A Brief History of Kimono and Obi

A Brief History of Kimono and Obi
  • Jul 24, 2018

A Brief History of Kimono and Obi

The Kimono (着物, きもの) is a traditional long-sleeve Japanese garment that reaches from the shoulders down to the heels. The word "kimono" means a "thing to wear" (ki "wear" and mono "thing"). In more recent years, the word has been used to refer specifically to these traditional Japanese full length robes.

An Obi, which means "sash", is a belt tied around the waist of a woman’s Kimono to hold it in place. However, about 400 years ago, Obi was just a thin string used as a waist cord. The width of Obi become a little wider at the beginning of the Edo period (around 1600) and evolved into its current form in the middle of Edo period (around 1700).

Back of a woman wearing a kimono with the obi sash tied in the tateya musubi style of kimono
Back of a woman wearing a kimono with the obi sash tied in the tateya musubi style of kimono

During the Nara period (710-794), Japanese people typically wore ensembles consisting of separate upper and lower garments (trousers or skirts) or one-piece garments.

The first ancestor of the kimono was born in the Heian period (794-1192). Known as the straight-line-cut method, it involved cutting pieces of fabric in straight lines and sewing them together to create a garment that could fit every type of body shape.

Straight-line-cut kimonos offered many advantages. They were easy to fold and suitable for all weather conditions. They could be worn in layers to provide warmth in winter and kimonos made of breathable fabric such as linen were comfortable in summer. These advantages helped kimonos become part of the everyday clothing of the Japanese.

During the Kamakura period (1192-1338) and the Muromachi period (1338-1573), both men and women wore brightly coloured kimonos.

By the Edo period (1603-1868), designs had evolved into a unisex outer garment called kosode. Literally meaning "small sleeves," the kosode was characterized by smaller armholes. It was from the Meiji period (1868-1912) onwards that the garment was called kimono.

At the time, Kabuki (song, mime, dance), the traditional drama performed by male actors, was popular among the people. Only male actors performed Kabuki due to a ban on female performers, despite a woman, Izumo no Okuni, being the creator and first performer of Kabuki. Male performers needed to emphasize feminine characteristics by wearing thick and attractive Obi to complement their Kimono when they played the role of a woman.

Geisha wearing Kimono

In the mid-Edo period, Geisha also started to use wide and colourful Obi. The term geisha literally translates as "entertainer". A symbol of beauty and mystery, wrapped in a vibrant colourful kimono, the Geisha is slender in build and wears white makeup and a black wig or extensions. The Geisha represents feminine power, intrigue, and mystery and are celebrated for their beauty, traditional dances and witty conversations,

Over time, as the practice of wearing kimonos in layers came into fashion, Japanese people began paying attention to how kimonos of different colours looked together and they developed a heightened sensitivity to colour. Typically, colour combinations represented either seasonal colours or the political class to which one belonged. It was during this time that traditional Japanese colour combinations developed.

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japan was heavily influenced by foreign cultures. The government encouraged men to adopt Western clothing and habits. Government officials and military personnel were required by law to wear Western clothing for official functions; however, women were encouraged to wear the kimono.

As more Japanese individuals opted for Western clothes, Westerners became fascinated with traditional Japanese art, culture and style, including the kimono. This obsession, called Japonisme, was promoted by visual artists including Monet, van Gogh and Renoir and composers Gilbert and Sullivan in their light-opera, The Mikado

As Japan underwent fundamental changes during the Meiji period, Japanese women wearing kimono were a "reassuring, visual image". The kimono became "a visible yet silent link between woman, mother and cultural protector."

The law forcing men and government officials to wear Western clothes no longer exists in Japan. Nowadays, Japanese people rarely wear kimonos in everyday life, reserving them for occasions such as weddings, funerals, tea ceremonies or other special events such as festivals. At weddings, the bride wears a pure white kimono known as a shiromuku.

Personal details and identifying factors of the wearer are suggested on the kimono in the fabrics, colours, patterns and details adorning the kimono's rich surface.

Furisode is the most formal style of kimono worn by young unmarried women in Japan. The furisode is made of very fine, brightly coloured silk and is commonly rented or bought by parents for their daughters to wear when celebrating Coming of Age Day the year they turn 20.

Throughout most of its history, the kimono has remained relatively consistent in its structure and silhouette. Unlike many Western fashions, kimonos "pay little mind" to the body shape of the wearer, instead hanging loosely and masking the figure beneath. The kimono shape rarely changes, regardless of the wearer's class, gender or position.

Oriental Cushion using Kimono fabric

Arctic Oriental creates cushions made from pre-loved Kimonos and Obis sourced from Japan. Each Arctic Oriental cushion is made from a Kimono or Obi that has experienced a previous life adorning a Japanese woman during her cultural activities and ceremonies throughout her life. This adds to the story of these unique cushions, a story you will be able to tell to friends when they ask about the beautiful unique cushions you have in your home.

Other Articles

Jan 4, 2021 Concepts to master for your website
Nov 5, 2020 Artificial Intelligence by Google
Aug 20, 2020 ACCC and News Corp vs Google and Facebook
Aug 7, 2020 YouTube Tips and Shortcuts
Jun 1, 2020 Web Video Marketing
May 20, 2020 Is that car oil leak serious?
May 14, 2020 Need a Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer?
May 12, 2020 A kid in a lolly shop
Apr 21, 2020 River Cruise Gold Coast
Apr 14, 2020 Humans need ants to survive
Mar 31, 2020 Online Strategies for COVID-19
Feb 10, 2020 SEO Competitor Analysis
Jan 8, 2020 Writing for SEO
Jan 6, 2020 Influential Climate Change Journalists
Dec 13, 2019 Issues with Wordpress
Dec 4, 2019 Corporate Governance and Embracing the Web
Oct 9, 2019 SEO Tools for Leverage
Sep 5, 2019 Is Your Home Killing You or just making you sick?
Aug 28, 2019 Anxiety as a Contagion
Aug 22, 2019 HAPPINESS - Why Should We Believe Hilda?
Aug 12, 2019 What Communication Style Do You Use?
Aug 7, 2019 Telling your story
Jul 15, 2019 Business for Sale - Gold Coast
Jul 9, 2019 NDIS Support Coordination
Jun 18, 2019 Counselling De-Mystifying the Psycho in Therapy
Jun 6, 2019 How does NDIS pricing work?
May 14, 2019 INSPECTIONS Buildings, Pests and Electrical
Mar 15, 2019 Memorial Stationary
Mar 5, 2019 The Renewable Energy Race
Feb 14, 2019 PDF - Perfect Document Format
Feb 11, 2019 Climate Change, Power and Politics
Jan 31, 2019 Built to Rent
Jan 14, 2019 Swimming Pool Dreaming
Jan 8, 2019 The Moving Story of Max & Co.
Dec 31, 2018 Finding your core
Oct 9, 2018 Anatomy of a local Google Search
Sep 19, 2018 A French Affair and Dangerous Liaisons
Sep 17, 2018 Break-even Analysis for Bookkeeping
Aug 23, 2018 Recycled Timber Architecture Features
Aug 9, 2018 The Un-natural Art of the Wheel
Aug 3, 2018 How much should you spend on a website?
Jul 11, 2018 Southport Mechanic
Jul 11, 2018 What do we mean by home automation?
Jun 6, 2018 Seeing Red over Cola
Jun 4, 2018 Termite Inspections and Treatments
May 28, 2018 Why a Multi-Skilled SEO offers better value
May 11, 2018 How does the DREAM turn into a SCREAM?
May 7, 2018 The Alarming History of Geese, Dogs and Bells
Apr 5, 2018 Air Spider
Mar 13, 2018 Planting a hedge fence
Feb 9, 2018 Life Saving Tyre Accessories
Feb 6, 2018 The bakers oven stops
Dec 6, 2017 Relationship Counselling - the volatile couple
Oct 25, 2017 Plumbing, the Ancient Art of Managing Water
Oct 11, 2017 The Secret Life of Micropiles
Sep 29, 2017 Foundation Underpinning
Sep 8, 2017 Termites the secretive pest
Sep 7, 2017 Sharing your Google Analytics
Sep 5, 2017 Website speed test claims put to the test
Aug 23, 2017 Custom Timber Dining Tables
Jun 23, 2017 Kitchen Renovation Alfresco BBQ
Jun 12, 2017 Hire a photo booth
May 10, 2017 My Site Dropped out of Google
Apr 20, 2017 Recycled Timber comes with a story
Apr 8, 2017 Light Up Your Home
Dec 12, 2016 Evolving eCommerce with SEO
Dec 5, 2016 Image Manager 4 Released
Oct 14, 2016 Classic Gold Coast
Sep 26, 2016 Techheads who can market
Sep 9, 2016 Issues with childhood photography
Aug 30, 2016 Never Make an Impulse Appliance Purchase
Aug 15, 2016 Using the potential of YouTube
Aug 2, 2016 How to add a review to Google Places
Jul 26, 2016 Servicing your air-conditioner
Jul 22, 2016 Eco-friendly Home Building
Jun 13, 2016 Timber Floors
May 13, 2016 Timber Furniture Gold Coast
Apr 13, 2016 Interactive Charts
Feb 18, 2016 Ideas for creating passive income
Jan 29, 2016 Better Childhood Photography
Dec 30, 2015 Gold Coast Real Estate
Nov 20, 2015 Feed-in Solar Tariffs Queensland
Nov 5, 2015 Kindergarten Photographers
Sep 23, 2015 Low Budget High Impact Web Videos
Sep 8, 2015 Pool Inspection Laws Queensland
Jul 23, 2015 Protection against power surges
Jul 13, 2015 Intelligent Security Systems
Jun 17, 2015 Advanced Security Cameras
Jan 15, 2015 Is your security provider licensed?
Jan 6, 2015 Inspired by Necessity
Dec 7, 2014 Social Media vs SEO for sales generation
Nov 1, 2014 Responsive Websites vs a Mobile version
Sep 8, 2014 Simplify Writing - Get that job
Apr 8, 2014 Cockroaches like BBQs too
Mar 27, 2014 Admin System Mark 3
Feb 12, 2014 HTML5 improving SEO and Social Interaction
Jan 17, 2014 TV Commercials with impact - on time
Dec 2, 2013 Negative SEO
Nov 29, 2013 A flexible e-mail system
Nov 13, 2013 Social Media Strategies for SEO
Oct 15, 2013 Web Video Production
Sep 26, 2013 Soft drinks can damage your teeth?
Aug 29, 2013 Haridresser Gold Coast
Aug 26, 2013 Boat Hire Gold Coast
Aug 6, 2013 Dental Site Videos
Aug 3, 2013 Gold Coast Tradesman Directory
Jul 2, 2013 Creating audio for your site via your iPhone
Apr 23, 2013 Yellow Pages Google Partnership Unfair
Aug 17, 2012 Facebook Account Security
Jul 6, 2012 Gold Coast a great place to Study
Dec 22, 2011 New Real Estate System
Oct 17, 2011 Managing your domains a quick guide
Apr 4, 2011 Our Facebook Application
Feb 1, 2011 Video Marketing
Jan 5, 2011 Questions to ask your web developer
Dec 28, 2010 Surfboard for sale site launched
Dec 28, 2010 Health and Fitness sites
Dec 9, 2010 Why is my content management system so slow?
Nov 26, 2010 Google now includes local places results
Oct 31, 2010 Getting Listed on Google Places very important
Oct 19, 2010 Security Systems site launched
Sep 28, 2010 Google Personalized Searches
Sep 13, 2010 Web Marketing To Green or Not to Green? Beware!
Sep 9, 2010 Jet ski or Jet boat Gold Coast
Jul 19, 2010 Java Web Hosting
Jul 7, 2010 Assess your eCommerce opportunities
Jun 11, 2010 DIY SEO
May 26, 2010 Planning a website
Apr 22, 2010 Enhanced Email Marketing Tool for your website
Apr 12, 2010 Site Speed is important for Google
Mar 26, 2010 360 degree Panoramas + Google Maps

A Gold Coast SEO and Web Developer