The Unique History and Fascinating Evolution of the Japanese Kimono

History and Evolution

During the Heian period (794-1192 AD), an early, easy-to-wear prototype of the kimono emerged in Japan. Like the current-day kimono, this garment was composed of straight cuts of fabric and was intended to suit all body sizes and types.

Eventually, during the Edo period (1603-1868), this robe became known as a kosode—a term that literally translates to “small sleeves”—as its armholes decreased in size. The kosode played a particularly important role in this period, as all Japanese people (despite social status, age, or gender) wore it. Thus, in order to express their individuality and “describe” themselves, wearers adopted ways to customize their kosodes.

Two women with parasol, Japan

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), the kosode evolved into the kimono. Unlike its earlier edition, the kimono was worn predominantly by women. Still, in spite of these small changes, the garment's main function—to visually communicate a message—remains unchanged even today.

The Contemporary Kimono

Today, designers and artists have reinterpreted the traditional kimono in a myriad of ways. From upcycled wedding dresses to woven glass sculptures, these innovative creatives have come up with one-of-a-kind ways to both preserve Japanese heritage and showcase the beauty of the kimono.

What is a Kimono Japanese Kimono Traditional Kimono Women's Kimono

Related Articles:

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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