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Kimono 101

History In many ways, the kimono reflects the Japanese people themselves. The kimono’s history spans well over 1,000 years. With proper care, a kimono can last a century. Like a treasured grandparent, a 90-year-old kimono can bring happiness to new generations of adults and children alike.

In the past, kimono were worn every day, just as people today wear western clothing. The name “kimono” simply comes from “着 (ki)” wearable and “物 (mono)” thing–literally “thing to wear.” Knowing this can help make even the most elaborate kimono far less intimidating.

Structure and Quality

Every kimono shares the same basic structure. Since the Heian Period, kimono construction has followed straight lines, using common measurements and proportions. The kimono is always worn left side over right, so whatever is on inside of the kimono becomes easily accessible to the right hand of the wearer (or a lover).

However, there are fancy and simple kimono, just as there are fancy and simple shirts, dresses and pants. Whereas western clothes are often valued by brand or designer, Japanese kimono are valued by the technique or style of the fabric’s coloring or weave. Also, natural fibers, such as silks, linen, cotton, and wool are valued due to their elegance and wearability.

Choosing Your Kimono

Historically, when choosing a kimono, one would think about the season. In the summer, the yukata might be a good choice, while in winter two or more layers would be more sensible. However, nowadays personal style and attention to quality are just as important, especially in this time of fashion and climate control.

Look for colors that speak to you, and patterns that make you happy. Also, look to the stitching, and the care to the details. Quality kimono and obi can employ the expertise of dyers, weavers and seamstresses to make each piece come alive as if they were pictures or paintings representing places, stories, and events.

Kimono and the Future

Kimono have lasted for 1,000 years, and there is no reason why they should not last 1,000 more. Just as they have evolved from the Heian Period through the Meiji Period to the present day, kimono of the future will surely adapt to changing sensibilities, cultures, and technologies. Kachou-kimono is also looking for talented creators, both in and out of Japan who are envisioning new expressions of kimono culture and tradition.

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