‘Kimono’ comes from the verb ‘to wear’ and ‘mono’ meaning ‘thing’. The kimonos we know today came about in the Heian period (794-1185). They use a straight-line-cut method which involves cutting pieces of fabric in straight lines and sewing them together. This means that the shape of the wearer's body does not matter when they are being made as the obi (a type of belt) is used to adjust the waist upon wearing. It also makes them easy to fold and store.
Over time, the colour combinations of kimonos became more valuable, often representing seasons, gender and status of the individual. In the Kamakura period (1192-1338) and the Muromachi period (1338-1573) Brightly coloured kimonos became fashionable and an everyday clothing choice during the . Warriors would also wear colours which represented their leaders. For example, From 1603-1868, the Edo period, Japan was split into domains and samurais would wear colours appropriate for their domain.
Kimonos became more and more valuable and the skill of making them became an art. Families would have Kimono sets (sometimes with their family crest) which were passed down generations and became family heirlooms. I have a Kimono and all the relevant accessories which have been passed down many generations to me.
1868 to 1912 was the Meiji period when Japan was heavily influenced by foreign cultures and military personnel were required by law to wear Western clothing. Nowadays, kimonos are saved for special occasions and formal events such as weddings, funerals, tea ceremonies and festivals.
They remain popular for reasons such as tradition as well as practicality. Kimonos are very versatile as they can easily be layered and altered for different weather. Heavier silk kimonos are worn in colder weather whilst lighter linen and cotton can be worn in hotter seasons. The Summer kimono are known as Yukata and are still commonly worn - many hotels especially in hot spring regions will offer Yukata to all guests to wear when visiting the public baths.