A term that generally covers a long and wide-sleeved, loose fitting style of robe worn by Japanese men and women from all classes of society from the 16th C till today, though now mainly worn for ceremonial occasions and relaxing.

The Kimono is a simple construction of straight seams and square sleeves, which ties around the waist with an obi sash and a cord obijme to hold it in place.

The cut carries much less significance than the weave and the surface pattern. Indeed, the weaving, dying and embroidery techniques, the richness of decoration and the linings all express the status and wealth of the wearer, reflecting their personal taste and style. There are winter kimonos, made of heavier fabrics: figured silk, cotton or wool, often lined with sheepskin for warmth; country kimonos, made of homespun thicker cotton, often dyed in indigo and embroidered; summer kimonos in linen, ramie or bamboo, that might be less decorated but display the skills and techniques of colour and rhythm of dyed cloth (such as the shibori and tsutsugaki techniques).

The printed or woven designs are rich in symbolism, and range from a very simple motif or weave to complex patterns that encompass most symbols / ideologies.?? Some well known kimono textile symbols and references include the lotus, which represents purity of the body, speech and mind; the crane for prosperity and longevity; repeated wave designs in weave or print reference the sea; mountains and clouds show the importance of landscape in Japanese culture; orange blossom; paper gift ornamentation in the form of butterflies;

a bedding cover–a very important part of any girl’s trousseau–might well depict in symbol and image the pine, bamboo and plum, representing longevity, perseverance and renewal.

Colour too plays an important role – red would be worn by a young woman; a married woman’s kimono has short sleeves; yellow only at court.

However loosely interpreted, the kimono today even in its very simplest form (we generally tend to think of the kimono as the shorter sleeved kosodo) has become a truly international costume–it’s such an easy shape to make and to wear, many of us have kimono-style dressing gowns and beach wear.

For interiors, 20thC printed furnishing textiles (by Warner and G P and J Baker, for example) drew deeply on the aesthetics of the new Far East, in particular China and Japan. The rich symbolism of the kimono’s pattern and print, depicting complex ideas in simple motifs, lent itself to both careful representation and inspiration.


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