The History of the Kimono

Two women wearing silk kimonos in Japan

A key element of our luxury silk clothing collections here at ddoo collective is our kimono. Available in a choice of colours, styles and lengths, kimonos are key to our wardrobes and transition seamlessly from day to night. Having travelled a long and interesting path, the kimono tells us stories of Japanese history, culture and power. Today we are exploring this garment’s history to uncover those stories and share them with you.

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What is a Kimono?

A kimono is a traditional Japanese garment; the word directly translates to “thing to wear”. They are classically t-shaped garments with straight lines and wide-set sleeves, similar to a robe, that wrap around the body and can often be secured by a sash. This traditional dress of Japan, however, has been adopted by Western fashion with a modern take in recent years.


The Origins

It is thought that clothing of a similar style to the kimono began during the Japanese Heian Period (794-1185). These were known by two names, a kosode (small sleeves) and an osode (long sleeves), which primarily referred to the size of the armholes. These garments were commonly paired with a loose style of Chinese skirt called a hakama, which would be layered over the kimono. However, the elegant robe soon evolved to be worn as a staple in itself with the addition of an obi – a wide sash – to hold it closed at the waist, abandoning the skirt. By the 1300s, a kimono, usually with beautifully detailed patterns, was the standard item of clothing in Japan for both men and women. Famed for being highly structured at the time, these stunning garments became a key part of Japanese culture.


The Edo period (1603-1868) was a time of political stability with a high focus on hierarchy, and for this reason, many of the designs of the materials used to make garments were restricted. Specific patterns and colours such as red were only to be reserved for those in high power, social status or royalty, and consequences would follow for those who disregarded the rules. This, however, led to a kind of rebellion. The younger generation would explore ways in which they could add flashes of red and patterns into their garments that could not be easily seen. It was during the Edo period that the fashion for kimonos really began to flourish, with many seeing these clothes as a way to express themselves artistically, using them as an eccentric display of their personality.


The name ‘kimono’ wasn’t coined until the Meiji Period (1868-1912): this was also known as the ‘first era of modernisation’ for Japan. It was at this time that the Western world became fully aware of Japanese traditions and customs. During this period, the economy began to rise, and men began to dress in business suits, bringing back a definable difference, in Western eyes, between the male and female wardrobes. The upcoming Western culture also meant that Government officials and military personnel were forced by law to wear uniforms, and the kimono became something to be worn only on formal occasions, for men in particular.

The kimono remained popular in Japan and emergent in Western culture until the 1950s, but this time with bolder patterns and a freer, liquid silk style, as opposed to the rigidity of the kimonos that had been worn before.

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The Kimono in Modern Day

It is rare for the Japanese to wear kimonos as everyday wear today, and they are mostly reserved for special occasions. However, the 21st-century saw a great revival of the kimono for fashion purposes in Western culture. The kimono today has evolved into mainstream culture, being worn by both men and women all year round. The luxury, prestige and elegance of these pieces have been kept alive across the world to be enjoyed by many. These silk kimonos is seen as a summer essential to cover up from the sun, or an elegant alternative to an evening jacket, and we simply love everything about them! 

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From a statement of culture to a mark of fashion, the kimono has come a long way in an exciting story. We cannot wait to take the kimono to the future with our timeless collections, keeping the story alive with our interpretation of this elegant garment! Which of our kimonos is your favourite? We’d love to hear from you!