A kimono is truly a study of ingenuity and economy. Kimono silk fabric is created only 13 to 15 inches wide, and to build an adult gown, a 39- to 43-foot-long piece of this silk is divided into eight rectangular pieces. The panels are sewn together in straight lines, which ensures that all of the fabric is used. The Japanese word “kimono” originally meant “clothing” or “thing to wear,” although today it refers to a traditional long robe. The style and construction method for this simple, elegant garment was developed in the Heian period (794–1185), and its silhouette has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Vintage kimonos are usually one-of-a-kind works of art, due solely to the rich textiles, whose colors and designs varied according to sex, age, marital status, season, and occasion. The fabrics often include intricate embroidery, metallic couching, gold foil, Kasuri weaves (also known as Ikat), and elaborate brocades. A patina of age and use is part of the garment’s charm, and for sewing enthusiasts, the easy-to-separate panels offer a world of creative opportunities, such as overdyeing the silk fabric for a new look or incorporating the unusual prints in modern silhouettes.
Learn more about working with kimonos
Sources for Fine Fabrics
Vintage kimono fabrics and full kimonos, like the one featured above, can be found at the following retailers. Make sure you read product descriptions and return policies carefully.
- Alyen Creations AlyenCreations.com
- Beautiful Textiles BeautifulTextiles.com
- Kimono Flea Market Ichiroya Ichiroya.com
- Kyoto Kimono KyotoKimono.com
- Robin Clayton Vintage Trocadero.com
- Yoko Trading YokoDana.com
—Jennifer Sauer, Associate Editor
Photos: Scott Phillips. Garments from Kyoto Kimono
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