Kimonos throughout history: from traditional garment to fashion icon

“Elegant. Delicate. The kimono – a garment inspired by tradition that has reinvented women’s fashion. “

For women with sensitivity, for whom colour is a means of expression, and who stand out for their personality. For women who shine without fear, yet not flamboyantly.  Women who know how garments can accompany and amplify their movements in a harmonious way.

Women who, rather than seek to stand out and show off, strive to be in harmony with what surrounds them… with nature, with society.

This might sound difficult to achieve. Yet the kimono has been able to create that singular image, and it has gone from being a garment of traditional origin to a must-have in our wardrobe.

But what has that journey been like? Next, we’ll walk you through it.

What you didn’t know about the origin of the kimono

When talking about kimonos, the image of a geisha often comes to mind. But did you know that the first geishas (Edo period – 1600-1867 –) were men?

They earned a living telling racy jokes at parties held in Shimabara – a peculiar neighbourhood in Kyoto.

Years later – around 1800 –, the new geishas – then women – entered those places, delighting those who came in with popular tunes.

In those times, geishas were not allowed to wear bright kimonos, nor hairpins. That was because there were feudal sumptuary laws that prescribed how and who could wear kimonos.

For example, the chonin – non-samurai townspeople – were not allowed to wear padded silk garments, nor could their wives wear dyed or embroidered silk garments.

But the truth is that the basic shape of the kimono is almost the same as that of the Chinese Tang prototype, adopted by the ladies of the court during the Japanese Nara period – from 710 to 794.

At first, geishas – who were used to wearing kimonos – competed against each other to be the most original and fashionable.

But this became even harder when Western fashion arrived in Japan in the 1920s and early 1930s.

However, geishas knew about the importance of tradition, and have been striving to protect its legacy ever since.

Kimono with white socks and wooden clogs

Mono means “thing”, and ki – from kiru – means “to wear”, so kimono originally meant “garment.”

It was a garment that geishas, especially the dancers, combined with white tabis (socks) – for them there was nothing as tasteless as wrinkled or dirty tabis –, or with okobo (wooden clogs from twelve to fifteen centimetres high).

But there is more about the origins of the kimono that has sparked our curiosity. For instance, the use of the koshimaki. It is a thin muji cloth about one metre wide by two metres long, made of silk or nylon, which geishas wore around their waists.

And one last peculiarity: the rental fee for a geisha’s desho-style kimono was high – 30,000 yen (90 dollars in 1975) for the evening. But the price included two men from the shop to come to the house to help put it on.

How the kimono has fused together with Western culture

The kimono is quite simply ART.

  • Art as a lifestyle for geishas who practise traditional music and dance.
  • Art in the way of walking, sitting, and talking.
  • It is art we may see:

– at museums: not all garments have the honour of having their own exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/kimono-kyoto-to-catwalk).

– at the cinema: in films such as Kill BillThe Danish Girl, or Lost in Translation.

– in the world of music: take Freddie Mercury or Elton John, who wore kimonos at home.

In the West, the kimono has gone from being a luxury homewear garment to becoming a versatile garment to wear to a meeting, dinner, or wedding.

Like with Japanese women, who once wore it only for New Year’s Eve and a few special occasions, and who now think wearing wafuku – Japanese clothing – means:

  • style,
  • investment – it doesn’t go out of fashion, it moulds to our silhouette, and our daughters can inherit it,
  • and quality that stands out.

“The fact that the back view of a kimono-clad figure is such an aesthetic focus has to do, I think, with the way a traditional Japanese room is arranged and how a woman in public (such as a geisha) moves and is viewed on a social occasion. States Liza Dalby in her book Geisha.”

The kimono – an inspiration for Vida y Milagros

Since we have talked about the origin of the kimono, it is only fair to talk about silk too.

Telling its history would take a much longer article, but there is one historical fact we would like to mention: the Silk Road.

Those who have visited the València Silk Museum might know about the history of the Genoese silk weavers, who introduced the art of weaving velluto or silk velvet in the city.

The city where Vida y Milagros was born and where our creative director designs kimonos adapted to contemporary fashion.

Because the kimono is this house’s inspiration, all prints and patterns are based on it – although some garments may also be dresses or blouses.

Vida y Milagros: fundangi and haregi

One of the advantages of having a kimono in your wardrobe is that it offers many possibilities.

While in Japan they talk about fudangi style kimonos – more informal –, or haregi – more formal –, at Vida y Milagros you can find:

Signature designs with colours that lift your spirits, make you feel younger, and cheer up your days.

100 per cent natural silk kimonos that embrace you and make you feel great.

Exclusive garments designed and made in Valencia that allow you to move at your own pace. Because how you want to enjoy life is your decision to make.

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