The Evolution of Kimonos – When Tradition Becomes Fashion

July 1st 2019

An image of women wearing colourful kimonos

The name Kimono originates from the Japanese word for “clothing,” though, with time, Kimono began to be known as one particular garment traditional to Japan. The kimono is an icon among Asian clothing and is known the world over. The elegant silhouette and the rich fabric of the garment have always caught everyone’s attention.

Today, the kimono has made its way into the world of fashion and is no longer just traditional wear from Japan. It is worn by women all over the world, though not in its original authentic form, of course. Let us have a look at how the kimono has evolved and how something so traditional turned into something so fashionable.

The history of kimonos

The kimono, as we know it today, came into being in the Heian era, which was from 794-1192. Before this period, in the Nara era (710-794), Japanese folk wore clothing that had either a separate upper and lower garment or a one-piece garment. In the Heian period, a new method of cutting cloth was thought out, which is called the straight line cut method. The fabric was cut in straight pieces and sewn together to make kimonos. This made it easier for the kimono makers as they did not have to bother over the wearer’s body shape any more.

So, what were kimonos used for before? Well, they served as the perfect garment for all seasons, given the fact that they were so loosely fitted. The wearers could layer them inside with more clothing during winter or simply wear linen inner-clothing to keep cool during summers. These kimonos were so convenient that they became a part of the Japanese culture. Gradually, the Japanese people began to experiment more with kimonos, wearing them in layers and combining different colours. Men and women wore brightly coloured kimonos, while warriors dressed in colours representing their leaders.

During the Meiji period between 1868 and 1912, Japan was heavily influenced by foreign cultures. The government itself encouraged people to pick up western clothing and habits. The law required government officials and military personnel to wear western clothing for official functions. And slowly, the kimono faded out of their daily lives, now being worn only on special occasions.

Kimono in the world of fashion

After facing a threat of being wiped out of people’s memories, with lesser number of Japanese wearing the kimono as daily wear, the gorgeous garment has now been able to make its mark on world fashion. In recent years, the kimono has inspired many designers across the globe, giving them ideas for new fashion resources.

The craze for all things Japanese in the west began in the second half of the nineteenth century and was known as Japonism. That is also when the kimono made its way into Parisian fashion. Designers started using kimono fabrics for their own designs. The motifs and design of the Japanese fabric were incorporated in the silk by textile makers in Lyon. And that was the debut of the kimono in the Parisian fashion scene.

Around the year 1910, coats and dresses emulating the silhouette of the kimono were first designed. Many famous designers of the time took on the straight cut of the kimono and based their designs on it. As a result, in the 1920s, the fashion scene was dominated by cylindrical designs composed of straight lines obtained by sewing together rectangular-shaped pieces of fabric.

The modern take on kimonos as a fashion trend not only includes dresses or coats designed with kimono fabrics but also the Obi sash that is worn with a kimono. The fabric of the Obi sash has been used by designer Christian Louboutin in a recent shoe collection. Other designers like Vionnet and French designer A. Guery have created interesting new interpretations of the traditional Japanese design. Wasoukan, a shop in London’s Notting Hill, is the first kimono boutique and matcha bar in the city, where the in-house designer Noriyuki Ikeda strives to make the Japanese garment popular.

This is how the world of fashion is. Something that goes out of fashion in one era comes back into fashion when you least expect it. The kimono has been a symbol of Japanese tradition, and no one can think of Japan without associating the garment with it. With time, its popularity among the Japanese decreased, which is common to most traditional attires in other parts of the world. As people have become more industrious and need to move around more freely, traditional garments have given way to more comfortable and convenient clothing.

Particularly with women becoming independent and going out of the house for education and work, it is no longer feasible to always be decked up in their gaudy traditional clothing. Yet, the kimono stood the test of time and sneaked into modern world fashion.

Sure, these modern takes on the traditional Japanese garment are not truly representative of the garment’s original magnificence. Still, this adaptation has succeeded in popularising the kimono among the youth, both in the west and in Japan itself. Japanese fabric has found a place in global fashion and is being used to design everything from dresses to footwear.

There are many other traditional garments that have lost their relevance with time. Many of these, despite being equally magnificent, never found their place in global fashion. But the kimono, owing to its simplistic elegance and rich history, has impacted the world of fashion for good. Browse through our wide range of quality nightwear.

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