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Brief History of Japanese Kimonos

japanese kimonoThe current clothing and styles worn by the Japanese can be broken in to two groups: “traditional” and “Western”. Today, many Japanese dress much like their western counter parts for most of the day. Traditional kimonos are generally worn for special events such as festivals, weddings, and funerals. Traditional Japanese clothing has a rich and extensive history dating back to before the Common Era. So, how do the kimonos today compare from the kimonos of thousands of years ago?

Ancient Times Circa 200 BCE

China and Japan have a closely linked history, and traditional Japanese wear was borrowed from similar styles in China. As Japan advanced from many smaller clans to a unified kingdom, they began to emulate more and more of the Chinese styles including clothes, art, and hairstyles.

Seventh & Eighth Century

During this time, Japanese style was almost entirely reproduced from Chinese culture from the clothes to hairstyles and even tomb art. Japanese was still exploring its own identity, and they coveted the Chinese court clothing style. In fact, the Yoro Clothing Code, passed in 757 CE, put in place many restrictions on dress, including crossing robes left over right, and was nearly entirely based on China’s court dress code.

End of Diplomatic Relationship with China

The beginning of the Heian Period marked Japan’s separation from Chinese culture and the peak of art of the Japanese Court. It also marked the beginning of the spread of Buddhism and Taoism. A heavy emphasis was placed on beauty. During this time, it was common for men and women to wear elaborate clothing and powder their faces. Kimonos as we recognize them today became popular.

Current Traditional Clothing

Today, many Japanese still wear the traditional kimonos for special events. The types of kimonos vary based upon the season and the event. Summer kimonos are often unlined and made with lighter fabrics, while fall and winter kimonos are lined and made with heavier fabrics. The designs also vary based upon the season and the event. For example, winter kimonos often feature bamboo or plum blossoms to signify good luck, while fall designs may feature maple leaves and fall colors. Different events also call for different designs. A Shiro-maku, or a wedding kimono, is extremely elaborate and multi-layered. Kimonos for special events may also feature elaborate embroidered designs and even the family crest.

Find the perfect kimono for your next event on our kimono page.