Kimono Evolution – Part 1

Culture Ayla Yuile Ayla Yuile

G'Day Japan! / Culture / Kimono Evolution – Part 1

kimono /kɪmóʊnə|-noʊ/
1.
clothes
 /kloʊz
clothing /klóʊðɪŋgarment

Kimono is known across the world as the traditional, national costume of Japan, and there are many modern adaptations of this made in the western garment industry. These often come in the form of silky nightgowns that feature ‘Japan-esque’ cherryblossom prints and bohemian style capes that feature the square and wide sleeves like the traditional kimono.Now with the recent debate on cultural appropriation, it’s easy to think that these modern adaptations cheapen the craftsmanship and history that makes kimonos so amazing, however, in essence, they have captured exactly what a kimono is by definition – a you wear on your body.

2295507816_7e529c17d0_b© Rick Miller

Now with the recent debate on cultural appropriation, it’s easy to think that these modern adaptations cheapen the craftsmanship and history that makes kimonos so amazing, however, in essence, they have captured exactly what a kimono is by definition – a garment you wear on your body; when you break down the word ‘kimono’ in Japanese ‘ki’ means to wear and ‘mono’ means thing.

It is also true that Japanese fashion has been influenced by other cultures many times, therefore, it is in the kimono’s history to change and adapt to different cultural trends and needs. The kimono has evolved from a simple tunic to the extravagant artful garment that it’s known as today, so the modern adaptations can easily be defined as carrying on the history of kimono. So where did all this begin before the kimono looked like what we think of it as now?

Jōmon period
During the prehistoric ages of Japan, the kimono was made purely for practical reasons and only provided adequate coverage and protection from the weather. There were no special adornments except for furs and feathers taken from hunts, and the style of the clothing only slightly evolved to accommodate farming. 

Yayoi period
This was the time where Japan saw its first civilisation on record, Yamato Taikoku. This was also a time when Japan became more and more influenced by China and according to their historic records, the Japanese at this time wore two types of garments. One was what you would call a ‘potato sack’ style tunic for women – this tunic was basically made from one big cloth with a hole in the middle for your neck to poke through. It was belted with rope or another piece of cloth.

One was what you would call a ‘potato sack’ style tunic for women – this tunic was basically made from one big cloth with a hole in the middle for your neck to poke through. It was belted with rope or another piece of cloth.

img09© Yoshinogari Historical Park

The other was a top and a bottom or skirt combination, the top was much like the tunic, a cloth with a hole in the middle and the bottom was draped and wrapped around the waist and tied at the front, similar to the orange garment buddhist monks wear.

During this period Japan began to develop different classes of people; those in higher places of society was able to adorn garments made of silk. It was also around this time where the Japanese began developing tools to weave threads as well as the skills to dye fabric with vegetable dye. This was how kimonos began to hold more meaning to the Japanese culture other than practical reasons.

Kofun period
Moving on to the Kofun period, the kimono of this time was typically a two-piece assembly for both women and men. Both Chinese and Korean influences had affect on many aspects of the Japanese culture, including the kimono. There wasn’t a dramatic change in style of the clothing, however, people were exploring different colours, belt and sleeve lengths and styles. Sericulture began to thrive at this time as well.

Asuka & Nara period

Nara_kimono© Wikipedia

By this time, the Japanese people had embraced the art of sewing and needlework as well as sericulture and cloth dying. The Chinese influence had progressed further into the culture and the clothing worn by the people of Japan was almost identical to those worn in China. The popular style of kimono at this time featured long and wide sleeves, with a loose belt, a skirt-like garment for women and harem-pant style grament for men.

The popular style of kimono at this time featured long and wide sleeves, with a loose belt, a skirt-like garment for women and harem-pant style grament for men.

Prince_Shotoku© Wikipedia

During the Asuka period, the Shoutoku Prince introduced a colour coded uniform system for the 12 different levels of court and in the Nara period, there were three types of uniforms for the court. It was also during the Nara period when people began wearing the top layer of the kimono was worn on the right handside.

The Nara period was the beginning of the end for the Chinese style kimono, as the time passed through and arrived at the Heian period, the main style of the male Chinese garment had gone out of trend and the people of Japan began creating their own kimonos… To Be Continued…

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