The Japanese kimono
KIMONO (from kiru and mono) literally means: "Something you wear".
The kimono is a multifaceted garment that bears witness to centuries of history in its fabric. Although ancient and associated with Japan, it remains a global timeless piece. The Japanese kimono was able to establish itself in fashion since the Edo period (1600-1868).
At first, the kimono was derived from a Chinese garment. It was then poorly adapted to the Japanese climate. The Japanese would then appropriate it: they completely redesigned it, it was worn in a rather restrictive way, the collar was moved slightly backwards, thus allowing the nape of the women's neck to be freed. It is also important to note that the Japanese kimono is both a male and a female garment. No matter who wears it, the Japanese kimono suits everyone! While the traditional Japanese kimono is worn by both sexes, the only difference is in the uses, ornaments, colours and accessories.
The fashion of the kimono was exported later. It really arrived in Europe in the second half of the 19th century. Thus, in the universal exhibitions organized in Europe, this exotic clothing appeared. It was surprising because of its very rigorous, geometric T-shaped form. It was made with strips of fabric 13 to 15 metres long, of the same width (35 cm), folded but never cut. What was interesting about the Japanese kimono was that it left a large surface for decoration and ornament, both complex and coherent. It was a garment that carries visual power and meaning, particularly through its sumptuous and evocative patterns. The importance of its sleeves gave it a majestic air and allowed for the dramatisation of the women's gestures. This last element impressed and held the attention of the designers.
According to tradition, its wearing was very codified. Depending on the colour, the patterns, the crossing, the length of the sleeves, it could give very precise information on the social or marital status, the age or a characteristic event of the person wearing it. Traditionally, it was made of silk, cotton or linen textiles, plain or reserve-dyed (SHIBORI technique) and was very often embroidered.
For example, young single women wore the fully patterned FURISODE kimono with very long, flowing sleeves (HITOE) of up to 1 metre.
In contrast, the TOMESODE kimono, with shorter sleeves (KOSODE) was worn by married women. The patterns started below the waist and sometimes continued on the shoulders and sleeves (HUMONGI).
The SHIROMUKU, or UCHIKAKE kimono when the sleeves were long, was the white wedding kimono with coloured patterns.
The kimono was marginalized to the status of an exceptional wardrobe at the beginning of the Meiji era (1868-1912), a period corresponding to the westernisation of Japan. Japanese women adopted garments more suited to contemporary life for their daily lives. However, for the important and festive events of their lives, they wore the kimono.
Women wore the kimono with an important belt called OBI, which they wore with a remarkabl knot in the back. The way it was tied expressed social class, marital status, etc. The rather stiff OBI served as a sort of corset on the outfit. It could be very wide up to 33 cm, and very long up to 4.5 m.
Japanese and Western designers have shown the modernity of the kimono. The purity of the cut means that it can be adapted to much more "streetwear" clothing, thus giving the kimono a second life. The kimono has also become much shorter (HAORI - short jacket). In Japan, some men wear the kimono jacket in a relaxed atmosphere. In the West, too, many men and women use the YUKATA cotton or linen kimono as homewear because it is extremely comfortable to wear.
While in Japan, the kimono is an everyday garment (and originally a very popular garment), in the West, it has become an object of luxury and prestige that the greatest fashion houses are reappropriating.