The Japanese Kimono

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The Japanese Kimono

The kimono has had a long history in Japanese culture and has adapted

throughout the many periods according to the state of their society at

the time. The word kimono simply translates to 'a thing worn' and is

generally a long straight-lined gown with liberal sleeves which often

double as pockets. Often more informal kimono will sport shorter

sleeves and although the majority are made for summer conditions, come

wintertime and they will be thickly padded. It is secured with no

buttons, ties or things of that sort - instead the material is crossed

over the front of the body (resulting in a V neckline) and tied with

an obi at the waist.

The obi is a wide sash that is wrapped around the waist twice and is

often the most expensive part of the kimono. It is traditional for the

men to keep to shades of black or white whilst the colours and designs

of a woman's obi and kimono will change with the seasons. From

November to February white kimono with plum lining were conventionally

worn, whilst April and March brought lavender kimono with blue lining,

and the remaining months entailed yellow and orange combinations.

Designs were also linked to seasons with cherry blossoms for Spring,

plum blossoms or snow scenes for Winter, ocean waves for Summer and

red maple leaves for Autumn.


The kosode is an uncomplicated, narrow, short-sleeved article of

clothing that eventually evolved into what we call the kimono. It was

originally associated with a low social status because the poorer

classes could not afford the material for the fashionable wide

sleeves, and resorted to the wearing the kosode instead. Meanwhile the

kosode was merely used as an undergarment by noblemen and women, worn

beneath many layers of magnificently dyed silks or court dress. There

then came a period (1185 - 1334) where there was a large rebellion

against the extravagance of the courtiers, and the many layers of

padded silks was reduced to a mere simple white kosode as the outer

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