TGIFRIDAY FASHION FACT! I’m very excited about today’s topic. The vast
majority of the questions I receive are about Western fashion, but this
week we’re focusing on the opposite side of the globe and talking about
kimonos! Kimono’s are fascinating garments. They are among the world’s most
iconic pieces, largely due to the fact that they have remained
relatively unchanged for several hundreds of years. So when and how did
kimonos get their start?
To start with, “kimono” used to serve as a
general term for clothing, not meaning the specific garment until the
18th Century. What we think of now as kimonos actually have several
different names, depending on the style. Kimonos today are thought of as
a Japanese fashion, but in fact they got their start in China. In
ancient China, robes were very common among both men and women. They had
the same cross-front closure as kimonos today. Robes were layered upon
robes, and wrapped in various skirts and sashes.
beginnings of the kimono robe actually started as a base robe for these
other dressings. In other words, it started out as an undergarment. It
had tighter sleeves and was long, while the top robes had very wide
sleeves and were often shorter, though this would be covered by the
skirts. In the early days of Japan, starting in about 300 BC, there was a
strong influence by China on many aspects of Japanese life, from
clothing, to art, to farming. This influence waxed and waned for many
centuries, interspersed with eras of Japanese isolation.
was during these times that the Japanese kimono developed apart from the
Chinese garments. Around the 9th Century, during the Heian period, separate
short robe and skirt combinations faded from style, and long robes took
their place (though a half apron was still worn over this.) With this
long robe now exposed, fabrics changed from basic linens to rich silks,
often with elaborate woodblock printed designs, for those who could
afford it. In this era, an excess of fabric was popular, with sleeves
expanding to vast lengths and widths, and hems often pooling on the
floor. This was also the time when kimonos began to be constructed out
of straight pieces of fabric, not fitted specifically to the wearer.
this overabundance of fabric faded, hemlines, sleeve lengths, and
overall widths of kimonos fluctuated over the next several centuries. In
the 14th Century Muromachi period, the kosode robe, formerly the
under-robe, became outerwear, and the wide hakama pants (or bifurcated
skirt) once worn under the outer-robes were abandoned. This is when the
obi was adopted- the long band of fabric wrapped around the waist like a
belt. Tying an obi is almost an art form. There are various styles of
tying, but with a length of well over 10ft long, it is always
During the 17th Century (the Edo period,)
differences between men’s and women’s cuts became more apparent, with
women having longer sleeves and hemlines. The style of kimonos developed
during this era are the styles that remain traditional today. Various
fabric patterns, colors, and embroidery have been popular throughout the
years, and there are some differences between formal and everyday kimonos.
the mid 19th Century Meiji period, there began to be a strong Western
influence in Japan. Western wear was seen as more convenient,
particularly trousers, which were easier to move in. The push of Western
styles got so extreme that laws were instated requiring government
officials to wear Western dress at formal events. Though the laws were
ultimately retracted, this government push of Western-wear had a large
impact on the downfall of kimonos. Today, kimonos are mainly just seen
at formal events or traditional ceremonies. They’ve endured for so many
centuries, though, it is hard to imagine that they will ever fade away
Want to learn more about kimonos? Check out these books:
The Story of the Kimono, by
Kimono: Fashioning Culture, by Liza Dalby
Have a question about fashion history that you want answered in the next FRIDAY FASHION FACT? Just click the ASK button at the top of the page!
I hope she’ll be a fool–that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool… You see, I think everything’s terrible anyhow… And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald,The Great Gatsby
Obligatory 1920s post for the release of Baz Lurhmann's Gatsby.
How do the film’s costumes stack up to the contemporary dresses of the 1920s? Anyone who’s seen it, let me know what you think :)
Horse King and Ox King, detail. Late 19th-early 20th cent. Woodblock print. Luoyang, Henan Province, China. Asian Art Photographic Distribution (AAPD) (University of Michigan)
The image of the King of Horses, 馬王, an ugly ogre with three eyes and four hands, bearing various weapons of warfare, is occasionally found in wayside shrines. He is worshipped by horse rearers, and is usually accompanied by a similar figure, the King of Cows, 牛王。 These deities are supposed to be able to protect cattle from evil spirits and disease. The former has by his side a small model of a horse, and the latter that of a cow.
– Outlines of Chinese Symbolism & Art Motives, C.A.S. Williams, 3rd Revised Ed. 1976. Entry on: Horses.
These photographs were taken in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In the early part of the 20th cent. Interestingly we can see that despite the geographical migratory routes of the Hmong, their clothing remained consistent; the checkered turban, skirt, apron and the top knot.
Ruby Lucas works in her Granny’s shop when she meets Killian Jones. They fall in love <3<3 but he has to leave to earn his profession of Sea Captain. They write letters to each other and Ruby patiently waits for her love to return…