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The Secret of the Kimono

On my first trip to Japan, more than thirty years ago, I discovered the kimono and started to wear one at home. I still do. 

I fell in love with the kimono.

One of the things I love about it is that it’s very comfortable. Nothing restricts my movements. It can hang loosely. It can be wrapped tightly around my body with an obi-belt if I want. 

It’s also very practical, functional and easy to wash. Since all the parts are just rectangles, it is super easy to dry, iron and store. The garment is made from a certain width of cloth, so no fabric is spoiled. The kimono speaks to my aesthetic sense as well as my love for what’s practical.

I adore that the kimono’s super simple cut can be combined with exquisitely beautiful and elaborated fabric patterns. Maybe the integration of these two extremes is what makes it so compelling. It’s like an artists canvas. The fabric is used as a surface for communication through weaving patterns, embroidery or ikat techniques.

Depending on the material, the decoration and how you wear it, a kimono can be very, very masculine or extremely feminine. 

I wear my kimonos as robes at home. But I also use it outside of my home, combined with interesting dresses or pants underneath. 

The kimono is a garment that opens outwards… it is made to display what you wear underneath, at the arm and neck openings as well as below the hem. This layered way of dressing is practical (since you can adapt it to the climate) as well as symbolic… it is like giving others a hint about the inner parts of your being. 

Dressed in kimono you show several layers of your Self. 

Junihitoe (meaning twelve layers) is a traditional Japanese way to dress with many layers. Of special importance was the combination of the right shades that you could see at the edges. This was seen as the height of cultural refinement. 

There is a deep philosophy behind the kimono. The garment is full of meaning and you can read important things from the different elements. Depending on the decoration and cut, the kimono is divided into different types. 

The obi belt, used with the kimono, also expresses different things. 

As western clothing started to dominate in Japan in the early 20th century, the women who continued to use the kimono tried to make it fit into contemporary culture by changing how they wore it. This is one of the reasons why the kimono can span the whole spectra from ultra-traditional to hyper-modern. Another is that many well-known Japanese designers, such as Hanae Mori, Kenzo, Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto, have continued to use the kimono as inspiration.

To me, the kimono is an expression of the Japanese soul, so close to Zen philosophy and Wabi Sabi aesthetics. Its utter simplicity and many-layered meaning is the true sign of the grandeur of humility.

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