Kimono – Past and Present

May 7, 2016

by  Haruna Masuzaki, Kazuki Nakamoto and Hikari Yanagihara

Kimono is a kind of traditional Japanese garment with a very long history. Originally, the word ‘kimono’ was kurumono, which means ‘wearing thing’. It was later shortened to ‘kimono’. Kimono are often worn on special occasions, like festivals or weddings. They are often beautiful, colorful and representative of traditional Japanese culture. Kimono are instantly recognized around the world as being Japanese.  

Kimono is a kind of traditional Japanese garment with a very long history.

Kimono

Kimono Material

The material of kimono is generally silk. Some kimono are created from silk that is dyed before weaving, while some kimono are dyed after weaving. The most common are those weaved from dyed silk.

In addition to silk, other materials used are cotton, polyester, and wool. Kimono made from cotton and polyester is easy to wash. On the other hand, wool kimono are very cheap and great for the winter, but are susceptible to being eaten by worms during storage.

The material of kimono is generally silk.

Silk

When Do People Wear Kimono?

Most Japanese people wear their kimono on special occasions. However, it is also possible to wear a kimono in daily life, as fashion. This is more common amongst older people than younger people. They may wear kimono to go out to eat, to visit a museum, to seeing the cherry blossoms or autumn leaves, to go shopping downtown, and so on.  On type of kimono that is worn in during summer festivals is a yukata. At first glance, it appears just like a traditional kimono, but in fact it is very lightweight, with no inner lining. It is also very casual and festive. Both men and women wear them. June through September is the most common time to see people wearing yukata. In the old days, people put on their yukata after a summer bath, and enjoyed the coolness as they fell asleep in their yukata.

The Origin of Kimono

The kimono has a long history as a beautiful and tasteful traditional Japanese garment recognized around the word. There are several reasons why it is appreciated by so many people. One is that it grew out of harmony with Japanese life and culture. For example, it is ideally suited for the Japanese climate. There are different thicknesses for different seasons. Also, kimono come in many shapes and sizes, and can be used for many different purposes. They can also be layered, to adapt to any temperature or weather condition.

Heian period (794~1185)

Kimono came to prominence during the Heian period.

Heian kimono

Kimono came to prominence during the Heian period. During this time, a new technique was developed for making kimono that allowed makers to not worry about the wearer’s body shape. It also made the kimono easier to wear and easier to fold and store. In addition, people began to pay more attention to the color of kimono. Original colors and patterns began to emerge, and many of them were related to the various seasons and times of the year. People of the upper classes wore gorgeous kimono. Common people, on the other hand, tended to wear kimono with short sleeves. Like the traditional kimono, the yukata is said to have also originated in the Heian period. Noblemen from the Heian period used to take stream baths. Some people began to wear a garment called a yukatabira, which served to protect their skin from steam burns. Nowadays, the yukatabira is the thin cotton garment worn under the kimono. But back in those days, it was not cotton, but rather hemp that was used by most people. Cotton was more expensive than hemp. People used to walk back and forth to the bathhouse in their Yukatabira. The yukatabira eventually evolved into what we now know as the much more colorful and festive yukata.

Kamakura period (1192~1333)

During the Kamakura period, there were many wars. For this reason, the kimono was simplified to be more practical.

Muromachi period (1392~1573)

In Muromachi period, the form of what we now recognize as the contemporary kimono appeared. Dyeing skills of kimono makers made remarkable progress during this time period.

Edo period (1603~1857)

Japanese dress of the day is born in this period. This period also progress. At the time, people wear the same as present kimono.

Meiji Period (1867~1911)

During this period, Japan was heavily influenced by western cultures and industrialization. For this reason, more people started wearing western clothes. This set the tone for the current modern age, when kimono are mostly worn on special occasions.

Modern Japan

Japanese people now wear western clothes in their daily life, as it is easier, cheaper, and more practical to do so. However, this decreases their chances to wear kimono. For this reason, kimono is now reserved for special events and occasions.   Recently, kimono has started to be worn as fashion. For example, a kimono that it is easy to take off and put on has been developed.

How to Buy a Kimono

Buying a kimono is not so easy for the first time buyer. If you are one of these people, you should keep a few things in mind before you buy one.  First, if you have some Japanese friends, you should ask which shop is good. Also, you should visit a lot of shops so that you can compare a kimono you like in one shop with that of another shop. When you visit a shop, talk with the salesclerk about where you plan to wear the kimono, what kind of season you want to wear it in, and what your budget is. Then, the salesclerk will help you find a kimono that matches your look. Then you can pay for the one that looks the best on you.   Finally, you must remember that a kimono is expensive property. You should always take care of your kimono and wear it with a fresh feeling. In the case that kimono gets stained with something, you must have the stains removed in the shop. Please take good care of your precious kimono.

How to Rent a Kimono

kimono rental is a good option.

Kimono rental

For many people, buying a kimono is too expensive, especially if they only wear it once or twice. Therefore, kimono rental is a good option. There are many kimono shops in Kyoto. Most of them will rent a kimono to you all day long.   One good place to rent a kimono is the Kiyomizuzaka shop, which is only a one-minute walk from the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple. This shop is located on the street where many souvenir stores are visited by large number of sightseers. The set rental plan at this shop is only 3,000 yen. It includes a kimono, an obi (belt), a bag, and some tabi (Japanese sandals), all in one set. Moreover, you can select from 30 different sets to suit your mood. You can try more of them on for fun. Also, you can do some sightseeing while wearing your rental kimono.

How to Put on a Kimono

In order to put on your kimono correctly, you must follow several steps. First, turn position the kimono behind your back while making sure the collar is centered. The center seam should be in the middle of the back. Second, decide the width of outer skirt. Hold the end of the kimono collars and then raise them up under the side. After that, take down the hem to just above the floor. Then wrap the right side panels first, so that the end of the right collar should be put on the left waist. Next, decide the width of before under. Wrap the left side of panels first, and the end of a collar should be put on the right waist. Next, while holding the right panel, wrap the left panel over it. Next, put on the koshihimo (waist cord), just below your navel. Then, make a ohashori, which is the fold made at the waist so that women can adjust the length of their kimono. Put both hands through arm holes under the sleeves, and smooth out any excess material, both on the front and back. The line of the fold should be straight. Finally, check how the kimono looks in the mirror.

How to Wear Make-up with Kimono

The quality and appearance of your facial skin is very important when wearing kimono. Your face looks good in a matte color, not a glossy color. This is because kimono looks best in an impersonal type of beauty. First, draw your eyebrows in a long and merry way. This is because your kimono probably has a loud pattern. Also, your eyes are the most important. Apply eyeliner on the upper eyelid to create the impression of long narrow eyes. After that, apply eye shadow using the color of a similar tone. Try not to use eyelash curlers. This will impress a person favorably. Finally, apply red lipstick to your lips. In this way, you can make sure that your appearance in a kimono is a gorgeous one.

Hairstyles Popular with Kimono

Kimono looks best when the woman wearing it has an elegant hairstyle.

Hair style

Kimono looks best when the woman wearing it has an elegant hairstyle. Yakaimaki (evening party roll hairstyle) is the most popular for kimono because it allows others to view the beautiful neck of the woman wearing the kimono. It also creates a distinctive silhouette, which is a round shape. Finally, the hairstyle truly becomes gorgeous when a hair ornament is used.

As you can see, kimono have a long tradition and history, and have been loved by Japanese people for a long time. Now, Japanese people wear western clothes in their daily life, but foreigners who come to Japan also want to try wearing kimono. Why don’t you wear Kimono?

Access to Kiyomizuzaka Shop

Take the bus bound for Kiyomizudera, Gion and Ginkakuji from Kyoto station. You should get off Gojo-zaka. Plese go up Gojo-zaka, you will see Kiyomizuzaka on the right. It is about 5 minutes.

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