The Kimono Collecting Writer
A Brief History
The donning of what we think of as the traditional kimono, began over a thousand years ago during the Heian Period. (784-1185 A.D.). Although today, this garb is rarely seen in every day wear, yet during more formal occasions such as weddings, funerals, and tea ceremonies, these ornate garments are worn. At first the kimono was worn with Chinese influenced Hakama pants. These partially pleated pant like skirts were pulled over the kimono to keep it closed. Later during the period, that changed, and so the Obi was created to take its place. An Obi was a lengthy fabric belt that was wrapped around the wearer to keep the kimono closed. Different manners of styling the Obi tails came into style as well.
During the Kamakura period (1185-1333 A.D.), the kimono was part of everyday wear, and adding multiple layers beneath the main one developed as well. This came into importance because certain color combinations could be worn together to represent a family name or to represent a season of the year. And due to their fabrication, kimonos were very versatile garments that could be worn any time during the year based on the fabric that was used, and the number of layers worn.
Of course with the passage of time, this traditional style began to fade from popularity. This began during the Meiji Period (1868-1912 A.D.), when the layering and not so comfortable sandals became too much of a hassle. During this time, it was encouraged by the government to begin wearing more western styled clothing.
Types of Kimonos
- Furisode - Unmarried women wear the furisode, which has sleeves between 100cm- 107cm long. Often the furisode kimono type come with very dramatic designs meant to catch the eye. There are actually three different furisode kimono types with different sleeve lengths; the Kofurisode (小振袖) with short sleeves, the Chu-furisode (中振袖) with medium sleeves and the Ofurisode(大振袖) with sleeves almost reaching the ground.
- Hikuzuri - was worn by wealthy women of high rank. Now, the chances you will see this kimono type in public are very slim unless you are in Kyoto or the Asakusa area of Tokyo. Hikizuri means “trailing skirt” and the kimono got this name because of its length. In contrast to other kimono types, Hikizuri kimono is mainly worn by geisha, maiko or stage performers of traditional Japanese dance.
- Tomesode - is the most formal kimono type worn by married women. Specifically, the pattern of a Tomesode is always below the waist and has a beautiful design. In fact, it sometimes includes gold. In western culture, this kimono type is equivalent to and evening dress. It has either 3 or 5 crests. The latter is more formal, and they range from colorful to just black varieties. The black variety, Kuro Tomesode, are only worn by married women. However, the colorful Iro Tomesode may be worn by unmarried women.
- Houmongi - both married and unmarried women wear these semi-formal kimono types. Houmongi come in many elegant colors and designs that are suitable for various ceremonies and semi-formal house parties.
- Iro Muji - These kimonos types have a plain color without any patterns. The beauty of these kimono types comes from simplicity. Because the design is not too flashy, it does not disrupt solemn events or draw too much attention to the wearer. However, that doesn’t mean they are only worn on sad occasions. Iro Muji often fly out of the closet for family celebrations or graduation ceremonies.
- Komon - Japanese people know this kimono as the casual kimono. Compared to other kimono types, you will likely see these the most often. They have a repeating pattern that often with vertical stripes. Even though they are beautifully crafted, do not wear this kimono type for a formal event! Instead, it is great for a stroll around the town, or small celebrations.
- Yukata - This cotton kimono’s light weight and lack of undergarments make it perfect for summer. As a result, the yukata appears during festivals or on a hot day out. In fact, people rarely gather at the busy local festivals or spectacular summer firework displays without wearing a yukata. Though it is the most informal, the yukata is the most popular among Japanese kimono types.
- Wedding Kimono - This is a bride’s pure white kimono. The official name for the dress is ‘Shiromuki’. In fact, the white color of the kimono dates back to the days of the samurai. At that time, a woman would show her submission to the family she was marrying into.
The Kimono Collecting Writer
Every since I was young, everything about the Japanese culture drew my attention. From the food, the architecture, and the tranquil nature of the people, it all sounded like a dream come true. Among all of those wonderful elements, nothing has stood out to me more than the kimono. These garments were elegant and classy, while retaining an ancient beauty that caught me eye.
From this love, I began to raid antique malls and ebay, searching for the next gem to add to my budding collection. Presently I only have about 7 or 8, mostly due to cost, and finding space to store them until I can properly display them. Someday, I hope to have them hung on walls or on dress dummies so that others can enjoy one of my passions.