Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fabulous Kimonos

A real Kimono, an authentic silk one, made with extra-fine embroidery of elegant flowers such as cherry blossoms and ume blossoms, or depictions of birds and trees found in nature - symbols of earth and air - on the front, back and sleeves, is meant to emphasize luxury and elegance.  Today a good quality "modern" one, a fine one, even used, costs well over a thousand dollars.  

These museum pieces, however, are priceless.

"Kimono" was originally the all-purpose Japanese word for clothing.  Today, however, the word is used to refer only to traditional Japanese clothing that came into being from the years 794 to 1192.

It was in this time period, known as the Heian period, that a new kimono-making technique evolved which allowed for cutting fabric and sewing it together, instead of weaving the fabric to fit the wearer's body.

These straight-line garments had many advantages.  They were easy to fold, for one thing.  They could be made from comfortable linen that would breathe in the summer, but could also be easily layered to provide warmth in the winter.

Over time, people began wearing kimonos in layers and the traditional Japanese color combinations developed.  Often, various colors represented the seasons, or even the political class the wearer belonged to.

From 1192 through 1573, both men and women wore brightly colored kimonos.  Warriors would dress in colors affiliating themselves with their leaders.

Famed Japanese actor, Toshiro Mifune, in full Samurai Kimono dress
As someone once said, the kimono was well designed to make small, delicately built people look bigger and more powerful.

During the period of 1603 to 1868 the Tokugawa warrior clan ruled over Japan.  The country was divided into feudal domains ruled by lords.  The samurai, or warriors, of each domain wore colors or patterns to identify themselves with their overlords.  This uniform of sorts had three parts: a kimono, a sleeveless garment worn over the kimono called a kamishimo, and a garment called a hakama, which was a trouser-like split skirt.

The kamishimo was made of linen and the shoulders starched to fiercely stand out.

Kimono makers in this period got very good at their craft and the kimono making process turned into an art form.  It was during this time that Kimonos became valuable.  Parents would hand them down to their children as family heirlooms.

Often garments were decorated with the wearer's family crest, identifying the wearer's family background.

Detail from the Kimono pictured above
During the time period from 1868 to 1912, Japan moved into the modern world and adopted Western clothing styles, particularly government officials and military personnel, who were required by law to wear Western clothing for official functions.

Today, Japanese people rarely wear kimonos in everyday life.  However, they are still used for special occasions, such as weddings, funerals, tea ceremonies or other special events.

The collection in the National Museum is delightful.  My friend George marveled at the colors and fantastic embroidery of the ancient kimonos on display.

Each garment tells a story of the time, place and family of the person who wore it.

Detail from the Kimono shown above
Each of these garments is the product of more than a thousand years of skill with needle and thread.  Each is a fantastic work of art.

Information on kimonos for this blog was borrowed from the Kids Web Japan website.
For more information see: http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/virtual/kimono/kimono01.html

No comments: