Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seasonality in Kimono

A big part of classic Japanese aesthetics is admiring and portraying nature, the seasons and the changes within them. From painting to poetry, the inclusion of certain motifs will suggest a time of year.

Kimono, while not always, often suggest through their motifs a time of year as well. There are a ton of motifs that fall into the different seasons, even specific months, but generally speaking they'll follow nature. So if you have a motif you can identify (dragonflies, for example) think about what time of year it shows up in nature or if it's tied to a specific holiday or big calendar event. For dragonflies, they appear in late summer/early fall.

Another example: Cherry blossoms appear in the spring, March-April, and so if you have a kimono with only cherry blossoms on it, it is only meant to be worn in spring or at the very beginning of spring (it's ok to "forecast" a little ahead). Wearing it in the summer or fall would be like wearing a Halloween costume in May.

Red maple leaves are a fall motif, bamboo covered in snow is a winter motif, the uchiwa type of fans used in summer are a summer motif, and so on.

The only exception to this kimono rule is yukata, summer cotton kimono. They're a free-for-all and any motif is ok, even thought yukata are only worn in the summer.

You will also occasionally see winter motifs on summer pieces above yukata in formality. I specifically remember seeing a yukiwa, "snow(flake) ring" fukuro obi made of summer-weave silk, which, I'm guessing, suggests the idea of coolness during hot weather.

Nowadays, with fewer people buying and wearing kimono, many kimono are pan-seasonal, with a mix of motifs from different seasons so the kimono is ok to wear any time of year. Also, not all motifs are season-specific, especially the more abstract ones like yabane (vertical, interlocking "arrow fletchings") or kikkou ("turtle shell", diamond-like hexagons).

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