I’ve been thinking about kimono quite a lot recently, what with Samuel’s post on street yukata and seeing a few pop up in a vintage clothes shop down the road from our little Tokyo Telephone Tower.

Kimono is never far from anyone’s lips when first chatting about Japan, and as national dress goes it’s just as suitable for everyday wear as well as special occasions. I’ve had a long term love affair with the texture, colour and subject matter of kimono, and to me the artistry of the design and construction just leave me breathless – quite literally if the obi is too tight!

(images from Cutie 01/2006, Ageha 07/2010 & Kimono Girls Graffiti)

Kimono has over the past few years become a credible fashion item once again. It could be due to the recession; kimono are incredibly expensive, but are often handed down through generations – let’s dig out granny’s kimono and get dressed up! As you can see from the above images, fashion magazines have picked up on this return to kimono, and increasing numbers of  fashion/art books are being produced (Kimono Girls Graffiti is the third photo book in a wonderful series exploring kimono in modern Japan).

I think the way to adapt kimono to contemporary fashion has to be in the accessories. There are two schools of thought here; vintage & modern. In terms of vintage, the key point is to use second hand or vintage-feel items – such as 1920s beaded bags, berets, 1950s pill-box hats and 1960s style make-up along with artfully messed up hair to create an image of timeless natural elegance. On the other hand, the more modern approach is to take it to the next level – check out the highlighted images from Ageha magazine for some incredible hair. It’s typical Ageha – big eyes and even bigger hair!

If you’re in the mood for styling up some kimono yourself, then there are plenty of places that will allow you for a small fee to dress up and take photos as that most curious of beasts – the western tourist in Japanese traditional dress. Personally, I’d suggest rummaging through some second-hand stores; you can come away with a gorgeous piece of art-as-fashion for a fraction of the price of a new store bought item!

For further reading, take a look at this article about how kimono is gaining popularity again & of course Kimono by Liza Dalby.


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