The things people looked for in beauty were simpler then, but still as hard to meet as the highlights we place on beauty today. Women were not expected to have an hourglass shape. What was more attractive was a kind of cylinder shape, with a waist matching close to her hips. If you had wider hips, and a smaller waist, all would be concealed with padding on the inside of the kimono. This is something I’ve experienced first hand while wearing mine (See photo below). Thin, feminine shoulders were favored, as it made the kimono bundle better around the body. On top of this, your breasts would be bound down tightly to your chest. The effect of all this bundling is similar to wearing a corset.
Japan has one of those rare textile histories of real style. Most countries go through a hormonal adolescent phase, that many people look back on and think, ‘man, what the hell were we thinking?’. Aside from dying the gums and teeth black in the Heian era, Japan has managed, to this day, to be chic, and fashionable across the table. They focus a lot of detailed attention on color, light, shadow and tone. Color, whether people acknowledge it or not, has so much power over an outfit. People don’t wear enough colors these days. It’s mentally and emotionally stimulating to play with the interactions of different colors when creating an outfit.
This is me wearing a traditional Japanese kimono.
Underneath your kimono, (kimono can be referred to as any clothing, male or female, as well as the wrap dress pictured above.) you wear fundoshi. This was like a loincloth, and serves the same purpose as underwear. They are another example of some of Japan’s alluring style. Not the same as panties today, but back then, they were beautiful.
Men wear a different style of Japanese dress, starting with the visually prominent Hakama, which can be worn by both men and women- (I used to wear these when I did my Kyudo practice. Kanjuro Shibata Sensei (Sendai) gave me one of his antique Japanese silk ones he used to wear. It was just my size when I was about eight years old).