else it might or might not be. It should not be too flashy in design or color.
In tea, one always use white socks. This is to show that we have taken care to put on clean clothing for the occasion.
Futher note that one does not use any jewellery in a tea room. This also includes wrist watches, and similar items.
It is generally not a problem to use western clothing for tea. However, there are a few things one should keep in mind.
Tabi are for instance not considered appropriate for western clothing, one should use normal white socks.
For men a suit with tie is the best choice. For women a suit or conservative dress is appropriate. If you are using a skirt it should be long enough to cover your knees. What ever you choose to wear try it on and try sitting on the ground. Some pants and skirt will allow you to sitt comfortably both in seiza and cross legged, others will permit neither.
Even when wearing a suit white socks are used. It is a good idea to wear normal socks with the suit, and change to white socks when you arrive at the location. If there is no appropriate place to change, it is not uncommon to pull a pair of white socks over your regular socks.
For some events it might be appropriate to use a national costume of your home, but it is best to check this with the host in advance.
Many of the same considerations as when choosing what to wear for events applies to keiko. Make sure that what you chose can accommodate sitting comfortable on tatami for a long time. Avoid clothing with metal fastener that can damage the tatami. Also jeans are usually not comfortable for seiza as they will cut of the blood flow. If possible include a belt. Otherwise you need to put a obi or something similar over your cloths when doing temae.
The clothing for okeiko can be more casual than for an event, but avoid the following:
- Flashy colors or design
- Inappropriate messages
- Showing too much skin. The appropriate amount to show is just your hands, neck and head.
A option somewhere in between kimono and yofuku is samue. This is only appropriate during keiko and not during events unless your only going to work in the mizuya. Some places does not consider samue to be appropriate even for keiko as it is traditionally used for physical work.
Samue should be blue, and worn with t-shirt underneath. Before doing temae you can put on a obi to allow placement of kaichu and fukusa.
There are many sources of samue online, but many of these sources are highly overpriced. In Japan you can get samue of decent quality as low as 5.000 yen.
Wearing kimono correctly is an art in itself. I will just mention some general principles here.
As a general principle I would say that any kimono is better for tea than youfuku. This also goes for keiko, as it helps you get a good posture.
The kimono should, if possible, be of silk or polyester that looks like silk, and have at least one mon (family crest) on the back.
Women should use iromonji (one colored kimono without patterns).
More freedom is given in what kind of kimono one can use, both regarding pattern, and fabric. Women can use komon (small picture) kimono, and men does not need hakama.
For some of the higher temae it is common to use a more formal kimono while doing keiko. Typically this means treating okeiko as if it is an event when considering what to wear.