Kimono are robe-like dress traditionally worn in Japan. The term Kimono basically means “Japanese style clothing”, usually falls till the ankle, and has collars and long-length sleeves. Kimono are made of silk and are usually very expensive. Nowadays they are worn at formal or traditional occasions such as funerals, weddings or tea ceremonies. Only rarely kimono can still be seen in everyday life.
Kimono differ in style and color depending on the occasion on which it is worn and the age and marital status of the person wearing it. To put on a kimono needs some practice. Especially tying the belt (obi) alone is difficult so that many people require assistance. Wearing a kimono properly includes proper hair style, traditional shoes, socks, underwear, and a small handbag for women.
The kimono has had a long history in Japan and the kimono has changed over time to reflect the society and culture of that period.
During the Heian period 794-1185, the custom of elaborate layers of colored kimono robes became popular with Japanese women. Twelve unlined robes were frequently worn with the sleeve edges and collars showing the shades of each kimono. Sometimes people of the royal court wore up to sixteen kimono layers. Later, with the rising influence of the military class and warriors, people had no patience or need for elaborate kimono. “Kosode” meaning small sleeve was introduced into the kimono.
In 1615, Confucianism was adopted and citizens were ranked based on their class. People began to define their status by their kimono clothing. During this time the greatest artistic accomplishments were made with the kimono.
After 1853, the US Navy sailed to Tokyo and the beginning of Japan's commercial industry was opened to the Western world. Although Japanese people continued to wear the kimono for another hundred years, the beginning of the end of this practice was near.
During the period of 1868-1912, women began working outside their homes so they required different clothing to accommodate their work. Cloth from other parts of the world were bought to make the kimono and the clothing. During 1912-1926, Tokyo suffered a devastating earthquake which leveled most of the homes. Many of the old kimono were lost at this time.
During 1926-1989, the Japanese government curtailed silk production to tax it. Kimono designs became less complex and material was conserved. After World War II, as Japan's economy gradually recovered, kimono became even more affordable and were produced in greater quantities. Europe and America fashion ideas affected the kimono designs and motifs, but their shape remained the same. Kimono and obi colors changed with the season and with the age and status of the wearer.
Other type of kimono
There are some types of Japanese Kimonos, Uchikake, Kurotomesode (the wedding trousseau), Furisode, Irotomesode, Homongi, Tsukesage, Iromuji, Komon. Mofuku and Yukata.
The name yukata comes from the word ‘yu’ (bath) and ‘katabira’ (under clothing). The Yukata is is a casual light cotton kimono and is usually worn in the summertime. The yukata is widely worn as a casual wear in summer, as well as in festivals. They can also be used as bathrobes, housecoats, or as summer wear at the beach, pool or spa. It can be worn without underwear and is very comfortable on hot summer days or after a hot bath. It love by Japanese as it is soft and airy. They are made out of silk with brightly coloured, complicated designs and are relatively inexpensive. Today, while staying at a ‘ryokan’ (traditional Japanese inn), you will be provided with a yukata.
A cotton sash is usually worn with the yukata for casual daily or nightly wear. In attending festivals and public occasions, the yukata is worn with a wider belt, which can be simply wrapped around the waist and tucked in at the end. For a more formal appearance, the yukata is worn with an obi belt, along with a matching geta (wooden sandals) and purse to complete the attire.
In the Heian era (794-1185), court nobles wore linen ‘yukata’ which were draped loosely after taking a bath. The yukata was later also worn by Japanese warriors and by the Edo era (1600-1868), it was widely worn by the public when public bath became a popular recreation in Japan.
Uchikake - The wedding kimono
For young women having a traditional Japanese wedding, they wear the most gorgeous Kimono called Uchikake. Most people rent this kimono, however the rental is still very expensive. The white Uchikake is just part of the elaborate Japanese wedding ceremony.
When a young Japanese woman turns 20 years old, she is recognised as an adult. Many parents buy the Furisode for their daughters to celebrate this significant point in a young woman's life. Furisode is a formal kimono for single women, it is brightly colored and made of very fine quality silk. In the very modest Japanese society wearing a Furisode is a very obvious statement. It is a very loud and clear advertisement that the single woman is available for marriage.
One of the major points of difference with the furisode are the long sleeves. In these pictures they may appear to be short, but they are actually very long. The sleeves go right to the ground.
Furisode are mainly worn for major social functions such as wedding ceremonies or tea ceremonies until they get married.
When a Japanese woman marries, many parents buy their daughters another kimono, the houmongi. The houmongi takes over the role the furisode played in the life when she was single. The houmongi is the married woman's formal kimono. This would be worn when attending Japanese weddings or tea ceremonies.
The Mofuku is only worn to the funeral of a close relative. This kimono is all black.
Hadajuban - Undergarment for kimono
‘Hadajuban’ is the first undergarment worn in the kimono attire. As the kimono is cut in a straight pattern padding is often needed around the waist and/or bust. A padding can be worn to level off body curves. The padding is worn underneath the ‘hadajuban’.Over the ‘hadajuban’, a second undergarment called the ‘nagajuban’ is worn to add collar definition to the kimono. Please note that the ‘nagajuban’ is not worn with a casual kimono such as the yukata.
Today, a Japanese woman usually owns only one kimono typically a furosode kimono which is worn for the coming of age ceremony on her 19th birthday. For weddings, the complete bridal kimono and kimono apparel is usually rented. Kimono are also very rarely worn as every day clothing anymore.
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