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Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk

Outer kimono for a young woman 打掛 (uchikake) 1800-30

"The word kimono 着物 means 'the thing to wear.'"

"By 1615, the beginning of the Edo period, everyong wore a kimono, regardless of their gender or social status."

"In the middle of the 17th ccentury, a distinctive fashion culture started to emerge in Kyoto. It was at this time that kimono were first exported to Europe, where they had an immediate impact on dress styles."

"Kimono fashions flourished in Japan in the Edo period (1615-1868). This was an era of unprecedented political stability, economic growth and urban expansion."

Kyoto was the centre of luxury kimono manufacture. Influenced by Osaka, then the focus soon shifted to Edo (Tokyo), the capital of the shogun将軍.

Kimono are straight-seamed garments secured with a waist sash (obi帯)

In Japanese clothing, the body is irrelevant and it is the flat surface of the kimono that is important.

In the Edo period, kimono were called kosode 小袖 (small sleeves)

kanoko shibori

The fabric is intricately woven and the striking red derives from costly safflower (benibana 紅花). The pattern was created using the kanoko shibori 鹿の子絞り technique.

Kimono for a woman (kosode) 1730-70

Yuzen dyeing 友禅染 was one of the most important technical developments of the Edo period. In this technique a cloth tube fitted with a metal tip is used to apply a thin ribbon of rice paste to the outline of a drawing on the fabric. Dyes are then brushed within the paste boundaries.

kosode designed by Matsumura Goshun 松村呉春 (1752-1811)

In Edo-period Japan there was a close connection between kimono design and paintinng.

Famous artist Matsumura Goshun hand painted on the garment.

The characters embroidered on the upper part of the kimono are taken from the fist line of a poem by Bai Juyi (772-846)

This is an unlined summer kimono made of ramie, a linen-like fabric well-suited to Jpan's humid climate. Also used stencil limitation tie-dyeing (surihitta摺疋田).

Two-piece ensemble (kamishimo裃) 1800-50

Most men of the samurai class wore kamishimo for formal occasions. This consists of hakama 袴 (a pleated lower garment) and an open sleeveless jacket with wide shoulders called a kataginu肩衣.

The ruling military class (the samurai) were major consumers of luxury kimonno.

Woodblock prints of these celebrities and other stylish dressers were known as ukiyo-e 浮世絵. 'pictures of the floating world.'

High-ranking courtesans were called oiran 花魁. They were major celebrities. When parading through the pleasure quarter oiran would wear the most spectacular of garments with very high geta下駄 (shoes).

This unusual kimono may have been inspired by Bando Shuka's 坂東しうか stage garment. Made by satin cottonn (menjusu 綿繻子) from China and stencil paste-resist dyeing (katazome 型染め).

In the late 19th century, Japan became open to the world . The textile industry rapidly modernised, making fashionable clothing available to more people than ever before.

Edo-period kimono made from European silk. The fabric was woven in France in the 1750s or '60s to make men's suits.

In the 1850s, Japan was forced to open its ports to foreign powers. The rule of the shogun came to an end and the emperor assumed authority, moving his capital from Kyoto to Edo which was renamed Tokyo.

In the Allied Occupation that followed the Second World War, Japan's culture became increasingly Americanised. In 1955, a system was established in which the most important techninques, and the most skilled practitionners, were designated 'Intangible Cutural Property'. Holders of this honour are popularly known as 'Living National Treasures'.

Akira Isogawa 五十川明

Miyanaga Kumiko (Mamechiyo Modern)

Kikuchi Nobuko

Muraki Yoshiro 村木与四郎

Hirayama Yoshihide

"My advice for anyone wearing kimono is to challenge rigidity; just wear kimono the way you want to, do it your way, it's only a kimono."

Yohji Yamamoto 2005


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