The kimono is a Japanese traditional garment worn by men, women and children. In kimono it is the pattern on the surface, rather than the cut of the garment, that is significant. Indications of social status, personal identity and cultural sensitivity are expressed through colour and decoration. The kimono worn by women, particularly the young, were the most richly decorated and it is generally these that survive in collections like that of the V&A.
Kimono: An Introduction
Japan has a very rich textile history, a major focus of interest and artistic expression being the kimono. Meaning 'the thing worn', the term kimono was first adopted in the mid-19th century. Prior to that the garment was known as a kosode, which means 'small sleeve', a reference to the opening at the wrist.
A History of the Kimono
The Edo period was one of unprecedented political stability, economic growth, and urban expansion. Kyoto, the old capital, remained the centre of aristocratic culture and luxury production while Edo, the new headquarters chosen by the Tokugawa shōgun (military ruler), developed from a small fishing port into one of the largest cities in the world.
By the beginning of the Edo period, the kimono ('the thing worn') was the principle garment of both sexes and all classes. Kimono are made from lengths of a standard width of cloth stitched side by side. They vary in length, and the side seams stitched together - however, the underarm seams are left unsewn.
The V&A's collection of Japanese art and design is one of the largest in Britain. It includes ceramics, lacquer, arms and armour, woodwork, metalwork, textiles and dress, prints, paintings and sculpture. An active programme of acquiring modern and contemporary studio crafts has resulted in the V&A having one of the most prestigious holdings of this material outside Japan.