The Kimono : Beauty, Spirit and Value
A layered T-shaped garment that fits every sort of body shape, the kimono is easy to wear and infinitely adaptable, however its origins and its evolution which spans centuries and eras, is a little more complex. Kimono in English means ” wearing thing” .
In the Edo period (1603-1868) the kimono was just a unisex outer garment called kosode. characterized by smaller armholes. Like most societies, Edo period Japan was stratified. Since everybody wore kosode and the cut hardly changed during this period, messages were worked into the garment to announce its wearer. Styles, motifs, fabric, color, and new techniques differentiated each kosode.
In post-Edo Japan, during the Meiji period, the country was undergoing many changes on multiple levels. Meiji law encouraged men to wear Western clothing, and demanded wearing it for government officials and military personnel at official functions. Japanese women wearing kimono became a reassuring, visual image.
It was only from the Meiji period (1868-1912) onwards that the garment was called kimono. This last transformation, from the Edo era to modern Japan, explains why the kimono has become a garment that embodies so much about what it means to be Japanese.
The kimono became a visible yet silent link between between woman, mother, and cultural protector. Even today, the kimono is a reminder of Japan’s core culture as it was just before the fundamental changes came.
The kimono is a flat, T-shaped garment with square sleeves and a rectangular body, worn left over right unless the wearer is deceased. It is always worn with an obi, and commonly worn with accessories such as zōri and tabi socks.
Kimono are mostly made from traditional bolts of fabric known as tanmono. There are different types of kimono for men, women and children, and the style of the kimono can indicate the wearer’s age, gender, formality of occasion and – less commonly – the wearer’s marital status. Types of kimono range in formality from the casual to the very most formal of occasions. Many kimono motifs are seasonal, and denote the season in which the kimono can be worn; however, some motifs have no season and can be worn all-year round. The combination of pine, plum and bamboo – known as the Three Friends of Winter, they are auspicious, and thus worn on formal occasions for the entire year.
Today, the principal distinctions between men’s kimono are in the fabric. The typical men’s kimono is a subdued, dark color; black, dark blues, greens, and browns are common. Fabrics are usually matte. Some have a subtle pattern, and textured fabrics are common in more casual kimono. More casual kimono may be made in slightly brighter colors, such as lighter purples, greens and blues. Sumo wrestlers have occasionally been known to wear quite bright colors such as fuchsia.
Because of the kimono’s wealth of history, culture and fine craftsmanship passed on through generations, it is now considered by the Japanese as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.••••