Kimono, Japan

Kimono, Japan

'Luxurious' colours: Red

Red, red/white, red/black: red represents life, the sun, blood and vitality, and is associated with worldly pleasure. When combined with white, which represents the spirituality of the gods, it illustrates the positive harnessing of the human spirit. Red and white is therefore a festive colour combination and is associated with happiness, optimism, strength and celebration. This combination is also found on the Japanese flag. Both red and red/white are often found on expensive silk kimono and would be worn by a young woman. Red dye for textiles was produced from safflower petals and was extremely costly and laborious to produce, which meant that it was an expensive luxury and showed the wearer was wealthy. The red/black combination represents a mixture of the human spirit and the mysterious and unknown. It symbolises passion, sexuality and the erotic.

Kimono
Japan
1920-1940
Resist-dyed silk
Width 125 cm x height 144.5 cm
Museum no. FE.142-2002
Given by Moe Co. Ltd.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The dynamic kimono designs of the early 20th century are noted for their bright colours and bold designs. The red of this garment is dazzling, while the simple, yet effective, black pattern that dances up the surface creates a highly-charged rhythm.