The Kimono: A History and Overview
The kimono has been a part of Japanese culture since time immemorial. Current trends show that this is a part of the Japanese heritage that is not about to disappear any time soon. The word “kimono” itself means “thing to wear” in Japanese, and they were originally made from a single piece of cloth. In the Western world, the word “kimono” has come to be used as a general term for all Japanese traditional clothing, but in Japan there is a distinction between the various types of kimono. The best known and most commonly worn type of kimono is the yukata, which is a light cotton robe that is worn in summertime. Other types of kimono include the more formal furisode, which is worn by unmarried women, and the hakama, which is a divided skirt that is worn by both men and women.
2. The Kimono in Ancient Japan:
The kimono first appeared in Japan during the Heian period (794-1185). At that time, it was called the kosode, and it was a much simpler garment than the kimono of today. It consisted of two rectangular pieces of cloth that were sewn together at the sides, with sleeves attached to the body piece. The kosode was usually made of silk, and it was often decorated with intricate patterns. The way in which the kosode was worn also changed over time. In the early days of the Heian period, it was common for both men and women to wear their kosode open at the front, but by the end of the period it had become more usual for women to wear their kosode closed at the front with an obi (sash) tied around the waist. Men continued to wear their kosode open at the front until the Edo period (1603-1868).
During the Edo period, there was a great deal of prosperity in Japan, and people had more leisure time to enjoy art and entertainment. One popular form of entertainment was ukiyo-e woodblock prints, which often featured pictures of beautiful women wearing fashionable clothing. The kimono became an important part of this fashion, and new styles and designs were developed. The Edo period also saw the development of special schools where young girls could learn how to wear a kimono correctly.
3. The Kimono in Western Art:
The first Westerners to see a kimono were probably members of Portuguese trading ships who arrived in Japan in 1543. They were so fascinated by this strange new garment that they took some back to Portugal with them. From there, news of the kimono spread throughout Europe, and it quickly became a popular subject for artists. Many well-known Western artists have painted pictures featuring people wearing kimonos, including Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Claude Monet. In recent years, there has even been a trend for fashion designers in Europe and America to incorporate elements of the kimono into their own creations.
4. The Kimono Today:
Although Western influences have played a role in its evolution, the basic design of the kimono has remained largely unchanged for centuries. Nowadays, most Japanese people only wear a kimono on special occasions, such as weddings, funerals, and tea ceremonies. However, there are some women who still wear a kimono every day. These women are usually older, and they often work in traditional occupations such as being a geisha or running a tea house.
The kimono is also popular with foreign tourists to Japan. Many visitors to the country like to buy a kimono or yukata to take home with them as a souvenir. In recent years, there has even been a trend for young Japanese women to wear kimonos as a fashion statement. This is particularly common at summer festivals, where girls will often dress up in brightly colored yukatas.
The kimono is an important part of Japanese culture and heritage. It has been worn by the people of Japan for centuries, and it continues to be popular both inside and outside the country. The kimono is a unique garment that is steeped in history, and it is sure to remain an important part of Japanese culture for many years to come.