#LetsMakeWednesdays – Kimono

August 12, 2020

Let’s design a Kimono!

This week’s challenge is all about Kimono!

Kimono are traditional Japanese robe shaped like a ‘T’. Kimono come in different styles and have different designs. Kimono can tell stories and can be worn in times of celebration.

You can see lots of different types of Kimono in our exhibition.

Let’s find some inspiration…

This kimono was made for a young woman. There are lots of colours, images and symbols of things that are important to the wearer. What can you see? There are branches, leaves, trees and flowers. Imagine you are stood behind the tree on the Kimono. Can you see the waves of the water below? It’s almost as if you are stepping into a painting!

Decorated kimono with landscape and waves

The Kimono below was designed for a young person. How is it different from what you are wearing today? Imagine what it would be like to wear a kimono. How would you feel? You can watch how a Kimono is worn.

Can you describe some of the patterns and symbols you can see? This kimono has ducks and irises on it. Irises are a very popular flower in Japan, and ducks represent happiness.

Decorated kimono for a child, showing stylised stream, ducks and irises
Child’s robe or kimono with stencilled decoration (back view), 19th century. Mus. no. T.19-1963 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Designs from nature appear on lots of Kimono, and you will often see water and waves, snow and clouds, birds and animals. Some kimono feature whole landscapes of mountains and streams – and designers often also use flowers like peonies, wisteria and hollyhocks. Many of them, such as cherry blossom, chrysanthemums and maple leaves relate to the different seasons. Let’s take a closer look at the Kimono below.

It has a pattern of clouds with bamboo and flowering plums. Bamboo is a symbol of health, strength and flexibility. Clouds represent personal growth, and how you can be the best version of you, while flowering plums represent hope and beauty.

Kimono decorated with bamboo, plum blossoms and clouds
Kimono, 1910 – 30. Mus. no. FE.17-1994 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Now let’s draw our own Kimono!

Take a sheet of paper and draw a template of a Kimono like the one below using pencil or crayon. Look around you for inspiration. You might grow flowers in your garden, or remember a visit to a local park or outdoor space.

Our drawing of a kimono design below shows ducks and clouds. Can you remember what these symbolise? We’ve included a crane, tsuru in Japanese, and a fish called a carp swimming in a stream, both represent good fortune. We’ve added plants, including ferns and cherry blossoms, too. Can you see a cat? Cats are thought to bring good luck. What other symbols can you add in? You can look for more inspiration.

Kimono drawn by the V&A team, decorated with ducks and a stream
Our kimono!

What story would your kimono tell and how would you like people to feel if they could wear it? Discuss your kimono with your friends, family or guardians.

Make sure you share your designs with us using #LetsMakeWednesdays

Want to take it further? Check out Playful Kimono to digitally create your own patterned kimono.

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