Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In the land of the Kimono

One of my all time favorite things about Japan has to be the textiles. Japan has such a rich history of textiles usually seen in the form of the iconic kimono. While I've been here I've done several presentations on the history and culture of the kimono. I also took a class were I was able to see and learn how to wear a kimono for myself. One of the most amazing things about this historical garment (aside from the amazing textiles) is how simplistic the design is and yet how versatile it can be.

A traditional kimono is made from a single bolt of cloth which is a specific width. It is then sewn in four long panels with two long sleeves and diagonal lapels. The design is such that all kimono are meant to fit almost all Japanese people (this is assuming of course that a person will not be very wide in the hip area). The kimono is wrapped around the body always with the left lapel over the right and cinched in place by several ties. It can be a bit tricky to get the fabric to lay straight but the benefit to this style is that the kimono can be adjusted for most heights. Once the kimono is firmly in place, the obi (sash) is placed on the waist just under the bust and tied in an elaborate knot at the back.

There are a lot of different types of kimono and obi and since they have such a rich history there is a lot of symbolism and meaning to the colors and patterns on the textiles. There are also different types of kimono for different seasons, ages and genders. The basic shape is almost always the same but the variations in the fabrics, colors and length of the sleeves determine when and by whom the garment should be worn. There are also many different types of obi and a variety of different ways they can be tied from simple bows to an elaborate knot that looks like a rose.