The kimono is not only a garment, in many cases it can become an authentic wearable work of art, full of symbology and that gives invaluable information about its wearer. Although its origins date back to the "Han Fu" (literally clothes of the Han people) worn in the golden years of China ruled by Han dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD), they traced an individual path once they arrived in Japan.
But ... what was it about these "Han Fu" that were so successful? Well, the type of construction was simple and easily adaptable to everyone, so the Japanese rapidly adopted it, although it would still be many centuries until Japan opened to the world in the mid-nineteenth century when the word "kimono" (kiru mono : thing to wear) began to be used to designate that particular garment and not "clothing" in general.
Since its arrival in Japan, probably at the hands of Chinese merchants and emissaries, the history of this garment has evolved from its bloom in the Heian period (794-1185 AD) thanks to the advances that allowed their rectangular panel shaped manufacture and the adhesion of layers, rules and shapes that gave the parting point to the changes that the garment would undergo through subsequent periods.
More layers, more status? In the Heian period royalty could wear up to 12 with a white kosode as an undercoat, but the Kamakura period (1185-1392 AD) gives a new class, samurai, whose women acquired the garments of the Heian royalty to demonstrate status but without that excess of fabric that would have limited their movements wearing up to 5 capes and a white kosode.
Considered the precursor of the Kimono, the kosode (literally small sleeves) acquires more importance and evolves in the Kamakura and Muromachi eras that see the shedding of so many layers by edict and the Kosode, an underwear garment becomes exterior, promoting the emergence of various styles and ways of wearing it.
In the next period, Azuchi-Momoyama, the fabrics of these garments would begin to be treated as a canvas on which to display skills to turn it into a work of art and this leads to the emergence of a new class soon in the next period, the merchant class. The Edo period (1603-1868) gave Japan almost 300 years of stability which promoted the upper classes consummerism that, in this way, demonstrated their status, so the merchants took the opportunity to get new creations that keep wealthy people in the consumerist wheel as bigger sleeves and various styles of obi that until that moment had been a fairly narrow type of belt at their customer disposition.
From here, patterns, fabrics, shapes and embroidery began to speak of the bearer, poor or rich, man or woman, single or married, actors, geishas or courtesans ... and all of them living in one " bubble" practically closed to other countries so exports and external influences were minimized until the mid-nineteenth century when the Meiji era (1868-1912) entered and Japan opened to the world. Then something wonderful happened from an artistic point of view, kimonos were exported unleashing a fever of Japonism represented in the European art of the end of the century and the Victorian styles that reigned in Europe at that time invaded a Japan that saw how women of the upper classes wore bustles made of rich fabrics creating a truly interesting mix.
Bad or good, the consequence of all this was that the kimono would be abandoned in favor of a more western dress that would go with the times as the 20th century went by with its usual wars and conflicts and, although from that cultural exchange Japan would relegate the Kimono to the most formal and traditional moments, they always protected that legendary garment that is part of their identity and that has never ceased to be the inspiration of artists, composers and designers to this day.