Japanese | English | Chinese | Korean
What is Okunizome? The History of Okunizome The Artisan’s Skill Kimono and Living Reference Material Okunizome Video Files Glossary
HOME >Kimono and Living
Kimono and Living

Kimono and Living image
kimono image
Kimono, the traditional clothing of Japan developed depending on the culture and seasons from long ago and changed in style and use according to the times.

The style of kimono which is in use today developed upon entering the Heian period (794~1185). The cuffs were enlarged and a short sleeved undergarment in the same form was worn beneath the kimono. These elegant garments were favoured by the Imperial Court and such garments including the twelve-layered ceremonial kimono were worn to indicate one’s authority.

The kimono up until the Kamakura and Muromachi periods were heavy and impractical but it was during this time that the samurai started to make an appearance, and they preferred clothing which were light and practical for fighting on the battlefield. In particular, the warring period of the mid-Muromachi era saw the elegant and expensive garments slip into the shadows. Another change saw the undergarments worn during the Heian period becoming the model for the kimono worn today.

Entering the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1558~1600), in opposition to the Warring States period of the previous generation, a vibrant culture emerged. The short-sleeved kimono became mainstream, dyeing and weaving techniques developed greatly and patterns were incorporated. Not only were kimono reserved for the aristocrats and samurai but the merchants gained power and colourful kimono started to make an appearance among the common people.

The Edo period saw even greater development of the culture among the townspeople, and the more and more people began to wear colourful garments. The relatively stable period saw 300 years of the Edo culture being cultivated and among this, Yuzen-zome and Nishijin silk fabrics were born. The abundance of materials and designs grew and ‘obi’ or the kimono sash saw it change in length and breadth as people enjoyed new ways of tying their obi. It is said that this style of short-sleeved kimono was finalised around this time.

The Meiji period saw Japan open its doors to the outside world and with this, western culture including clothes were introduced. Even though the kimono culture was still firmly rooted, with time western styles were mixed with the eastern style to create a new blend of east-west fashion. The Taisho period saw women enter the workforce and compared with the kimono, western clothes enjoyed greater popularity as it was easier to move around in and suited the times.

kimono imageThe Showa period saw the outbreak of World War II and the national uniform was introduced and for a brief period, the kimono disappeared. As a result, the kimono transformed from what was the native dress for the Japanese into something which was worn only on special occasions.

But recently, the kimono as a familiar wearable item has seen a slight resurgence. New types of obi and kimono have been developed for simpler attaching and removing, which makes it easier for people to wear when going out. And unlike western fashion which continually changes, the advanced techniques and high quality of the old kimono have taken on a fresh appeal recently.

The Previous Page
 Top of Page