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What is a Vintage Kimono?

A vintage kimono is one that is from a specific period of kimono design in Japanese history. Each period has distinct styles that reflect the trends and tastes relative to the textiles, designs and techniques used in creating the kimono and obi of the period. Textiles used include silk, wool and cotton. Textiles are distinct in the design of the weave and use of dye, embroidery, gold leaf, and lacquer. This means that each vintage kimono is a one of a kind piece of art. The vintage kimono has distinct character and a uniqueness that cannot be matched in contemporary kimono that are brand new. Each is a piece of history.

Vintage kimono are not perfect due to their age and will have stains. Silk that comes into contact with metal, moisture, or sweat can have stain marks. Even in ideal conditions white silks will yellow with time.

They are holding the history of each period. For example, some Kimono from Taisho Period of 1912-1926 have a unique look due to their bold designs, vivid colors and elegant long sleeves. Similarly, obis from Meiji Period of 1868-1912 have a unique motif of golden woven patterns.

Heian Period (792-1192)

The kimono of the Heian period are very artistic in the expression of color and color changes relative to the four seasons. The design of kimono of today originated in the Heian period. This is the time period when the straight line design method, or one size fits many, was adopted by kimono makers. Kimono were worn in many layers, as many as twenty layers at one time. Jun-hitoe was the wearing of twelve unlined robes with the sleeve edges and collars showing. The belt of a kimono, the obi, was always tied in the front.

Kamakura period (1192-1338) & Muromachi Period (1192-1573)

Men and women wore brightly colored kimono. These kimono often indicated the affiliation of the individual to a clan or leader. The kimono were designed to be simpler and easier to move in.

Edo Period (1601-1867)

Kimono of the Edo period are made of multicolored, highly decorated fabric, and were worn in a single layer. In this period the obi is now tied in the back. This is the similar design that is used today. 

Meiji Period (1868-1912)


The kimono of this period incorporated designs for women to work outside their homes and the machine woven cloth available from the West.


Taisho Period (1912-1926)


Many of the kimono were lost from this time period due to earthquake and fire. 


Showa Period (1926-1989)


Kimono designs during this period became less complex to conserve material. This was due to the Japanese government limiting silk production through taxation to support the buildup of the military. After World War II, kimono were more affordable and were produced in greater quantities. Kimono designs, motifs, and colors were influenced by interaction with Western countries, season and the age or status of the wearer. Most of the kimono in this collection are from the Showa Period.