What most people think of when they picture kimono is really furisode. These are the long-sleeved, elegantly-decorated kimono, and they are reserved for young women up to about the mid-20s--generally unmarried. Geisha may wear them indefinitely. There are three kinds:

- O-furisode, the "classical" furisode. The sleeve corners around rounded; the sleeves are about 115 cm long. These are typically worn by young unmarried women.

- Chu-furisode, the girls' kimono, worn from ages 10 to 18, approximately. Sleeve corners are rounded, length about 95 cm.

- Ko-furisode, for older young women and young married women. Sleeve corners may be squared, length about 75 cm--not that much longer than ordinary kimono.

Outer furisode are painted or embroidered with designs appropriate to the current season, current fashion, and age of the wearer. A mistake in any of these is a serious error. The furisode must be worn just-so, with the proper obi, etc. Most Japanese young women do not know how to do this anymore and must get an older woman or go to a kimono school in order to do it. Furisode are generally worn only on special occasions such as New Year's and the coming-of-age ceremony. They are extremely expensive, but they are truly works of art. A real furisode never has a machine- printed pattern (like the ones sold in the Narita airport).

The current shape of furisode is a sort of cylinder, de-emphasizing any breasts or hips, and dates from the Meiji period. Wedding furisode are a little more flowing, but still restrictive. The mincing walk of geisha comes from the hobble skirt-nature of modern furisode.

There are several excellent books on kimono in English, and they are pretty much exclusively about furisode.