Since the end of the Second World War western-style clothing has been the everyday wear of most Japanese. The older generation often continue to wear kimono, as do geisha, actors, and those serving in traditional restaurants or engaged in activities such the tea ceremony. Generally however, kimono are only worn at a limited number of formal occasions and there are fairly rigid guidelines about what type of garment is appropriate for what event.
Kimono are also very expensive. If this limits the wearing of them, it also proclaims their high cultural value. Indeed, the garment may be worn much less, but its symbolic importance has grown. As Japan has come to define itself within the western world since the late 19th century, the kimono has come to mark a boundary with the foreign, to stand for the essence that is Japanese. This is reflected in the fact that most contemporary textile designers working with traditional techniques still use the kimono as the primary format for their artistic expression.
The 21st century, however, has witnessed something of a kimono renaissance. Elegant kimono in beautiful modern fabrics can be seen increasingly on the streets of Japan, while second-hand kimono are becoming popular with the young, who often re-style them or combine them with other items of dress. The resurgence of interest in kimono is particularly apparent in the summer, when department stores are full of yukata (summer kimono), which are much simpler to wear than formal garments. After the Second World War kimono were often viewed as a product of Japan's feudal past or a symbol of woman's oppression, but today they are just another choice in a woman's - and even occasionally a man's - wardrobe. They are an item of fashion, just as they were in their Edo heyday.