Kimono, Japan

Kimono, Japan

Shibui (refined austerity) colours: Black

As in the West, black is associated with mystery, the night, the unknown, the supernatural, the invisible and death. However, as death is part of the cycle of life, it can be an everyday colour. On lacquer, black is usually a background colour used to set off other colours, and is considered refined. Black and white in combination is solemn and symbolizes intuition.

Kimono
Japan
1930-50
Woven silk
Width 135 cm x height 135 cm
Museum no. FE.147-2002
Given by Moe Co. Ltd.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In constrast to women's garments, kimono for men tend to be restrained in both colour and pattern. They can nevertheless be rather elegant, as in this example which is patterned with a subtle diamond motif woven in black silk and metallic threads. It has a matching kimono jacket known as a haori, the dark exterior of which hides a more extravagant lining hand-painted with a landscape scene.