Culture Kawaii

Surprising Things You Didn’t Know about the Kimono – Past and Future

Kimono, one of the most ubiquitous cultural symbols of Japan, has become part of the global vernacular. Kimono experiences rank highly on the list of things that foreign visitors wish to tick off their list on their visits to Japan. It is interesting to note that while Kimono is increasing in popularity with foreigners, it is becoming less prevalent amongst the Japanese. Why is the case? And what is the Kimono to the Japanese? This article will present surprisingly unknown facts about the Kimono.

The Edo era – when Kimonos were an ordinary item of clothing

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The Edo period was a 300-year period where Japan remained an isolated nation and was a time where many cultural treasures first appeared and witnessed Kimonos whose style remains largely unchanged today. Of course, western clothes did not exist in Japan at this time, and therefore everybody wore Kimonos. They were worn on all occasions, while doing housework or working in the rice fields, and therefore were seen as very ordinary items of clothing such as T-shirts and Jeans of today. It is for this reason that the origin of the word “Kimono” is literally “Thing that is worn”.

The decline in prominence of the Kimono

After the war, western clothing was introduced into Japan, and Kimonos became worn less and less often. Over a short period of time, Kimono became an item of clothing worn only on formal occasions such as Shichi-go-san (a festival for children of 3, 5 and 7 years of age), graduation ceremonies, coming of age ceremonies and wedding ceremonies.

However, there are of course occasions where Kimonos are worn outside large formal ceremonies. Often when holding tea ceremonies or learning crafts such as flower arranging, Kimonos are often worn. However, as there are not many people who practice these traditional cultures in everyday life, Kimono has become more distant from popular everyday culture.

Why Kimonos became less convenient

There is a simple reason why Kimonos became less often worn, and that is because they are difficult and complicated to put on and wear. In order to wear and fasten a Kimono, small pins and fasteners are necessary, the steps required to arrange the Kimono are numerous, and it is very difficult to put on without any assistance. In order to keep the Kimono in place, the Obi (large Kimono belt) has to be fastened tightly which can be uncomfortable and restrict movement. As there are many customs associated with the Kimono and the way it should be worn, there is also a significant possibility of being scolded by a particularly traditional old lady if these are not properly observed.

 

Kimono was worn loosely and freely during the Edo era

Why is it that Kimono became steeped in such rigid customs and traditions? If we look at its use during the Edo era, we can see how it was worn loosely and freely, and it was commonplace for it to wear out. This may be due to the fact that in the past, it was commonplace for people to teach how to wear the Kimono in the household, but as people with such knowledge decreased in number, the popularity of Kimono declined at the same time. In an attempt to preserve the Kimono culture, new rules on how to wear the Kimono were devised, and a new, more rigid Kimono culture was borne out of this attempt at its preservation.

Kimono returning as a fashion item

The 2020 Olympics will be held in Tokyo, and therefore is a prime opportunity to show off Japan’s most treasured aspects of its traditional culture and Kimono fits this bill. Kimono crosses cultures and races, and draws attention as a world fashion item. Recently, Kimono was exhibited at the New York Collection for the first time in history. Kimono is being redefined as high fashion, and is increasing in popularity among fashion brands.

Influential Kimono magazine-Kimono Times

Modern style Kimonos designed by Kimono designer Tamao Shigemune(重宗玉緒)

Young people who are sensitive to the changing trends are starting to wear Kimono as every day wear. People are starting to coordinate and accessorise Kimonos and uploading photos of these outfits on social media, as well as many more social events involving Kimono fashion. This trend is shifting Kimono away from the image of being something exclusively for traditional and formal wear, and instead as part of the current day fashion. In particular, those with a big presence on social media are contributing to a rebirth of the Kimono and spreading the popularity more quickly than ever before. Naturally, this also reaches people outside of Japan, and there are many non-Japanese people becoming interest in the Kimono fashion trend.

The return of Kimono into the fashion world is liberating it from the restrictive traditional customs that have been associated with the Kimono. Kimonos can be brought as an everyday fashion item by the top fashion brands, but also in recycle and bargain stores as well. Kimono can now be worn in various ways, with no one set method. Shirts and skirts can be worn under the Kimono and boots/pumps can be worn instead of the traditional sandals, with hats and additional accessories can be added, with a mixture of fashion items from the east and west proving to be popular.

old meets new be creative be yourself

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Lifestyle changing along with the times is what forms part of culture, and if Kimono use does not adapt with the times, it will be left behind. Fortunately, this evolution is taking place with the Kimono, which, while remains part of Japanese traditional culture, stretches beyond traditions and national borders. We sincerely hope that Kimonos will continue to be a commonplace fashion items.

Check out the east-west fusion Kimonos and rentals here: www.michael-yui.com

Why not try out Kimono for yourself?

Neo Kimono style by Kimono stylist Yui Michael

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Yiping Wu

Yiping Wu

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