The Japanese kimono is renowned for its exceptional beauty and sublime art form throughout the centuries. Japanese aesthetics comprise a set of ancient ideals that include wabi- transient and stark beauty, sabi- the beauty of natural patina and ageing, and yugen – profound grace and subtlety.
The antique kimonos are all hand sewn. Despite the expense of hand-sewing, some modern kimonos are still hand-sewn entirely; even machine-sewn kimonos require a degree of hand-sewing particularly in finishing the collar, the hem and the lining.
Kimonos are traditionally made from a single bolt of fabric known as tanmoro which is roughly 11.5 meters and 36 centimetres wide for women and 12.5 meters and 42 centimetres wide for men.
Historically kimonos were taken apart entirely to be washed – a process known as aria-hari. Once cleaned, the fabric would be re-sewn by hand. Today kimonos are mostly dry cleaned. Kimonos need to be aired out at least seasonally and before and after each time they are worn.
Kimono artisans are recognized for their culturally important produce. Some time-consuming techniques reserved for skilled artisans include bashofu fabrics (banana fibre textiles) and kanoko shibori dotwork dyeing which may take over a year to finish.
The reason for the relatively high cost of even the most casual Kimonos is that they cannot be mass-produced effectively. The vast majority of seams and edges cannot be sewn by machine: they are finished and often attached with blind stitches. Another expense is the fabric. The kimono and obi are traditionally made of hemp, linen, silk, silk brocade, silk crepes and satin weaves.
Yukata is an informal kimono and is worn by men and women. Yukata is unlined and cotton fabric is used for summer whereas kimonos have an inner lining. It is very important to always wear the left panel over the right. Wearing them the other way round is seen as extremely rude in Japanese culture as the deceased are dressed in a right-over-left kimono.
Kimonos and obis are beautiful works of art and can therefore be displayed on a wall in a room like a painting.
Haori is a traditional hip- or thigh-length jacket worn over a kimono. This jacket has no overlapping panels and has a thinner collar than the kimono with two thin side panels at the side seams. The Haori is tied with two short cords – haorihimo which attach to small loops at the front. These jackets are versatile and can complement many fashion styles.
Caring for your Kimono
Washing is not recommended for the antique kimonos because we are unsure of the fabric finishes on the silk and shrinkage may occur. The cotton Yukatas can be hand washed in cold water with a gentle detergent (baby shampoo). Never soak your kimono or allow direct sunlight onto it and always line dry in shade. Because undergarments are mostly worn with kimonos, yukatas and haoris, frequent cleaning is not necessary. Airing your garments is very important because kimonos do not like dry heat. If you have displayed your kimono in your home, simply shake it out to get rid of any dust that may have gathered. If you want a change, you can take your kimono apart and repurpose the fabric into a new garment.