Instantly recognisable, intricately crafted and infamously difficult to wear correctly. There’s power in the kimono, which once symbolised class rebellion.

For all occasions

Japan’s extreme climate, ranging from sub-zero winters to sweltering summers, brings a wealth of styles and colours to every season. Couple this with Japan’s many traditional ceremonies and festivals, and there really is a kimono for all occasions.

In January, 20 year olds celebrate their coming of age. Newly adult women don thick woollen, long-sleeved ‘furisode’ with sumptuous fur scarves and elaborate hairstyles.

Come August, light and thin cotton ‘yukata’ keep couples cool at romantic firework display dates. Compared to the winter kimono, patterns are summery and bright.

An ‘Uchikake’ is an outer kimono worn by the bride at traditional Japanese wedding ceremonies. This luxurious garment is thick and long all around, often decorated with images of cranes which symbolise longevity and bring luck..

On November 15th, children aged seven, five and three celebrate ‘Shichi-go-san’ by wearing brightly coloured kimono and praying for good health at local shrines. The kimono are typically red, pink or purple.

Forbidden Colours

The Edo period was a stable time in Japan’s history, allowing the merchant class to thrive. Many flaunted their wealth through peacock-like personal display.

This over-dressing became a threat to the ruling classes, and they outlawed lavish clothing for the underclasses in order to protect the strict hierarchy. So the merchants developed their own fashions, characterised by subtle colours and detailing.

But the lure of bright colours could hardly be resisted; lining and underclothes, not restricted by the laws became red. The forbidden colour spilled out tantalizingly when women’s long sleeves fell back.

The Jazz Age

The early 20th century was a hedonistic time. Kimono were draped lavishly in extravagant displays alongside Western imports.

This poster of a lady in a kimono with imported parasol and handbag was used to advertise the opening of Mitsukoshi Department Store in Shinjuku in 1925.

The lady flaunts a bobbed hairstyle and the child by her side is dressed fully in Western clothing.

Rather than being sidelined by the new foreign styles, the kimono co-existed for a highly fashionable effect.