The kimono is the iconic garment of Japan and everyone tends to assume that it's a strictly Japanese item. As I've mentioned before, the kimono is actually a development of the hanfu style of Chinese clothing. So how did the kimono come about?
|Nara period (710-794) clothing|
|Heian period (794-1185) clothing|
At the end of the 8th century, the Heian Period began and the kimono first appeared. Initially known as the gofuku (clothes of Wu - Wu being one of the Three Kingdoms in the period between the Han and Jin Chinese dynasties; if you've played Dynasty Warriors then you're on the right track), the kimono was a development of the hanfu style of Chinese clothing. Upper and lower garments were replaced by a single robe. This had a number of benefits, not least of which was that the wrap-around style meant that clothing didn't have to be made to fit an individual and thus allowed for a form of mass-production. Somewhat ironically, this generic production allowed certain artisans to craft elaborate robes without specific customers in mind. This was a period of great innovation and stylisation in Japanese clothing.
Kimono had several advantages over previous garments, not least of which was their adaptability for all seasons. In winter, kimono could be worn in layers to provide extra warmth, yet in summer kimono made of lightweight, breathable material kept the wearer cool and comfortable.
In the picture above, the woman is wearing an example of a formal outfit as worn by noblewomen. Those of lower social station tended to wear just the kazami (the orange/pink outer layer in the picture).
|An outfit based on the kazami as worn by ordinary women|
5 kawahori-ogi fan
Note the kosode. That's the next development in the story of the kimono.
|Kamakura period (1185-1333) clothing|
|Kosode (upper) and hakama (lower)|
|Muromachi period (1336-1573) clothing|
|Edo period (1603-1867) clothing|
|From hanfu to kimono in one thousand years|
Many thanks to my wife for her assistance in the preparation of this article. Whilst she enjoys laughing at Korean and Japanese soap operas, she actually watches them purely out of her interest in the clothes.