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A Brief Timeline
Kofun Period (300-550 A.D.)
The Kofun period, from 300 to 550 A.D., was the second major time period in Japan. It is also known as the Yamato period. During this primitive period, cultural influence from mainland Asia introduced Buddhism and the basic civilization to the Japanese island. It is here that the first kimono can be seen. (Open History)
• The first silk kimono were made during this time. The Chinese had recently brought to Japan the idea of silkworm farming. (Open History)
• Because the Japanese had not yet developed dying processes, the kimono of this era were almost always white. (JP NET Kimono Hypertext)
• These kimono, the most primitive and first true kimono, were two-part. They had two pieces—an over part, and an under part. (JP NET Kimono Hypertext)
Nara Period (550-710 A.D.)
The Nara period saw the development of the first permanent Japanese capital, established in Nara. During this period, the Japanese began to lose their strong Chinese influence and develop their uniqueness. During this period, the Fujiwara family took control of the emperor, and became a shadow-ruler family for over two hundred years. (Open History) The kimono of this era were still based mostly on Chinese influenced garments.
• These Nara era women's kimono had an interesting feature—the upper garment's overlap went from right to left. Today's style is the reverse of this, going left to right, and the right to left is reserved for dressing the dead. (Antiquer, The)
• Processes for dyeing kimono were developed during the Nara period. The basic kimono still consisted mostly of one solid color, and fancy patterns were not yet in existence, as resistance-dyeing was not developed. (JP NET Kimono Hypertext)
• The kimono began to become recognized as a status symbol around this age. Different ranking court members would wear different colored kimono to signify their separate ranks. (JP NET Kimono Hypertext)
Heian Period (792-1192 A.D.)
The Heian period saw the development of the kimono as an art form. No longer were they simply clothing, but new dye processes and an appreciation of art and beauty gave the Japanese reason to make their kimono beautiful. The Heian era kimono are still used today in the Japanese royal court for formal ceremonies.
• The most intricate of Heian era kimono had as many as twenty layers of fabric. This type of kimono, called a "juni-hito", or twelve-layer, is still used today for formal ceremony. (JP NET Kimono Hypertext)
• The Tale of Genji was written in 1000 A.D. The book describes the ladies-in-waiting in the court, and the types of clothing they wore on a day to day basis. (Reconstructing History)
• This period saw the first rise of modern fashion sense—it was considered very bad taste if one's kimono colors did not match the accepted norm for that particular season. (Bookmice)
Edo Period (1615-1868 A.D.)
The Edo period is named so for the capital of Japan, called Edo. This city later became modern-day Tokyo. The first "resist-dyeing" process, or Yuzen dyeing, was developed during this period. (Black Moon Kimono) Rulers and upperclassmen, realizing the middle class had wider access to the same kimono they did, began enacting strict rules dictating who could wear what. (Bookmice)
• The juni-hito style disappeared, and kimono became single-layered once more. (JP NET Kimono Hypertext)
• Patterns became popular because of the yuzen dyeing technique. Kimono were worn with patterns featuring a number of different items.
• Actors dictated what was popular. The sense of fashion became much stronger during this period, and the average citizen was likely to follow what a kabuki actor did. A kabuki was a form of Japanese theatre, focusing on history and moral conflict. (Bookmice)