Kimono, womens, crepe / silk, maker unknown, Japan, 1900-1915
This collection of kimono and kimono accessories including an obi, obi scarf, geta (Japanese sandals), tabi (split toe socks), obi purses and hair decorations are an important addition to the Museum's holdings of Asian costume. Clothing is one of the richest expressions of material culture helping to define cultural identity.
The kimono is one of the most recognisable of national costumes. The stylised and colourful kimono expresses the aesthetic sensibilities, culture and customs of the people of Japan. Over time, the Japanese people have adopted a more western style of dress, yet the kimono still has an emotional impact on the Japanese consciousness. Its uses, aesthetics and social meanings are culturally and socially significant with the precise rules of kimono dressing revealing patterns of gender, class, identity and a sensibility unique to Japanese society.
The style of the kimono has changed minimally over time, evolving to fit new circumstances in contemporary Japanese society. The kimono remains an important feature of Japanese society and is worn to special occasions, festivals and significant holidays.
The word kimono literally means 'something worn' and is the traditional costume of Japan. The kimono has had a long history in Japan with the style of the kimono changing over time to reflect contemporary culture and society. The style of the kimono in the T-shape is thought to have originated during the Heian period (749-1192). Prior to 794, Japanese people wore separate upper and lower clothing.
The development of the straight-line-cut method during the Heian period resulted in improved kimono making techniques. The T-shape of the straight line cut kimono is a versatile design with many advantages. It is easy to fold, suitable for all weather conditions as it can be worn in layers to provide warmth in winter and made of light weight fabric in summer. It is comfortable to wear and the one size adjusts to different body shapes.
The kimono is a T-shaped, straight lined robe that falls to the ankle with full-length sleeves that drape from the wrist. The kimono is wrapped around the body, always left side over the right and secured with an obi. An obi is the belt that secures the kimono to the body.
The kimono is generally worn with traditional footwear known as geta (thonged wood platform sandals) and tabi (split toe socks). An undergarment known as nagajuban (shorter kimono) is worn beneath the kimono.
When a baby girl is born, she is clothed in a white undergarment with a bright yuzen (dyeing technique) kimono. A baby boy is clothed in a black kimono with the family crest (mon) on it.
A young unmarried girl wears a furisode (kimono with long flowing sleeves) and a married woman wears a tomesode (kimono patterned on the bottom half only).
The images on this tomesode kimono, (distinguished by patterning on the lower half of the kimono and worn by married women) are created using the technique called yuzen which involves drawing the pattern on the cloth with rice paste extruded through a metal tip attached to a cloth bag. The paste forms a protective coating that prevents the colour penetrating when the dyes are applied. An advantage of yuzen dyeing is that very precise and thin lines can be achieved and a beautiful blurring effect with gradation in colour is also a desirable characteristic. Traditional naturalistic or abstract design motifs including flowers and trees are a feature of yuzen dyeing. Technical advantages of the yuzen dyeing process include colour stability, water resistance and a wide range of fabrics can be used and their characteristics are retained after dyeing.
The use of the family crest or mon dates back to the early 11th century-late Heian period. The crest played an important role in battle in distinguishing between allies and enemies. The crest generally denoted the male of the family and identified family members. Stylised flowers, birds and animal motifs are the designs most commonly used for mon. The family crest usually remains unchanged through successive generations.
Mon are typified by a monochromatic and simple stylised design. The mon on this kimono features a leaf and blossom motif. A single crested kimono displays the mon at the mid-back seam just below the collar. A three-crested garment adds two crests to the back of the sleeves and a five-crested kimono add two more to the front of the garment, placed just below the collar bone. This kimono is an example of a five-crested garment.
This kimono belonged to the mother of the donor's Godmother. The owner of the kimono was ostracised by her family for marrying a Dutchman and was exiled from her home wearing this kimono.