|Tying the Obi c.1890|
|Early 19th Century Japanese Kimono|
Victoria & Albert Museum
The Japanese kimono is a T shaped garment, with the fabric set in a length called a tan. The garment requires minimal cutting and consists of a vertical centre back seam that joins to two sections. A neckband is sewn around the front of the kimono with an open overlapping front. There isn't a shoulder seam and the kimono is usually worn with an obi. The obi is a sash and the width and fabric of which have changed throughout history. The obi was used to close the earlier kosode and the early obi was a rope-like cord or a narrow sash. By the 17th Century, there were various ways in which to tie the obi. These knots are called musubi and they have a more decorative than functional purpose for the more modern kimono. Taiko Musubi is one of the most popular knots, said to be named after the Tokyo bridge, as it has a shape reminiscent of a box. It is suitable for most occasions, as certain musubi should only be worn for formal occasions or with a certain colour palette or type of kimono.
The kimono was developed from the kosode. This was a plain white undergarment that had small sleeves. In the Muromachi Period (1392-1573), women stopped wearing the hakama with their kosode and the kosode then became ankle-length. Hakama are trousers that are either divided or undivided. As the kosode was now being 'seen' and no longer an undergarment it became desirable to have them in different designs. An obi then began to be used to close the kosode. During the Edo Period, in the 17th Century the kosode had a softer drapery in new fabrics. The sleeves were also lengthened and the obi became wider.
Kimono are praised for their beauty and workmanship, hence why they demand such an expensive price. Much of the money that Geisha earn both past and present is spent on dress and cosmetics, as fine kimono, obi, undergarments and accessories have a very high price tag. Much of the Geisha's training is on dressing rituals, and a large portion of this is on the care and wear of the kimono.
|Kasode from early Edo period|
Matsuzakaya Kimono Museum
Kimono also have identification properties and other meanings, which are important factors to consider when choosing a style. Young, unmarried women wear a version with a swing sleeve called a furisode, which has more detailed and complex patterns. It is also a formal garment and the musubi on the obi is usually a fukura-suzume, which is a knot that looks like a sparrow's spread wings and only worn with the furisode. The tomesode is worn by married women and only has a pattern at the bottom, it has short sleeves and not as much detail as others. There are two types of tomesode; the irotomesode usually has one colour and is the less formal option. The kurotomesode is usually black and the most formal and married women wear this for occasions such as their children's wedding. The komon is more of a casual style, with a repeat pattern that is worn everyday.