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Classical Ladies' Fashion Design and The Society Changing (3): Japanese Kimono

Updated on March 14, 2014

Japanese call their traditional national costume "kimono (着物)". Kimono is a highly selective and solemn national costume in official occasions. As the most important and the most unique cultural heritage of Japan, it displays the special quality of Japanese national art. The whole design both absorbed the essence of Chinese ancient fashion art, and developed personal charm of local culture. Furthermore, the pure beauty of the nature was introduced into the kimono design, which indicates that Japanese people so admire the great nature. At the same time, it fully shows the unique personality in Japanese women: comeliness, tenderness and compliance. The changing of kimono with time can show Japanese history in different periods.


Yayoi Period (300 B.C.-300 A.D.)

The Japanese clothing in this era is regarded as the earliest form of kimono. "Cut a hole in the middle of a whole piece of cloth, put the head in it, and need not to measure size." The current Japanese people was called Wa, the Japanese pronunciation of an early Chinese name. The people of Wa claimed to be descendants of Wu, a historic figure of the Wu Kingdom (it was currently three kingdom dynasty in China. Three Kingdoms were Wei, Shu, and Wu) around the Yangtze Delta of China. Wa king sent representatives to China three times, and brought back lots of Han texture, Wu texture, and craftsmen good at weaving and sewing. Therefore, kimono is today still usually called "Wufuko", and "kimono shops" are called "Wufuko shops", while Chinese usually call it "Wafuko(和服)".

Ancient time
Ancient time

Nara Period (710-794)

During this period, there developed deep relationship between Japan and China Tang Dynasty. In 718, the emperor of Japan sent diplomatic missions to Tang, and Tang emperor sent them lots of official costumes. These costumes were brilliant, and so welcome in Japan. Next year, the emperor of Japan ordered that people, whether officials or commoners, must wear clothes of Tang style. Japanese costume was greatly influenced by Tang style in this period, but the color was considerably simple. Actually, kimono today deeply roots in this period.

Heian Period (794-1192)

In the ninth century (i.e. the start of Song Dynasty in China), there arose an interruption of relationship between Japan and China. The diplomatic missions were withdrawn. During that period, the kimono design had begun to develop individual quality. The colors tended to be various, and sleeves became longer and wider. The juunihitoe was the representative of this period, which was the most official kimono costume for Japanese famale, and was used as court dress of noble women after the tenth century. Generally, the juunihitoe consists of 5-12 pieces of clothes. According to different seasons, the identities of wearers, and specific occasions, the juunihitoe had specific complex. Although the juunihitoe design rooted in Tang style, it more displayed the local items. Today, the juunihitoe is rarely seen, even Royal family only occasionally wear it in some very special ceremonies.

Kamakura Period (1185-1333)

This period was Shogunate time, when samuri were so admired. The current China was Yuan Dynasty ruled by Mongolian people, who often invaded Japan. In order to fit to warfare, the clothing tended to be simple and practical.

Muromachi Period (1338-1573)

In this period, Kamon (a symbol of family system) had begun to be printed on kimono (there has been estimated more than 20,000 kamons in Japan.), and casual kimono had begun to be changed toward formal one. Female kimono became simpler than before.

Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1603)

In the second half of 16th century, there arose various kinds of kimono for specific occasions, such as wedding receptions, visiting, dating, or adult ceremonies, etc. Then, the folk art, Noh (a major form of classical Japanese musical drama), had formed and become popular, so brilliant Noh kimono had respondingly formed, but costume of noble people had not been changed since Heian period.

Edo Period (1603-1867)

This was a period that kimono had attained full development, whether male one or female one. Kimono today is basically same with that in this period.

After Meiji Restoration

Meiji Restoration, or Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewel, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868, which led to enormous changes in Japan's political and social structure, and spanned both the late Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji period (1867-1879). After Meiji Restoration, noble male people began to wear western clothing, but western clothing did not become popular until Taisho period (1879-1926), when Japanese women began to wear western clothing after the Kanto major earthquake happened in 1923, in which many women died or wounded because of the non-convenience of kimono. After Taisho period, i.e. the late of 1920's, kimono had not got developed until the end of the World War II.

Recent time
Recent time | Source

Kimono and how to wear kimono is simply an art. Specific kinds of kimono fit to specific occasions. The cloth design and the embroidery patterns have to match with different wooden shoes, stockings, and hair styles. The difference of kimono mainly lies in sleeves.

Unmarried girl in Oofurisode
Unmarried girl in Oofurisode

Furisode: official costume for unmarried girls with splendid and colorful design and generally long sleeves. Based on the size of sleeves, there are major (oofurisode), middle (tyuufurisode), and minor (kofurisode) furisodes.

1.Oofurisode: this kind has five kamons. The length of sleeves can be one meter until the feet. Usually, unmarried misses wear it in adult ceremony, graduation ceremony, wedding banquets, or lunar new year. The bride can also wear it when she gets changed during the wedding ceremony.

2.Tyuufurisode: also called quasi-dress, and has three kamons. Actually, this is the most popular kimono today worn at official occasions, because it has a fashionable taste.

3.Kofurisode: generally a casual costume suitable for both official and non-official occasions.

Married woman in Kurotomesode black
Married woman in Kurotomesode black
Siromuku: bride kimono
Siromuku: bride kimono
Yukata:"bathing" kimono
Yukata:"bathing" kimono

Kurotomesode: the official costume for married women. The sleeves are short. There are kurotomesode black with pure black as the background, and irotomesode with a single color except black as the background. Kurotomesode black is the most severe dress for married women, and usually has five kamons. Its bottom patterns are considerably splendid, while irotomesode has only three or one kamons.

Houmongi: suitable for school opening ceremony, banquets, evening celebrations, or tea ceremonies, and no age or marriage limitations. The pattern design is a whole complete picture. This kind has become the most popular style today due to its simple structure.

Machigi: outdoor style more casual and simpler than Houmongi.

Fudangi: ordinary style more casual and simpler than Machigi.

Komon: the style with small calico and more fashionable in regular life. Young women often wear it in less official banquets, or when they learn tea ceremonies, dancing, or Shamisen music, and sometimes when shopping or dating.

Tsukesage: patterns on shoulders, tops of sleeves, tops of front and back, and collar are all upward. It is not official dress, but fit to some stylish occasions, such as theatres, or small banquets.

Iromuji: single-color style. If with patterns on, it can be used as official dress, but if not, it is ordinary dress.

Muzimontsuki: with pure-color patterns. There are one, three or five patterns. The more patterns, it is more official, and the black one is used for funerals.

Mofuku: official mourning dress. It uses the black as the background with five patterns.

Siromuku: bride dress with pure white color.

Yukata: originally bathing suit, but now also used for other occasions. Yukata is made from cotton cloth and without lining. It is usually for summer. The design is simple for putting on, and the patterns are various. Young girls usually wear it with traditional waist band, hair pins, and a small hand bag in summer to go to memorial ceremonies, festivals, or other celebrations. The patterns are related to summer season, looking less decent but fancy and easy, so it is popular among young people.

Utikake: one style for women of samuri's family in ancient time, and today used as one kind of bride dress.

Utikake | Source

The development of Kimono sees the changing of Japanese society and history. The various colors and styles show an attractive women world, and reflect a unique oriental ethics: women must be both beautiful and compliant, while its gorgeous and overstated design shows off the beauty and charm of Japanese misses.


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    • Hui (蕙) profile imageAUTHOR

      Hui (蕙) 

      6 years ago

      Thank you for coming by, lingking, but I feel confused who you meant by "she".

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • Hui (蕙) profile imageAUTHOR

      Hui (蕙) 

      7 years ago

      Glad I was helpful. And I can say that most content in this hub is reliable. I paid some digital online knowledge bank to refer.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      this was very helpful thank you

    • Hui (蕙) profile imageAUTHOR

      Hui (蕙) 

      7 years ago

      Thanks,glad you enjoy it.

    • celebritie profile image


      7 years ago

      very nice, I love the photos.


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