The Kimono: From Cultural Fashion to Fashion Culture

The kimono, a traditional Japanese garment, has been seen in different variations and was known by various names. The word kiru, to wear (on the shoulders), and mono meaning thing, were combined to form kimono, or "thing to wear". Its extended history is a prime example of how a piece of clothing can become a staple for cultural identity and self-expression.

The kimono's nameless predecessor was created in the Heian period (794-1192 AD). It consisted of straight pieces of fabric sewn together to create a piece of versatile clothing that fit every body shape and size. With the emergence of the Edo period (1603-1868 AD), the garment had become a unisex option for Japanese people. While traditionally known to drape across other clothing as an outer layer, this unisex wear was called the kosode or "small sleeve" style kimono. It featured smaller armholes, tying at the waist, the left panel overlapping the right, by an obi, or sash. It wasn’t until the Meiji period (1868-1912 AD) that the garment was officially known as a kimono.

The root of Japanese culture developed with little to no foreign influence, so its traditional elements are easily identifiable. For example, during the Edo Era, the kosode was a visual marker for Japanese people to differentiate themselves from foreigners. Every Japanese person, no matter the age, gender, or financial status, wore this cultural garment. They helped cement the Japanese culture and protect Japanese people from foreign interaction.

During the Edo period, with everyone in Japan wearing kosode, methods developed to distinguish the socioeconomic statuses of the population. These methods included but were not limited to, the use of fabrics, techniques, styles, patterns, and colors of the material. Certain kosode utilized imagery and design to represent a visual art of landscapes, poems, and stories.

While kosode was marked as a form of Japanese artistic expression, it was quite easy to differentiate between economic classes. Kosode was typically worn daily, so poorer people were likely to overwear their clothing, causing it to be run down and eventually turned into rags. The poor were also known for their lack of design and quality used to make their attire. Due to legal restrictions, better materials, like silk, were harder to acquire by someone not of high economic status. The wealthier population in Japan also had the luxury of preserving their garments for much longer, passing them down through generations within their families.

The design of the kosode itself also served to differentiate between the genders, ages, marital status, and rankings of the Japanese people. Elements such as the fabric quality, choice of thread and paint, patterns, and color were all used to create unique kosode. Women often wore garments that featured floral patterns, like Cherry blossoms or peonies. There were also designs in the sleeves that signified status as well. For example, the furisode, or swinging sleeve, was a flowy design worn only by young and unmarried women. Once a woman was betrothed, her sleeves were shortened to signify her being off the market. The colors of the kosode would also change, so the brighter colors were meant for younger women while the muted tones were for matured women.

With the rise of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) Japan began experiencing a rapid progression towards more modern practices. Kosode were now referred to as kimonos, or simply the “wearing thing”. This name change aimed to detach Japan’s identity from traditional clothing and to allow for more modernization through western influence. To further this goal, laws, such as the Meiji Law was created to discourage men from wearing kimonos, but western clothes instead. Women, on the other hand, were encouraged to continue wearing kimonos to uphold the traditional values of Japan. The women served as a physical link between traditions and the ever-changing Japan.

With Japan experiencing rapid change, women were a reassurance to the country, becoming the national symbol of tradition and hope. Women in kimonos served as protectors of a culture that became vulnerable to western influence.

While the west influenced Japan, Japan influenced the west. Between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, kimonos had become a status symbol in the western world. With the rise of woodblock printing, kimono designs were produced a lot faster, transitioning kimono from cultural fashion to fashion culture.

The Dutch East India Company acquired garments to distribute in Europe, making the luxurious silk accessible to ladies of wealth. Often, these highsociety women would have their portraits taken in kimonos to depict how affluent they were. This cemented the kimono as a visual representation of modern femininity and affluence in Japan and European countries.

With the kimono’s rich history, it is understandable that women of all cultural backgrounds are drawn to its power. In a world of fast fashion, the revival of the kimono unlocks a slow fashion practice that produces investment pieces that can be passed down to generations. These garments bring out the magic that lies within you, and KimonoGirl’s garments are no different. Fortified by crystals and frequencies, this slow fashion product acts as armor against negative vibrations. The higher you vibrate, the more you attract positive energy towards you. With their 4 Elements collection, KimonoGirl's garments tie you back to Mother nature and the natural feminine energy that lies within.

It is time to unlock your inner goddess and connect with your divine feminine.

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