Traditional Japanese Fashions – Japan has a long and rich heritage when it comes to the arts, food, entertainment and culture. It also has items of traditional dress that date back centuries – some of which are still prevalent today.
Traditional Japanese fashions have undoubtedly evolved over the years and many popular garments have changed. The styles may have altered and some have become reserved for certain socio-economic positions or specific occasions. But despite the evolution, they are still around and still widely worn. So, what are some key pieces of traditional Japanese fashion and how have they altered over the years?
Arguably one of the most recognisable of traditional Japanese fashions, the kimono is a long robe with trademark wide sleeves. It can come in a range of colours, fabrics and prints and is tied around the middle with a decorative belt called an obi. The first kimono is thought to date back as far as the Heian period when everybody wore these robes crafted from pieces of sewn together fabrics. However, as time went on, identifying markers such as motifs and materials were used on kimonos to reflect the social position, characteristics and wealth of the wearer. These days, traditional kimonos are very expensive but more casual, affordable versions of the garment are available and still very popular for ceremonies and occasions.
The obi, as we mentioned, is a decorative belt used to secure a kimono. But what may sound like a simple accessory can sometimes be one of the most expensive and telling parts of the whole outfit. The obi can be worn and tied in a number of ways, each with a subtle meaning or intention. For example, one method of tying the obi lets others know that the wearer is a single woman. The obi and the kimono don’t have to match – in fact, clashing prints and colours are wholly encouraged! And despite only making up a small part of the outfit, the obi can sometimes cost as much as all of the other layers of the kimono put together.
At first glance the yukata may seem very similar to the kimono. In fact, the general robe style shape and sleeves do have a lot in common. But the yukata is usually unlined and crafted from lightweight material, making it more appropriate for the summer months. It’s also far less formal than a kimono and designed to be worn in casual settings rather than formal or professional ones. The yukata often comes in pretty, ditsy prints. Floral print yukatas are extremely popular in the summer time with the cherry blossom print being synonymous with Japanese culture.
The geta is thought to originate from the same period as the kimono. It is a heeled sandal designed to raise the foot from the ground to keep the kimono from getting wet or dirty. They were usually worn with special socks called tabi that have a designated slot for the big toe. Although geta sandals are considered old fashioned now, they are still a huge part of Japanese fashion culture and occasionally get remodelled by designers. The wedged teeth that raise the sole from the ground (otherwise known as teeth) are thought to help improve balance and posture.
Kanzashi are decorative cloth hair pieces. They are themed by season or occasion. For example, certain types are worn on New Years celebrations. Older versions of the kanzashi came with sharp pins and some people believe they may have been used for self defence as well as acting as a pretty hair accessory and a staple of traditional Japanese fashions.