what is a kimono

What is a Kimono ?



Especially worn on limited occasions or by pleasure, the Japanese kimono is the pride of the Japanese. Recognized as an Important Symbol of the Japanese culture in the world, this elegant outfit remains, still today, the dress of the official ceremonies.

The kimono is a traditional Japanese long and fluid garment, with ample sleeves, crossed on the front from left to right and accessorized  by a belt. This piece with the look of a dress represents much more than a simple outfit in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Want to know more about the history of Japanese kimono? How to wear it, how to maintain it? Then let's discover together this traditional outfit so esteemed by the Japanese people!

What is a Kimono Dress ?

A kimono is a traditional Japanese Robe looking like a long T-shaped dress, with large drooping sleeves. It closes with a belt, crossing the two sides one on top of the other. The left part always in front of the right part. Often confused with the outfit used in martial arts, it is however quite different. It is a garment that is worn with traditional shoes with straps such as zori (or less formal geta) and tabi socks.

The kimono is composed of two side parts, long sleeves (sode), a collar and an okumi, (piece of fabric located on the front, below the collar).

The traditional manufacturing process can be very long depending on the techniques used, which explains its high cost..

What does Kimono Mean ?

The word kimono (きもの / 着物 ) means litterally "thing to wear (on the shoulders)" in english and is combination of two Kanji, the verb ki ((着)) which means "to wear (on the shoulders)" and the noun mono which means ((物)), "thing")

How do you Spell Kimono

In comparison to some other Japanese words, the term "Ki-mo-no" is pronounced exactly as you read it. The correct spelling of the English word "kimono" is [kɪmˈə͡ʊnə͡ʊ], [kɪmˈə‍ʊnə‍ʊ], [k_ɪ_m_ˈəʊ_n_əʊ] (IPA phonetic alphabet)

If you want to hear someone else spell it for you, we advice you to visit this link https://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+spell+kimono&oq=how+to+spell+kimono&aq

History of the Kimono

Over time, the term "kimono" has gradually specialized to refer to a single type of traditional Japanese clothing that we all know as ... kimono. That's good, you are following. To witness the birth of this Japanese garment, we have to go far back in time to the Heian period (794 - 1185).

Japanese culture being extremely rich and subtle, there are many kimono's, each with a different name depending on its shape, usage and the person wearing it (and yes, otherwise it would have been too easy 😅).

Its Origins

If we want to be even more precise in the origin of the kimono, we have to go back to the Nara period (710 - 794), a time when Japan was under Chinese influence. This influence is felt in particular at the clothing level and it is thus that we meet the direct ancestor of the kimono, the kosode.

It is then about an underclothing worn under a large jacket, a broad pants of Chinese style (hakama) for the men and a long skirt for the women

During the Heian period (794 - 1185), following a diplomatic rupture between China and Japan, the Japanese gradually developed a sense of aesthetics and refinement which will be at the origin of the Japanese elegance we know today. Thus, great attention is paid to the shape of the clothes, the fabrics and the harmony of colors.

The kosode then becomes a Japanese garment made from long straight pieces of fabric sewn together with narrow armholes. It is opposed to the osode, a garment with wide and long sleeves. Little by little, the kosode for women differs from the kosode for men. During its evolution, the fabric is more and more worked and thickens to be able to be worn outside.

Are Kimonos Japanese ?

First, it was rather an undergarment called kosode, inspired by China during the Nara era, but later, during the Heian period, the Japanese deviated from the Chinese model and launched their own style of kimono with a more refined look.

Osode is the word used for long-sleeved underwear as opposed to kosode with narrow sleeves. At the same time, men and women models are different and the kosode is adorned with patterns.

What does a Kimono symbolize ?

The kimono is the traditional dress for family events and official ceremonies such as weddings, funerals and tea ceremonies. 

Originally, Japanese Kimono was reserved for Japan's high social class who could afford the services of a fabric professional. This luxurious, very expensive garment is worn over cotton or silk underwear to protect it.

Wearing a Kimono was a way to show your success and wealth. The more beautiful the Kimono worn was and had required several tens or even hundreds of hours of work, the more it symbolized the power of its wearer.

The Popularity of the Japanese Kimono

The Heian period gave way to the Kamakura period (1185 - 1333) and the kosode continues to evolve at the pace of Japanese society. Warriors wear the osode to attend ceremonies and adopt the silk kosode in everyday life.

During the Muromachi period (1336 - 1573), the kosode is worn more and more often without pants and loses completely its status of underwear. The fabric used becomes thicker and heavier to make the kosode an outdoor garment adaptable to all seasons.

The absence of the hakama, the Chinese style pants usually worn with the kosode, requires then to find a new way to hold the garment closed. You will have understood it, it is thus that the obi belt was born.

The Momoyama period (1573 - 1600) witnessed a real blossoming of the textile market which contributed to the enrichment of the merchants. The latter, as well as their wives, adopted in their turn the wearing of elegant kosodes worked like warriors.

As this Japanese garment became popular among the Japanese people, the term "kimono" appeared and became synonymous with kosode.

The shape, the fabrics and the ornaments of the Japanese Kimono

During the Edo period (1600 - 1868), the terms kosode and kimono were used to designate a garment with short and narrow sleeves with a more or less long piece of fabric under each sleeve.

The kimono began to diversify to exist in different forms, adopt different names and adapt to different occasions, seasons or social status. One example is the furisode, a kimono with extremely long sleeves reserved for young girls and women who are not yet married.

The kimono becomes the emblematic garment of Japan and plays a unifying role within the Japanese archipelago. All Japanese wear the kimono, regardless of age, gender or socio-economic status.

This loose-fitting, straight-cut Japanese garment has many advantages - advantages that have greatly contributed to making it a popular garment adopted by everyone in everyday life.

  • Versatile and easy to wear
  • Adaptable to all morphologies
  • Easy to fold for storage
  • Wearable in all seasons: just layer layers in winter or choose a light and breathable fabric in summer.

    During the first half of the Edo period, the fabric of the kimono is elaborated and sophisticated, so that this garment becomes a true art form. The patterns represent detailed Japanese landscapes, the textiles are varied (silk, cotton, linen...), the colors are bright and some kimono are embroidered with gold threads.

    The obi belt becomes a fashion accessory not to be neglected. The choice of its material and colors is very important and allows you to learn about your tastes and your sense of refinement.

    The kimono also serves as an indicator of social class: the more the fabric is decorated and precious, the richer its owner is.

    During the second half of the Edo period, the economic situation deteriorated and forced the Japanese to put aside the extravagant fabrics and return to a simpler kimono. Woven and embroidered representations of Japanese landscapes gave way to more sober geometric patterns.

    At the same time, the yukata becomes popular and is more and more worn outside. This light and casual version of the kimono is much cheaper and easier to wear.

    If you want to know more, you can read our article on the differences between kimono and yukata.

    The end of the traditional Japanese Kimono

    During its history, the Japanese kimono has almost disappeared. The Meiji era (1868 - 1912) marks the opening of Japan to the world and modernity. Government officials, policemen, civil servants and teachers were forced to adopt Western clothing when they were on duty. It was then the turn of the army and schools to be obliged to wear Western clothing.

    In 1940, the western garment, called kokumin fuku, became the compulsory national uniform for men. The traditional Japanese kimono then falls in disuse but remains however obligatory to attend the official ceremonies.

    What are Kimonos made of ?

    The Japanese kimono is made of a noble material such as silk, but it can also be found in cotton, linen or vegetable fibers.

    Rectangular pieces of fabric are assembled without ever being cut and are then woven together using elaborate techniques. One thus obtains relief and colored motives according to the complexity of the kimono. Then, we proceed to the coloring of the fabric with natural powders. Layering techniques of layers or brush paints can be used to obtain different effects.

    Finally, embroideries, gold threads and other ornaments are added before sewing the pieces together.

    What is a Kimono for ?

    Before becoming this elegant traditional Japanese dress that we know, the kimono has evolved a lot. In the past, the kimono was the garment worn every day by Japanese people. Its origin dates back to the seventh century when Japan was under the influence of the Tang Dynasty.

    It was during the Muromachi period that the kimono made his real ascent. At that time, we can finally see it being worn outdoors over other layers of clothing. The sense of aesthetics is reinforced and the weaving techniques improve with the appearance of more and more elaborate patterns. The traditional clothing of the Japanese is becoming more and more valuable.

    In the thirteenth century, the kosode takes finally its famous name and is called kimono. Its look evolves in the Edo period in the form we know today with its long sleeves. It is now a very popular outfit, renowned for its quality.

    What are Kimonos worn for ?

    Nowadays, although the kimono is no longer worn daily in Japan, it is a traditional outfit still present at special events such as weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies or tea ceremonies.

    Today, the Japanese only bring out the kimono for special occasions. Western clothes having replaced the traditional costume. However, some people still wear it for pleasure.


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