Brief Overview of Kimono

Japanese National Costume “Kimono”
Kimono is a traditional Japanese clothing. Kimono has been regarded as Japanese national costume in modern times. Japanese people used the word Kimono to indicate clothing in general sense before Western style clothing has prevailed, the word Kimono was not used to differentiate the Japanese clothing from the Western clothing. As more Japanese people began to wear Western style clothes after the Meiji period, the word Wafuku (Japanese Cloth) was adopted to indicate traditional Japanese clothing in contrast to Western style clothing.

Kimono Means a "Thing to Wear"” in Japanese Language
The Japanese people used the word Kimono to indicate clothing in general during the sixteenth century which was long before the Meiji period when the word Wafuku was coined in Japan--The word Kimono was recognized by the European people as the word to indicate Japanese clothing like the word Wafuku in the modern Japanese sense, and the word Kimono with that sense have prevailed in the world so that what the Japanese people call Wafuku is called Kimono in the world.

Kimono is an Ancle-Length Robes Wrapped Around the Body
When you wear Kimono, an ankle-length Kimono called 'Nagagi' is secured with Obi tied at the waist. The sleeve depth is much wider than the arm width. Nagagi and a kimono half coat called 'Haori' have their sleeves sewn up so that the length of the sleeve openings is shorter than the sleeve depth, which makes sleeve bags called 'Tamoto' in the sleeves. Sleeves of Western clothing is characterized in that they wrap the arms to fit so they have a smaller space inside than those of Kimono. Western clothing are secured by buttons or fasteners, whereas Kimono is secured with Obi and cloth cords tied at the waist. Kimono are not open-necked like some of Western clothing. The textiles for kimono do not have elasticity. The Obi is made of cloth. Leather is not used as a material for the Obi.

Kimono is Made by Single Roll of Cloth
Throughout the processes of making Kimono from a roll of cloth, the panels are cut out from the cloth almost always straight in parallel to or perpendicular to the sides of the cloth. On the other hand, in the processes of making Western clothing from a piece of cloth, pattern pieces are cut out from the cloth along a lot of curved lines to be made into shapes much more complicated than those of Kimono. The difference between Kimono and Western clothing can be seen in the amount and shapes of cloth left after the cutting process. When panels for making Kimono are cut out from a roll of cloth, just a small rectangular piece of cloth is left at the end of the roll. As the cloth at the end of the roll is rectangular, it can be used for another purpose. When pattern pieces for making Western clothing are cut out from cloth, a lot of pieces in various shapes mostly other than rectangular are left so, they are difficult to use for other purposes. If Kimono is made with a traditional hand-sewing method, it is sewn on the assumption that the stitches will be taken out from the Kimono to break it into panels for washing. Delicate threads are used in sewing Kimono to reduce the risk of thread damaging the cloth when it is pulled. The panels of Kimono can last long because they are sewn by the delicate threads, but because the threads are delicate, Kimono has a weakness in protecting the body.

Traditional Japanese Wedding Kimono
Traditional Japanese Wedding Kimono
Maiko with kimono walking in the street in Kyoto
Maiko with kimono walking in the street in Kyoto
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1. About Kimonos (26:51)

Kimono Covering the Body Shape

Western clothing for both men and women covers to fit the shape of the body, whereas Kimono wraps the body to cover the shape with the straight surface of cloth except for shoulders and hips the shapes of which are shown over the surface of the cloth. Most forms of Western clothing for women are designed and made to emphasize the shape and figure of the body, whereas Kimono for women is made to cover the woman's figure and to be a cylindrical in appearance. Western clothing for women is sometimes made low-cut in front, whereas Kimono for women are made to overlap the collar high close to the throat. A brassiere for kimono that a woman wears under Wafuku flattens her bust line. Before wearing Kimono, the body is sometimes padded with cloth like a towel to make a cylindrical shape. The object of the use of kimono brassier and padding the body with cloth like towel is to prevent kimono from having a loose and untidy appearance. Such corrections make the figure into a perfect cylinder.

Sensoji-temple is one of the example of syncretization of Shinto and Buddhism

Mon (Family Crest) and Kimono

Japanese Shows Their Family Crest on the Kimono
The modern full dress Kimono for both male and female have a crest. Generally, the family crest is used for the crest, but there are other crests called 'Kagamon' and 'Sharemon.' A crest is usually provided in white on Kimono as big as contained in a circle 2 cm to 4 cm across. A crest is provided on Kimono at one, three, or five places, according to the kind and purpose of Kimono. Kimono having a crest at the five places called 'Itsutsumon' is the most formal. Places for the crest depends upon the number of places. The formal crest is the resist-dyed crest called 'Somenuki hinatamon' that is represented by white and the base color of kimono, which is usually provided on a resist-dyed crest place called 'Kokumochi' by dyeing the crest with the base color of kimono afterwards. Other than Hinatamon, a crest only the outline of which is resist-dyed called 'Inmon' is used for an informal occasion. Further, an embroidered crest called 'Nuimon' instead of the resist-dyed crest is available as a more informal crest. The above-mentioned Kagamon and Sharemon are mostly represented in the form of the Nuimon. There are combination of the crests called 'Hiyokumon' that are often used in the world of geisha.
Go to Symbols(crests) of Japan

Sensoji-temple is one of the example of syncretization of Shinto and Buddhism
Traditional Hitotsu-mon(one mon), Mitsu-mon(three mons), and Itsutsu-mon(five mons) placing

Relative Wears and Footwears


Yukata is a kind of kimono. Reportedly, it originated in the yukatabira (a light garment for bathing) of the Heian period. According to Wamyo-ruijusho (a Japanese encyclopedia) edited in the middle of the Heian period, yukatabira was a kind of inner cloth worn for bathing. In those days, while a person occasionally took a bath together with others, he or she is assumed to have worn the cloth in a bath to wipe off the sweat and also to hide his naked body. The material of the cloth was water-resistant hemp of good drainage. Since around the Azuchi-Momoyama period, the cloth became widely worn to absorb sweat off the skin after a bath. In the Edo period, it evolved into a kind of clothing favorably worn by common people.

Usually, the yukata is an unlined cotton garment of the simplest, most basic structure. For this reason, yukata-making was often a subject of home economics lesson at primary schools until sometime in the postwar period. Under normal circumstances, the yukata is supposed to be worn direct to the skin, but nowadays many people put on underwear which is, however, no more than an underslip for kimono or hadajuban (an undershirt with tie strings to be worn beneath the kimono) underneath the yukata. Because of its thin fabric and its open, airy construction, the yukata is mostly worn in summer season, after a bath or as nighttime clothing. The most popular footwear for yukata is a pair of wooden clogs for bare feet.

Because the yukata has been the utmost casual wear from the beginning and it's regarded as impolite if one wears yukata to meet others, one can only wear a yukata to the most casual places. Today, however, many people aren't very conscious of such yukata-related customs, partly because the kimono style itself is becoming rare. Also, because there are fewer opportunities to wear kimono on a regular basis except for summer festivals and other events where one would intentionally wear yukata, it's no longer being considered even as informal wear largely by young women with comparatively frequent chances to wear yukata, among others.

In the modern life in Japan, people wear yukata primarily for such occasions as fireworks, temple festivals, Bon festival dances and other summer events. Some hot-spring resort areas are making their own development plans on the premise of wearing yukata and geta, which they acknowledge as an important element in creating a "hot springs" atmosphere. The bright colors of yukata and pattering sounds of geta are most liked, as they produce a gorgeous atmosphere of festivals and hot springs, under which acknowledgment people are increasing their involvement in their towns' development plans on the premise of wearing yukata and geta. In recent years, some yukata have hems above the knee, like a miniskirt. Lately, in order to brighten hot-spring areas and festivals, people are encouraged to wear yukata without constraint.

Additionally, many ryokan and hotels prepare yukata for their guests as night clothing, which is a unique custom in Japan. Also, yukata may be used as practice wear for nihon-buyo (classical Japanese dance). Originally, the yukata was made principally of indigo-dyed plain cotton cloth in which undyed patterns were left and daring patterns were laid on the yukata. But in recent years they have diversified into various gorgeous colors and designs because, in many cases, yukata offers the only chance to wear traditional Japanese clothing. Many of the yukata fabrics have also changed from cotton, as of original yukata, to those containing hemp and polyester. The diversification of yukata has made the boundary between yukata and other clothing less distinct.


A Jinbei is a kind of traditional Japanese clothing worn by men, women, boys, girls, and even babies during the summer. Jinbei are usually worn as a form of nightwear or house wear. Normally, male Japanese would wear jinbei only within their own homes, or outside the home when in close proximity to it (for example, to collect the mail or go on a local errand, or sometimes even while shopping or dining at a local restaurant). Sometimes jinbei are used as substitute for yukata during a summer festival, typically by men and boys but also frequently by young women. Ladies' jinbei tend to be more brightly coloured and often feature prints of popular culture characters and motifs.

Jinbei sets consist of a top and matching shorts, although some have long pants and some come with both short and long pants. Traditional jinbei are made from hemp or cotton and are dyed a uniform color, often indigo, blue, or green. The top resembles a short-sleeved or sleeveless jacket that falls to the hips. It ties closed both inside and outside the jacket, with the inside tied first, the jacket folded over to the person's left, and then tying the outside. The seam for jinbei is very loosely woven to allow for ventilation during hot weather while retaining coverage.


A Happi is a traditional Japanese straight-sleeved coat usually made of indigo or brown cotton and imprinted with a distinctive mon (crest). They are usually worn only to festivals. Originally these represented the crest of a family, as happi were worn by house servants. Later, the coats commonly began to display the crests of shops and organizations. Firefighters in the past also used to wear happi; the symbol on their backs referred to the group with which they were associated.

Participants in the traditional Japanese festival
Participants in the traditional Japanese festival "Matsuri" wear Happi

Fundoshi (Traditional Japanese Underwear)

"Fundoshi" is a traditional underwear for men in Japan. In English, it is described as "loincloth." On festival occasions, fundoshi is not treated as underwear but as a festive dress. As kanji character for "fundoshi" consists of a radical "衣" ("koromo" meaning "vesture") on the left-hand side and "軍" ("gun" meaning "military") on the right-hand side, a fundoshi loincloth traces back to battle dresses. During the Sengoku period (the period of Warring States) in Japan, it was possible to discern the ranks of warriors killed in war by checking whether they were wearing fundoshi loincloths or not, since cloths at that time were generally expensive. In those days hemps were mostly used, but later in the Edo period they were replaced by cotton which made fundoshi loincloths popular among the common people beside warriors. Some upper class people wore fundoshi loincloths made of chirimen (crepe fabrics). Until World War II, fundoshi loincloths had been the main underwear for adult men, but, since the end of the war, they fell rapidly into disuse because of the emergence of new style underwear such as briefs, trunks and so on along with the westernization of men's wear.

The person plays Japanese traditional drum
The person plays Japanese traditional drum "Taiko" with Fundoshi

Geta (Japanese Wooden Sandals)

Geta (Japanese wooden sandals) is Japanese traditional footwear, and is put on by putting feet on wooden boards and fixing toes with a strap which is called O (or Hanao). The manufacturing processes of geta are to attach protruding portions for touching the ground which are called "Ha" (teeth) to the wooden board, drill three holes called "Me" (eyes), and put Hanao through these three holes. Hanao is worn by pinching Hanao with the first and second toes. The base board is mainly made of paulownia and cedar tree.

A portion attached to the underside of the base board is called Ha (teeth), and two teeth are usually attached ahead and in the rear, but one tooth or three teeth are attached in some cases. Geta made by carving the base board and teeth from one piece of wood are called renshi-geta, and the ones made by attaching teeth separately made to the base board are called sashiba-geta. It is said that 'Ipponba-geta' (one-tooth geta) (Takageta, tall wooden clogs) with one tooth were worn by Tengu (long-nosed goblin) and were used for ascetic practice in the mountains.

Geta are basically put on when wearing traditional Japanese clothes, but, are often put on in combination with traditional Japanese clothes for informal wear, not for formal wear. When wearing yukata (Japanese summer kimono), Geta are basically put on barefoot. As in the case that people do not wear traditional Japanese clothes often, people do not put on Geta generally in present-day Japan.

Zori (Japanese Footwear Sandals)

Zori are a sandal-like type of Japanese traditional footwear. Zori were worn widely in Japan until shoes became widespread following the Meiji Restoration in the mid-nineteenth century. In modern Japan, zori are primarily worn when dressed in kimono. Zori are considered more formal than geta. Zori are flat and thonged sandals made of rice straw or other plant fibers. Like all Japanese sandals, zori allow for free circulation of air around the feet, a feature that probably came about because of the humid climate that predominates throughout most of Japan. They are easily slipped on and off, which is important in a culture where shoes are constantly removed and put back on, and where tying shoelaces would be impractical in a tight kimono.


Waraji are sandals made from straw rope that in the past were the standard footwear of the common people in Japan. Waraji were also worn by the samurai class and foot soldiers (ashigaru) during the feudal era of Japan. Traditionally the rope material was made of rice straw, however waraji can be made out of various other materials such as hemp, stalks of myōga, palm fibers, and cotton thread. Now they are mostly worn by traditional Buddhist monks. Traditionally, the Japanese wear the waraji with their toes protruding slightly over the front edge. However, there are no set rules or guidelines on wearing waraji.

Tabi (Japanese Traditional Sox)

A pair of tabi is a Japan-specific traditional item of clothing, and a kind of underwear worn on the feet. Tabi are generally made of cotton. A pair of tabi is used when wearing zori, geta or setta (zori with leather used on the sole). Therefore, the portion between the big toe and other toes of a tabi is separated (separation of the big toe.) There is also a tabi called jikatabi that is made of durable cloth and a rubber plate is pasted on the sole so that it can be worn outdoors.

Descriptions of "tabi appear in documents around the 11th century. Although the origin remains uncertain, it is considered to be socks called shitozu, which were worn by nobles in the Heian period, or leather socks, which are said to have been worn by hunters in that period. Tabi were initially provided with laces in the ankle, and the laces were fastened to prevent the tabi from slipping off. It is said that the conflagration in 1657 (of the Meireki era) caused a shortage of leather, raising the cost of leather, and making tabi made of cotton used more widely.

In present-day tabi, the ankle is fastened by hooking metallic parts called 'kohaze' on looped threads called "ukeito" (or 'kakeito'). These fasteners came to be used widely from the latter half of the Edo period to the first half of the Meiji period.

History of Kimono

Jomon and Yayoi periods
Japanese clothes during the Jomon period are mostly unknown. Fragments of textiles and sacks with strips have been discovered from the Jomon period sites, which proved that the Jomon people had techniques of spinning thread from plant fiber such as China grass and hemp as well as making cloth from the threads. It is supposed that the Jomon people made clothes out of the textiles and wore them. The clay figures in the shape of human beings have been found from the Jomon period sites and considered to be source materials for inferring the form of clothing of the Jomon people. As the clay figures are designed quite differently from real human beings, it is apparent that the figures were not made to represent real Jomon people; therefore, it is doubtful that they represent the real form of clothing from those days.

No source materials to indicate clothing has been found from the sites of the Yayoi period that was characterized by rice cultivation in paddy fields. Clothes worn by the Yayoi people can only be inferred from an article 'Gishiwajinden' included in part of 'Toiden' of the book 'Gisho' written in China. According to the description of the Gishiwajinden, Wajin, the Japanese people of those days, simply wore wide cloths secured by broad sashes. Incidentally, as 'Gishiwajinden' is a description of Wakoku, which is the name of Japan used by ancient China, and the people of Wakoku, it is highly possible that the article was about a country that once existed in the Japanese islands. On the other hand, the accuracy of 'Gishiwajinden' has been questioned for a long time.

Kofun and Asuka periods
Japanese clothes during the Kofun period are mostly unknown also. Only the "Kojiki" and "Nihonshoki" the oldest chronicles written in the Japanese islands as well as "Fudoki" were available as historical sources for the Kofun period, i.e., until the middle seventh century. As for archeological materials, only hollow clay figures provide a clue to infer the clothes worn during the Kofun period. Based on the materials, it is supposed that clothes for both female and male were separated into two parts for the upper half of the body and the lower half of the body. But as neither "Kojiki" nor "Nihonshoki" provide designs of clothes, and few source materials about the periods remain, clothes during the Kofun period are mostly unknown. In 603, in Japan, Prince Shotoku established twelve court ranks to distinguish superior officials by twelve colors of their caps. Only "Nihonshoki" describes the period when the twelve court ranks were established, but does not mention the relationship between the colors and ranks. "Nihonshoki" does not provide the design of clothes.

At the end of the 7th century, the name of the country was changed to Nippon. From 1972, the study started on the inside wall paintings of the Takamatsuzuka Tomb considered to have been painted from the end of the seventh century to the beginning of the eighth century. This wall painting show the only figures that depict people during the Asuka period. Male and female figures in the wall paintings and the description in the "Nihonshoki" were the only archaeological sources on clothes during the Asuka period. According to the report from the scholars, all the figures in the wall paintings of the Takamatsuzuka Tomb, both male and female, wear their clothes with right side over the left. In the figures, the garments worn on the upper part of the body hang out over the garments for the lower part of the body. It is supposed that the belts worn over the garments in the figures are made of textiles instead of leather.

Nara period
Japanese clothes during the Nara period are mostly unknown also. The major sources available to study clothes during the Nara period are documents that include "Ryo-no-gige" (the colleted commentaries on the Ryo code with the efficacy of law) and "Ryo-no-shuge" (the colleted commentaries on the Ryo code without the efficacy of law) and "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued) and "Nihongi Ryaku" (Summary of Japanese Chronologies), and the materials kept in the facilities like the Shosoin Treasure House. Neither of "Ryo-no-gige," "Ryo-no-shuge," and "Shoku Nihongi," provide examples of clothing. Both of the Taiho Ritsuryo Code promulgated in 701 and the Yoro Ritsuryo Code, a revised edition of the Taiho Ritsuryo Code, promulgated in 718 contain the clothing codes. The Taiho Ritsuryo code does not exist today. The Yoro Ritsuryo Code does not remain today either, but contents of the code can be inferred from the "Ryo-no-gige" and "Ryo-no-shuge." The clothing codes in the Taiho Ritsuryo Code and the Yoro Ritsuryo Code prescribed the clothes that should be worn in the Imperial Court as the formal clothing worn by the court nobles in the Imperial Court called 'Raifuku,' the clothing worn by the court nobles in the Imperial Court called 'Chofuku,' and the uniforms.

According to the clothing code in the Yoro Ritsuryo Code, formal clothing during the Nara period was worn to attend important religious services, the Imperial Enthronement Ritual called Daijosai or Ooname no matsuri, and on New Year's Day. According to the clothing code in the Yoro Ritsuryo Code, Chofuku were worn to attend the government meeting called 'Chokai' that was held once a month in an open court and when the court nobles does things called 'Kuji.' It is considered that Chofuku for military officers were secured by leather belts. Uniforms during the Nara period were for the government officials, who did not have any privileged status, to wear them when performing official duty. The clothing codes in the Taiho Ritsuryo Code and the Yoro Ritsuryo Code do not prescribe clothing for the common people who had nothing to do with the Imperial Court.

According to the clothing code of the Yoro Ritsuryo Code, the forms and colors of Raifuku, Chofuku, and uniforms differ to differentiate each status and official position. According to the clothing code of the Yoro Ritsuryo Code, Raifuku and Chofuku for military officers were prescribed to ware garments called 'Iou.' According to the scholars, the Iou were made of different colored clothing to differentiate ranks. Iou had the same form as Ou. According to "Koki" (Ancient records), Ou were clothes with the underarm parts of the sleeves open and the part covering the body was not layered. A form of clothes called 'Ketteki no ho' made in the later period is the same as Ou in that its underarm parts of the sleeves were made open and the part covering the body was not layered. It is considered that Raifuku for civil officers included layered clothing during 718 when the Yoro Ritsuryo Code was promulgated. Layered clothing for civil officers might have been the origin of clothes called 'Hoeki no ho' made in the later period.

The clothing and accessories during the Nara period were influenced by the Tang Dynasty in mainland China. Many theories state that the clothes were worn with the left side folded over the right in the mainland China during those days. In "Shoku Nihongi," there is a description of a policy carried out during 719 that contains the sentence '初令天下百姓右襟.' The sentence means that all people should wear clothes with the left side over the right.

Heian period
Many things regarding the costume during the Heian period are still unknown today. Because materials for clothing such as silk and hemp have much less durability than metal or wood, there is almost no possibility for such materials to survive through the years. Until the mid-Heian period, the costume had not been so different from that of the Nara period, but after SUGAWARA no Michizane abolished the envoys to Tang dynasty China, the Chinese culture became less influential and an indigenous culture developed in every aspect. The indigenous culture came to appear in clothing, and especially the shape of clothes became larger. Due to the development of woven pattern (design) and dye techniques, colorful clothing came to be used in ceremonial rituals in the Imperial court, showing the cultural improvement in clothing of the court nobles. In order to add firmness to a rather big costume, stiffly starched clothing called 'kowashozoku' appeared and the changes in costumes were unified into a certain style. The costumes that appeared during the Heian period had been used for ceremonies in the Imperial court and bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) since then, and the shape of clothing has essentially been the same until today, though "how to wear costumes" and "how rituals and costumes related to each other" had gone through various changes through the years.

Today we know more about the costume during the Heian period than that prior to the Heian period. However, when costumes in the Heian period are restored, it is mostly done by presumption even though present experts study historical evidences. Today, restored clothing based on historical investigation, mostly the Heian-style costumes, are exhibited at the Costume Museum in Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. Some people create works for amusement based on "Genji Monogatari" (The Tale of Genji) today, and many people love original "Genji Monogatari" and the works based on it.

Kamakura and Muromachi periods
Based on the jacket called 'Suikan' worn by the common people, a garment for the upper body called 'Hitatare' was designed. During the Kamakura period, Hitatare became the formal clothing for the military family. During the Muromachi period, Hitatare became the full-dress for the military family. Daimon and Suou were derived from Hitatare. Female clothes were continuously simplified. The train of the clothes were gradually shortened to be a pleated skirt, and that was finally abolished, which means the Female clothes became one-piece. Since then, women wore waistcloth and a light wrapping skirt over kimono with short sleeves called 'Kosode.' Uchikake, a longer Kosode, began to be worn over Kosode.

Edo period
During the Edo period, the clothes were further simplified and 'Kamishimo' that is the combination of a sleeveless jacket called 'Kataginu' and trousers called 'Hakama' appeared. Kosode prevailed among the common people. As theatrical performances including Kabuki became popular and players clothing were printed in colored woodblock prints, the common people began to wear more luxurious clothes. From the Confucian perspective, the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) tried to cope with the trend by promulgating the ordinance of frugality, but the common people's craze for clothing was not suppressed and, influenced by the tea ceremony, they sought to wear subdued, but expensive clothes. The way of tying Obi sash and braid was developed, and people began to tie Obi at the back.

As Japan implemented the seclusion policy and raw silk was no longer imported from abroad, most of the raw silk consumed domestically was produced in Japan. During the Edo period, some of the common people wore kimono made of relatively low-priced silk, but when the great famine of 1783 to 1788 occurred, the Edo bakufu forbade the common people from wearing any silk products in 1785. Since then, the common people wore clothing made of cotton or hemp. As the 'Furisode,' a long-sleeved kimono became popular among women, a bridal costume was also derived from 'Furisode.' In 1864 when the Edo bakufu government raised the army of the punitive expedition of Choshu Domain on the pretext of the skirmish at the Kinmon Gate, the bakufu decided to make a Western style military uniform for the army, and a merchant Jihei MORITA in Kodenmacho in Edo undertook the order and managed to tailor 2,000 military uniforms by trial and error. Those was the first Western clothes mass-produced in Japan as far as recorded.

Meiji and Taisho periods
During the Meiji period, backed by government measures to promote industry, modern silk spinning mills were constructed, which further increased the production of silk. As Japan opened the country and trade with countries abroad grew, the export of silk yarn and silk products accounted for a major part of the total amount of export; Japan began to be regarded as the world's silk supplier. As the mass-production of silk began, the price of silk was no longer much higher than other products. Since that period, female Kimono started to be made of various fabrics. To accompany the trend, a variety of silk textiles increased like chirimen, rinzu, omeshi, and meisen. The finished silk textile was further processed by the developed Yuzen dyeing technique, which could create new patterns. Silk textiles with Komonzome small dyed motifs had still been in fashion since the Edo period, which became popular to make into traditional best clothes; on the other hand, textiles woven with pre-dyed threads known as Shima stripe and Kasuri splash patterns were also popular.

Since the Meiji period, the nobles and people who frequently meet Westerners were relatively early to accustomed themselves to wear Western clothes. It is considered that leading political figures wore Western clothes to show that Japan was committed to absorb advanced science and technology from the Western countries and modernize the country as a gesture in order to be advantageous in talks with the Western countries. On the other hand, the common people kept the traditional habit and customs handed down from the Edo period because Western clothes were still too expensive for them and because they highly valued or cared for the traditional sense of beauty.

When clothing and accessories were imported from the Western countries, western clothes were gradually produced in Japan. The Japanese people collectively called traditional Japanese clothing 'Kimono,' i.e., the word 'Kimono' originally meant 'things to wear." In order to differentiate the clothes that had been called 'Kimono' from the western clothes, the word 'Kimono' was coined. In the early period of wearing Western clothes, the Japanese people used to rent them from clothes rental shops. During the Meiji period, western clothes were mainly worn by men as their street clothes and formal clothing, and they wore Japanese clothes in daily life. Even the scale was small, western clothes rental shops and shops dealing with western clothes were gradually opened across Japan.

Since 1871 when the Imperial instruction to make western style uniforms for the army and government officials was issued (Grand Council Proclamations No. 399), police officers, railway workers, and teachers adapted western clothes as their working clothes. Males were required to wear military uniforms that had been already westernized then. Stiff collar western clothes designed based on the army military uniform were adopted as male student uniforms. During the Meiji and Taisho periods, a style of wearing a pleated skirt over kimono was popular among female students as their daily clothes both inside and outside of school. The pleated skirt is a kind of Kimono. This style took hold in Japanese culture, and the style is still popular among female students as a formal dress to attend entrance and graduation ceremonies. During the period, female students generally wore Japanese clothes except for the nobles and teachers of female students; but from the latter half of the Taisho period, increasing number of schools adopt sailor suits as their school uniforms to replace the pleated skirt style.

Some women affirmed that Japanese women should wear western clothes and started campaigns for that purpose. In the Daily Life Improvement Lectures held from May 4 to 11, 1922, Hamako TSUKAMOTO gave a lecture titled 'Improvement of clothing,' in which she said as follows. Takako KAETSU (1867 - 1949) wrote "Keizaikaizen Korekara no Saiho" in 1922 published from Nihon Fukuso Kaizenkai Shuppanbu, in the preface of which she wrote 'In my opinion, the goal of improvement of Japanese clothing should be Western clothing or something close to Western clothing.' When the Great Kanto Earthquake occurred in 1923, a great number of women in Japanese clothing were victimized because of the nature of Japanese clothing that restricts movement of the body; in the next year 1924, 'Tokyo Women and Children Clothing Association' started, and since then, clothing for Japanese women has been westernized.

Japanese clothing, which originated from Han Chinese traditional ethnic clothing, currently has the closest design to the Chinese Hanfu clothing, the ethnic clothing of the Han race. For this reason, part of the Chinese who fled the Qing Dynasty for Japan and engaged in revolutionary movement against the Qing Dynasty around 1900 during the Meiji period always wore Japanese clothing instead of Hanfu to show their resistance as the Han race against the Qing Dynasty that was ruled by the Manchurians. (The Chinese clothing Quipao, currently known as one-piece Chinese dress for women and Kung Fu suits appear in Kung Fu Films starring famous stars including Bruce Lee, originated in the ethnic clothing of the Manchurians.) (The Manchurians, as the ruling class, forced the Han race to wear them.)

Until the end of WWII in 1945
From 1881 to around 1945, female pupils in Japanese elementary schools learned hand-sewing to make Kimono in class at a certain grade. The purpose of this hand-sewing class was neither to make them professional sewers nor to train them as tailors working in factories. The purpose of this hand-sewing class was to teach them basic Japanese hand-sewing so they can sew clothes for themselves and their families, which was encouraged in those days. In those days, people generally did not have sewing machines, and clothes were made by hand-sewing.

After the end of war in 1945
Since the end of World War II in 1945, there were no more air raids and women started to wear Western clothing that they could not wear before. It might have been because Kimono were expensive and needed some training to wear, Kimono could not match Western clothing that became popular for their moderate prices and practicality, so the number of people who wore Kimono everyday decreased. During the period between 1965 and 1975, there were a lot of women who wore Kimono every day. That was due to the appearance of kimono made from wool called Wool Kimono, which raised the popularity of Kimono and created a boom. As Wool Kimono had beautiful color, it became popular among women throughout Japan as casual Kimono. Yet, the segment of the population who wore Western clothing instead of Kimono, increased, and the Gofuku industry that engaged in production and sales of Kimono and textiles for Kimono became depressed. For the purpose of sales promotion, the Gofuku industry drew up requirements for wearing Kimono on various occasions and advertised them. That impressed ordinary people that 'it is troublesome to wear Kimono.' Consequently, the Gofuku industry became further depressed so the textile businesses that had produced textiles for kimono, went down one after another.

Until the 1960s, a lot of men wore Kimono as informal wear at home, which is proved by cartoons until the 1970s, but their population gradually decreased. During the 1960s, there was a trend among western intellectuals and rock musicians to study Eastern Thoughts and religions, and some of them wore Kimono or clothes modeled after Kimono. Jimi Hendrix, a rock guitarist, was one of the most famous for it.

Modern Times
Fewer women wear Kimono as everyday clothes, with the exception of informal cotton kimono 'Yukata,' which have prevailed to some extent as costumes worn at special events and their textiles and patterns have become more varied. Yukata during the Heisei period is completely different from Yukata that was an extension of its original form of garment worn after a bath, and they have become more colorful and fashionable than ever so that some showy forms are called 'Gal Yukata.' Department stores use Yukata as one of the sales boost for summer season by providing a section for swim suits that is a garment for exposing the body and another section for Yukata that is a garment for covering the body. Men also wear Yukata as stylish clothing but their numbers are not as many as women. The number of men wearing Kimono every day is less than that of women such that few men wear Kimono except for people involved in religion who usually wear Buddhist priest's work clothes called 'Samue' and artisans who usually wear light cotton clothing consisting of shorts and a jacket called 'Jinbei.' On the other hand, some campaigns are carried out for promoting men to wear Kimono mainly through the Internet.

Since the latter half of the 1990s, a lot of shops dealing in second-hand Kimono--those selling the second-hand Kimono before the early Showa period called 'antique Kimono,' and those selling them after the middle of the Showa period called 'recycled Kimono'--were opened, and magazines wrote about them, igniting a Kimono boom among women. What is different from former periods is that people began to wear Kimono as Western clothing without being obsessive about traditional requirements in Heisei period. Now, people enjoy variations wearing Kimono by wearing Kimono and Obi made of fabrics for Western clothing, by wearing Kimono on top of Western clothing, by coordinating Kimono with western-style footgear like pumps or boots, or by using lace as the obi support.

Traditional Japanese Wedding Kimono
Traditional Japanese Wedding Kimono
Kimono of Heian Period
Kimono of Heian Period
Kimono in modern generation
Kimono in modern generation
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See Also
Encyclopedia of Japan