Painted Bird Vintage Boutique - The Art of Kimono

The Art of the Kimono

This month we take a closer look at the history of the exquisite kimono.

Worn across the world today from the Geishas of Kyoto to the runways of Fashion Week, the kimono is one of my favorite items of clothing for its flexibility and workmanship. Take a look at our article on How to Wear a Kimono, or read on to discover a bit more about these beauties below...

A brief history

With a history dating back to some time around 800AD, ‘Kimono’ originally simply meant ‘something to wear’, and did not specifically relate to the style of clothing that it does today. Over time however, the term began to describe the most commonly worn item in Japan at the time - which was the kimono as we know it today. 

Traditional Japanese artwork

Above: A woodblock print of fashionable brocade patterns from the Imperial Palace, made by Utagawa Kunisada (1847-1852). Victoria and Albert Museum, Note the multi-layered kimonos worn on the left and right!

Traditionally, the kimono was often worn in 12 layers (eek!), but over time that was reduced. They were painstakingly ironed, folded and hand sewn from a single piece of fabric, and would last for many generations, being handed down to future generations. Families would often reuse and recycle the delicate silks with exquisite prints and detailing - over, and over again.

Original Kimono

Above: A young woman’s kimono (1905-1920), likely made in Kyoto. Khalili Collection,

If you are able to get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, an exceptional exhibition is hosted there to honour the constantly evolving kimono from the 1660s to the present day, both in Japan and the rest of the world. There you will see some of the iconic pieces you will instantly remember worn by the likes of Freddy Mercury, Madonna, Bjork and Gaga to name a few.

Kimonos in Fashion today

Kimonos have inspired designers across the centuries including Vionnet, Paul Poiret, Chanel, Molyneux and Dior, and still remain a staple in the wardrobe of many a stylist, celebrity, and fashion icon.

Runway Kimono

Above Left: Model Angela Lindvall in John Galliano Kimono 2007 Collection. Above Right: Christian Dior Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2007 Collection (Getty Images)

Today you'll find the kimono in 'fast-fashion' stores, with shorter sleeves, lesser quality fabric and a distinct lack of hand-sewn elements to reduce cost; while supporters of slow-fashion allow the beauty of this icon to live-on and wear putting their own stamp on style.

With such global appeal and flexibility to 'style it your way', it's clear the kimono is here to stay!

Where to find your own authentic Japanese Kimono

At Painted Bird, of course! Our kimono collection has been sourced directly from our supplier who travels to Japan to make the selection. Most items are over 50 years old yet in near-pristine condition. Each piece has been hand-picked for its ability to become a much-loved, long-lasting wardrobe staple for our beloved customers.

How to wear a Kimono 'YOUR' way

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