The Valuable history of the Kimono.

We at Zaynah are fascinated by the history and culture behind a lot of contemporary fashion, and we wanted to share some of what we’ve learned about the kimono. This iconic Japanese garment has been exported, altered, reinterpreted and adapted across the world, but the story of where it comes from is just as exciting as the international fashion explosion caused by this eye-catching combination of simple, minimalist design and vibrant, colourful fabrics.

The name literally means thing (mono) to wear (ki)’, and it’s been a key feature of Japanese fashion for a long, long time. The garment itself has changed over the centuries, and at first was something worn exclusively by Japanese nobility, then by everyday people, until finally it became a significant cultural export. There are many, many different types of kimono – some are intended for everyday wear, while others are more formal, and still others are specifically intended for one occasion (such as the wedding kimono, or the burial kimono). A kimono is always worn with the left side wrapped over the right, except in one very specific instance: death.

An authentic kimono is a very pricey item, and the process of getting one has acquired a lot of ritual and mystique over the centuries. The fabrics from which kimono are made vary, from hemp and linen to the finest silk. These fabrics are all sold in high-end boutique stores as standard-sized bolts of cloth called a tanmono, from which the entire kimono is cut and assembled before being hand-sewn. This means that the entire thing can be taken apart and put back together with relative ease, and panels can be reversed to hide wear or damage. This is how a kimono was traditionally cleaned too. 

In a process called arai-hari, the kimono is taken apart, each piece carefully cleaned, maintained and repaired, and then the whole thing is hand sewn back together. While this was the only way to make your kimono last in earlier centuries, it is relatively uncommon nowadays because of its high cost and the long time it takes. Dry-cleaning works just as well, but even this can be surprisingly pricey for a kimono.

But don’t go thinking that even an authentic Japanese kimono is out of your price-range. On the one hand, there are kimono artisans in Japan who are regarded as living national treasures, and a brand new made-to-order kimono from one of these artisans could easily cost in the hundreds of thousands. On the other hand, there are second-hand kimono thrift markets where authentic and sometimes quite antique kimono can be found for next to nothing. If you’re feeling crafty, and you are willing to sacrifice authenticity by using instructions, patterns, and a sewing machine, making your own kimono is actually a lot easier than you’d think. The pattern and assembly are both simple by design, and this also means you get to choose your own fabric.

Nowadays, there are groups of kimono enthusiasts and collectors all across the world that have become obsessed with this iconic garment, with its sharp, straight lines that capture that striking Japanese minimalism in a way that is practical and wearable and beautiful. But for you, me, and anyone else who wants to borrow a little dash of this aesthetic and add it to their already fierce fashion sense, we’ve got you covered.

Love always,


Shop at:

Instagram: @zaynah_official

Leave a Reply