The Origins of the Kimono

Posted on

Anybody who enjoys Japanese cinema or culture will likely have come across the famous kimono. A body-covering item of clothing, kimonos are still popular today, but have been a staple of Japanese clothing for centuries.

The origin of the word “kimono” is interesting. Originally a word that simply meant “clothing”, it has since evolved to become tied to a specific form of Japanese wear, which you can find many examples of in our store.

The Early Years

Kimonos, as we know them today, first emerged during the Heian period of Japanese history. A multi-century dynasty, the Heian period lasted between 794 and 1192, which should give you a basic idea of just how ancient this type of clothing actually is. Prior to the introduction of the kimono, Japanese people tended to wear separate upper and lower garments, though some favoured a one-piece look that somewhat resembled what would become the kimono, but was much more difficult to manage.

However, it was not until the Heian period that the straight-line cut method was introduced to the Japanese fabric industry. This technique paved the way for kimono making, as it involved cutting straight lines of fabric and sewing them together. That may not seem like such a big deal, but it meant that Japanese tailors no longer had to worry about the shape of the wearer’s body. Instead, they could make kimonos for people of any size, without worrying about fit.

That wasn’t all that the straight-line cutting technique had to offer. Garments made in this style are easy to fold and can be worn in all weather conditions. Often made using linen, kimonos can be layered for additional warmth in the winter months, while remaining breathable enough to be comfortable during the summer.

Unsurprisingly, these practicalities meant that the Japanese people adopted the kimono in full force, though it wasn’t long before people were wearing them for fashion just as much as they were for comfort. The idea of layering kimonos became popular, with many people combining different coloured fabrics to create unique ensembles. Typically, these colours represented either the political class the individual belonged to, or the seasons themselves. Over time, this use of colour ingrained itself into the Japanese fashion industry, paving the way for the creation of the traditional Japanese colour combinations that we know today.

Both men and women wore kimonos over the next few centuries, and they played an integral role in identifying who belonged to which Japanese military faction over the years. Warriors would incorporate colours that represented their leaders into their kimonos, which made the battlefield something of an interesting sight to behold. As such, the kimono essentially became a part of military uniform, though the garment no longer serves this function in anything other than traditional dress.

The Modern Era

As time moved on, Western influences creeped into Japanese fashion and fewer people wore kimonos as part of everyday life. As the 20th century dawned, the kimono was slowly put in a more revered place in Japanese culture.

Only worn during formal occasions and family celebrations, the kimono still plays an important role in Japanese culture, even if it is not as widespread a garment as it used to be. They’re also gorgeous fashion items that made ideal additions to the Cover Me Collection.

Hello You!

Join our mailing list