I love colour and pattern in my wardrobe and some of my favourite examples are my Japanese kimono(s). These versatile wardrobe staples look fantastic worn casually over jeans – or with a belt for a glamorous silhouette; with fascinating designs full of pattern and colour – often inspired by nature – once you start collecting, you are bound to get hooked.
A brief history of Japanese kimono
Kimono are garments of dress in traditional Japanese culture. Kimono – literal translation, “thing to wear” (ki “wear” and mono “thing”) – are long and are worn as robes wrapped over the body and are held closed with a thick belt (obi), usually tied at the back.
There are many types of ladies kimono; Furisode (girl’s formal), black and coloured tomesode (woman’s formal), homongi & tsukesage (semi-formal wear) and mofuku (mourning apparel) – to name a few. In Japanese tradition, the colour, pattern and fabric of a ladies kimono denotes social status, for example, if the lady is in mourning, is unmarried or married.
Postcard of a group of apprentice geisha (maiko) in furisode sitting on the veranda.
Credits: Illustration from book, ‘Taisho Kimono; speaking of past and present’, by Jan Dees.
How to wear Kimono – style it your way
Traditional Japanese garments, while governed by strict rules of wear in japan, have gained a good measure of popularity in the West due to their versatile and comfortable nature. They are designed with enough fullness to allow great creativity in draping the human figure, and the straight lines and modular nature of Japanese patterns allow for infinite variation in garment design.
Cotton or silk kimono make great loungewear worn in the comfort of your own home, much like a dressing gown or a 1950s housecoat. Worn lose and open, bright kimono are a great statement piece (imagine a pretty and sophisticated 1960s edge-to-edge Spring coat); wear over jeans, a skirt or leggings and a top for effortless style. Kimono are also a beautiful substitute for a dress and can be worn wrapped around the body and held closed with a belt fastened at the back, front or side – or – styled with a large brooch.
Reasons To Love Vintage Kimono
– Originality – the vintage kimono we sell are all authentic, which assures you that you will definitely not spot someone wearing the same outfit as you.
– Easy to wear – comfortable and easy to style; simply wear over jeans and a t-shirt for effortless chic, or wrap and belt for an hourglass silhouette.
– Versatility – Wear inside out for two-in-one!
– “Wall Art” – for the interior designer in you, kimono can also be used as a décor piece; patterned kimono make a spectacular work of art hanging against a plain wall.
– Fit and Sizing – One size fits most; due to the nature of the cut, kimono can be worn closed or open – and look great belted.
– Unisex – In Japan both ladies and gents wear kimono; in European fashion kimono and haori are more popular among women; I say, if you like it – wear it!
We love these 1980s images of ladies wearing their kimono in different styles, and while fanning the barbecue!?!
Credit: images from ‘Make Your Own Japanese Clothes’, by John Marshall (1988)
– ‘Kimono’, by Motoko Ito and Aiko Inoue. A pocket-sized illustrated guide to the kimono.
– ‘A Step To Kimono And Kumihimo’, by Yukio Shima (translator) and Kyoto Kimono Gakuin (editor). This book contains a very useful guide – with brilliant step-by-step images – on how to wear kimono the traditional way.
– ‘Taisho Kimono; speaking of past and present’, by Jan Dees (2009). This large format book is a must-have for kimono and haori enthusiasts; admirers of art deco; surface, costume or fashion designers; and printed textile connoisseurs! Taisho Kimono focuses on the period 1910 – 1940. Not only does it contain a wealth of interesting social history and historical information, it contains the most beautiful coloured images of traditional – and often flamboyant – Japanese costume. If the 120 illustrated garments themselves aren’t enough to make your mouth water, each item is explained in text, detailing the meaning of the motifs, type of fabrics used, and painting or printing techniques. A very impressive book indeed (and one that I will treasure in my own collection for many years to come!) View or buy taisho kimono; speaking of past and present.
Other useful books on Japanese clothing include;
– ‘making kimono and japanese clothes’, by Jenni Dobson
– ‘Make Your Own Japanese Clothes; Patterns And Ideas For Modern Wear’, by John Marshall