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The Art of Kimono and Kimono Fabrics

The Art of Kimono and Kimono Fabrics

Not many people outside of Japan know all the complexity of the traditions related to the art of wearing a kimono...

Its history dates as far as Heian period (794–1192 AD) and had been greatly influenced by the Chinese fashion. Its peculiar that the word "kimono", so widely used nowadays, actually means just "thing to wear"! However, for the "thing to wear", kimono has incredible number of rules that must be followed by the wearer even in modern days.

Geisha, kimono

For instance, it should be wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial), secured by a sash called obi, which should be tight at the back in a very distinctive way.

A complete kimono outfit usually consist of over 12 separate pieces, that should be worn, matched and secured in a specific prescribed manner and nowadays a help of special licensed kimono dressers is required to get it all correctly.

The cost of a complete outfit of kimono and the accessories might well exceed $20.000...

There are over 10 different types of women´s kimono, several types of men´s and couple of dozens types of accessories, all of which have their own prescribed traditions and occasions to be worn.

Accordingly, kimonos range from extremely formal to casual, and the level of formality is usually defined by the pattern of the fabric, color and cut. For example, kimonos of unmarried women usually have longer sleeves and more elaborated patterns and embroidery than those of older and married women, although being similarly formal.

Geishas walking the street in Kyoto

Of course, accessories also play crucial role in defining the formality of the outfit, such as presence of absence of kamon (family crests), with five crests signifying the highest formality.

Silk is the most desirable, as well as the most formal fabric for traditional kimonos...

Kimonos are made of a single bolt of fabric, called tan, which is only about 12 m long and 35 cm wide, and it is used entirely to make one garment with almost no waste left.

The fabric is cut into four main parts, two panels for the body and two for the sleeves, the width and length of which are defined then by the fabric itself. Therefore, the design of a kimono begins long before the actual garment is sewn together, as fabric patterns have to be meticulously planned and executed with incredible precision in order to result in the flawless elaborate motifs on exquisite kimonos.

Fabric for a kimono is rarely produced more than once, what makes kimonos be so unique and expensive...

Kimono fabrics - Lemiché

Traditionally, kimonos are sewn by hand and even machine-made modern ones require substantial hand stitching. Kimono fabrics are frequently made and decorated by hand, involving great variety of traditional techniques and sometime over 100 different steps.

Every motif on a kimono has seasonal significance, as well as it indicates the grade of formality and social status of the wearer...

Furthermore, the color and motifs of the pattern determine in which season a particular kimono should be worn. For example, sakura (cheery blossoms) or butterflies should be worn in spring and water designs in summer, when autumn designs often include momiji (Japanese maple) and matsu (Japanese pine) or take (bamboo) are for winter.

What do you think of kimono fabrics? Would you like to wear a kimono like this?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


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