Traveling Exhibition

Our 2021 Virtual Kimono Exhibition in conjunction with Anime Expo is viewable both at this link and at our Youtube page.

Tangerine Mountain Imports & Designs
Traveling Kimono Exhibition
Kimono Through Time

This exhibition highlights antique and modern kimono fashions and items from the Edo Period to Present Day. All pieces come from the private collections of Tangerine Mountain Imports & Designs, the largest vintage kimono importer in the United States of America.

Through this exhibition, we hope to give viewers access to authentic and antique kimono materials that usually can only be found in museums. We hope that all viewers will gain a newfound appreciation for kimono throughout history, and will be inspired to try kimono fashion for themselves.

Exhibition Thesis:

Ever since Commodore Perry steamed into Tokyo Harbor in July of 1853, the West has been fascinated by kimono and Japanese culture. While modern kimono as we know them are a uniquely Japanese creation, hints of kimono and Japanese fashion can be found throughout Western history. From the obi-like sashes that Colonel Winchester and Civil War regiment soldiers incorporated as status-symbols into their uniforms, to American 1920’s flapper fashion which utilized straight seams without tailoring, to modern-day shawls and wraps that bear the “kimono” name; the West’s fascination with kimono as art and fashion has only continued to grow to new heights.

Through this exhibition, Tangerine Mountain Imports & Designs brings you a variety of modern, vintage, and antique garments and artifacts that will highlight specific aspects of kimono and provide context to their representation in modern and popular culture. The purpose of this exhibit is to ultimately engage the public in cultural exchange through kimono, while providing an educational opportunity to learn about kimono through direct access to authentic materials.

Tangerine Mountain Imports & Designs would like to give special thanks to all who have supported our mission and directly helped make this traveling exhibition a reality, including but not limited to: Naka Kon, Anime Boston, Nan Desu Kan, The Holiday Folk Fest International, The National Association of Japan-America Societies, The Chicago Wafu Club, The Consulate of Japan at Chicago, Anime Iowa, Japan House at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Shozo Sato-sensei, Kimiko Gunji-sensei, The Kujira Japanese Art & Craft Community, Rimma Doi and Helene Nishida of ACDC Rag, Lisa Truong, The Museum of the First Corps of Cadets in Boston, Massachusetts, and its curator, Michelle Abrams, and all of our loyal patrons and customers.

Kosode of the Edo Period

The kimono evolved from the kosode, which started its evolution as an inner robe worn by the upper classes of the mid-Heian Period (794-1185 C.E.) to an outer robe worn by many by the Sengoku Period (1467-1615). During the Heian Period, kosode could be worn by nobles regardless of gender or the outer garment worn on top of them—they were worn under hitatare (formal court dress for samurai since the early Heian period) as well as juunihitoe (flowing robes with tapered sleeves consisting of anywhere from a few to twenty layers. The “juuni” or “12” reference in the word just conveys the idea of many layers as opposed to being an exact prescription.

The word “sode” means “sleeve.” “Ko” means “small” and “oh” means “large.” Thus, kosode means “small sleeves” and ohsode means “large sleeves.” However, the terms do not describe the actual size of the sleeve in its totality, but rather, the sleeve opening at the wrist. The kosode features a small wrist opening in contrast to the open sleeves from wrist to the end of the sleeve typical of outer robes of the time.

From the end of the Heian Period through the end of the Sengoku Period (1467-1615), the kosode underwent a transformation from an inner garment to an outer garment. The silhouette of early kosode is different from that of later ones. Prior to roughly the year 1700, the kosode followed Japanese noble fashion philosophy, in that the wider the silhouette, the more powerful, wealthy, and favored by one’s lord the wearer was. The body of the kosode was wider than the panels forming the sleeves. The collar swooped down very low along the body panels, forming a very stout, somewhat T-shaped robe. Early kosode for nobles often featured a dyed ground and were often heavily embroidered and couched (in which metallic-wrapped threads are laid on the fabric and stitched down with tiny stitches) in fabulous tableaus that referenced everything from gorgeous botanicals to motifs popular for many hundred years to popular literature and noh theater.

The kosode on display was created after 1700 and was likely part of a samurai family’s collection. The pale blue ground gives the kosode an airy, delicate feel. Flowing water and bush clover were Yuuzen-dyed (a rice-paste resist technique) and appear white, while small details such as individual clover leaves, rocks, pine boughs, and bamboo were embroidered and couched with metallic threads into the fabric. The bottom of the kosode is padded with cotton wadding and was dyed red, as was typical of the time.

Antique Furisode Kimono Juxtaposed with Modern Kimono with Western Wear

In the West, we are accustomed to the materials and physical structure of a garment dictating its formality. However, Japanese fashion takes an ubiquitous kimono structure and allows formality to be expressed through strategic artistic design choices and materials that are used not only in the creation of the fabric, but also in how it is woven and decorated.

While much of the world has a fixed idea of what a kimono looks like, in Harajuku (the modern fashion capital of Japan), designers such as Rimma Doi of ACDC Rag are playing with tradition to create a new kind of kimono. This garment, called “Rainbow Unicorn,” honors traditional kimono features, such as a lack of tailoring, but incorporates modern details, such as belt loops, pockets, and a bold, brightly colored print of candy pieces. While ACDC Rag’s modern kimono may not entirely copy the structure and construction typical of kimono for the past 150 years or so, this piece mixes modern ideas with traditional sensibilities.

The antique blue kimono that is juxtaposed with this modern commentary on traditional fashion is typical of Meiji Period (1868-1912) design. A sumptuously woven rinzu silk furisode is minimally decorated with tasteful, small designs of architecture amidst ethereal mountains and mist, surrounded by delicately depicted tiered pine trees. While this piece has become slightly damaged over time, much of the original hand-embroidery on the roofs of the buildings remains intact.

Furisode kimono are designed specifically for young, unmarried women, and this furisode was clearly commissioned for a family of some means. Degradation of the fabric in a few areas reveals the beni red silk lining beneath the top layer of silk; this shade of red was typically used for lining for fine garments in an act of rebellion against the shogun of generations past, who forbade non-nobles from wearing the expensive dye on outer layers of their clothing.

The formal nature of the kimono dictates a suitably formal maru obi. Maru obi are double-sided, heavy brocade garments that were commonly worn for much of kimono history, but largely fell out of favor after the Meiji Period due to their weight and cost to produce.

ACDC Rag modern kimono “Rainbow Unicorn;” dye sublimated polyester with pockets and belt loops; Japanese printed cotton t-shirt; denim shorts; Pokémon Pikachu plush backpack, all circa late Heisei Period (1989-2019).
Antique furisode circa late Meiji (1868-1912); silk. Antique maru obi circa late Meiji (1868-1912); silk.

Komon (Everyday) Kimono

Komon are easily identifiable due to having pattern all over the surface of the kimono, rather than in only specific parts of the garment. Unlike their more formal counterparts, they are considered “everyday” kimono, but the classification is very broad. Everyday kimono can be worn to everything from going to the local grocery store to a nice dinner or similar outing. They can range in materials from wool to hemp to silk, and designs can be created utilizing everything from printing to hand-dyeing.

The modern pink komon on display is on the nicer end of the komon spectrum, making it possible to create a dressier look by pairing it with a classy and expensive obi made of chirimen (over-twisted thread) crepe. This silk komon is awase, or lined, and therefore is warmer and heavier to wear on the body. Colorful chrysanthemums, the national flower of Japan, and autumn grasses cover the dip-dyed background.

The black antique komon is also made of silk, but the faint stripe-like gauze weave classifies it as ro silk, which is often used for unlined summer kimono and their nagajuban (kimono undergarment). The large 5-leaf pattern depicts bamboo in the height of summer’s heat, and is a common motif at that time of year. The chuuya obi is lightweight, with thin black satin-weave silk on one side, for evening wear, and summer weight ro gauze on the other side, for daytime wear.

Modern komon circa late Showa (1926-1989) to Heisei (1989-2019); silk. Nagoya obi circa late Showa (1926-1989) to Heisei (1989-2019); hand-dyed silk chirimen crepe.

Antique summer komon circa late Taisho (1912-1926) to early Showa (1926-1989); silk. Chuuya obi circa late Taisho (1912-1926) to early Showa (1926-1989); satin-weave black silk on one side and ro gauze silk on the other.

Iromuji and Mofuku (and their Cosplay Potential)

The iromuji kimono is a single-color or nearly single-color kimono, sometimes with a family crest (called mon or kamon) along the back near the neck. Some have additional mon along the back of the sleeves, thus elevating the kimono in formality. The color may slightly increase or decrease in saturation along the bolt in a very subtle, regular pattern, making the kimono look as if it has a slight ombre. Iromuji can be made from several different types of weave, including crepe fabric with no pattern, and rinzu fabric, in which patterns are inherent to the weave and are created without altering the color.

Because of their close association with chado, or tea ceremony, many iromuji with one to three mon are light or pastel in color and feel plainer than other types of kimono. It is considered polite to ensure that the tea is the center of attention, not one’s kimono. Therefore, the obi worn with iromuji at tea ceremony tend to be a similar color to the kimono and are not ostentatious. Typically, tea ceremony attendees wear one or no mon, while the officiant might wear three.

Iromuji with three mon can also be worn to attend a wake or funeral, if you are not a close relative of the deceased—these typically feature three mon and are, again, not ostentatious. Black obi can be worn with iromuji for mourning.

The kimono reserved for close relatives of the deceased is the mofuku kimono, a black kimono that usually features five mon: one at the back of the neck, two on the backs of the sleeves, and two on the front, just below each shoulder. These five mon designate the highest level of formality. Black zouri shoes, a black handbag, and black accessories are typically used for women. The only other color worn with mofuku is white—a white nagajuban (under-kimono) is standard. As one moves through the grieving process, one can continue to wear mofuku, but slowly replace black accessories with white.

Iromuji and mofuku have other, less traditional uses as well—many cosplayers choose these versatile types of kimono to represent characters important to them. For example, many people cosplaying as characters from the anime Bleach employ mofuku, even if they identify as male, because the extra length common to traditionally women’s kimono are useful in portraying the tall frames of these characters. Mofuku have been used in America to portray everyone from Star Wars characters like Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, to the Greek deities Persephone and Hades, to the Grim Reaper. They’re also popular among those who enjoy battle games and live-action role-playing, and want to incorporate Japanese fashion in their original characters.

An iromuji is an ideal choice to portray Susamaru, the temari demon of Demon Slayer (Kimetsu no Yaiba). Susamaru wears a peachy orange, single-color kimono with a prominent, striped han-eri (half collar, which is typically sewn or clipped under the collar of the kimono to add visual interest near the face). Her obi has an arched pattern reminiscent of seigaiha, or concentric waves. The kimono and obi used for this exhibition are similar, but not exactly the same, illustrating the idea that it is not necessary for a cosplay to strictly mimic the look of a character, but rather, the cosplay should be reminiscent of a character. This flexibility enables a cosplayer to use existing materials to create a cosplay, thus saving time and money while adding the benefits of using authentic materials to represent a Japanese character, and the environmental benefit of upcycling a vintage kimono into a new purpose.

Vintage iromuji in peachy orange circa late Showa (1926-1989) to Heisei Period (1989-2019); hand-dyed and silk. Modern fukuro-nagoya obi circa late Showa (1926-1989) to Heisei (1989-2019); metallic woven silk. Vintage men’s haori circa late Showa (1926-1989); silk.
Temari balls circa late Edo period (1603-1868) through Heisei Period (1989-2019); silk thread over various cores, some with jingle bells inside.

Antique mofuku circa Meiji Period (1868-1912) to Taisho Period (1912-1926); silk. Antique fukuro obi circa Meiji Period (1868-1912) to Taisho Period (1912-1926); satin silk weave over coutil.

Modern mofuku accessories circa Heisei Period (1989-2019); multiple materials, mostly silk (obi-age, obijime); silk and/or synthetic (bag, shoes, and white date-eri); rayon (black koshihimo); vinyl (base of shoes); fiberboard (base structure of the bag)

Houmongi Kimono

The houmongi kimono is sometimes called “visiting wear.” It was first conceived in the Meiji Period (1868-1912) as a high-class kimono to wear when going to visit others. While tomesode and furisode may only be worn in comparatively few circumstances, houmongi are semiformal and therefore a little more versatile; they can be worn to a variety of events, from parties and theatre to weddings and tea ceremony. Younger women tend to have a longer sleeve drop than married women for this particular garment.

Houmongi, such as the yellow modern example featured in this exhibition, have pattern along the bottom of the kimono, typically in edozuma style (sweeping from the left panel to taper off toward the right). The difference between this kimono and its more formal counterparts is that the sleeves, the back of the right hand shoulder, and front of the left hand shoulder, are decorated with designs that are harmonious with the pattern along bottom of the garment. Houmongi can have mon (family crests), with one mon in the center back being most common. This modern houmongi works for several seasons, featuring chrysanthemums and maple leaves for Autumn, plum blossoms for Winter, and peonies and orange blossoms for Spring.

Similar to the houmongi, the tsukesage kimono, such as the antique example featured in this exhibition, has patterns dyed in similar positions to the houmongi; but these patterns and designs are done in such as way as to not cross over some of the seams of the kimono. Motifs include chrysanthemums, plum blossoms, orange blossoms, and fans, making this piece another multi-season kimono. The obi is a fukuro style obi with plain weave, colorfully printed fabric on the side meant to be interior, and printed silk on the other side with small areas of embroidery.

Modern houmongi in yellow circa Heisei Period (1989-2019); hand-dyed and painted silk. Modern fukuro-nagoya obi circa late Showa (1926-1989) to Heisei (1989-2019); nishiki metallic woven silk.

Antique tsukesage circa late Taisho Period (1912-1926) to early Showa Period (1926-1989); silk. Antique fukuro obi circa early Showa Period (1926-1989); silk and cotton.


The furisode is the most formal kind of kimono worn by young, unmarried women. The words “furi” and “sode” translate to “swinging” and “sleeve,” and allude to fluttering butterfly wings. Young women indicate their unattached status by their colorful, sumptuous kimono with eye-catching sleeves. Typically, furisode are paired with gorgeous obi and worn for formal occasions, such as weddings and graduations.

When furisode are worn for graduation, they are often accompanied by hakama—skirtlike garments that originally functioned in a similar manner as chaps for Western horseback riders. This look is intended to be reminiscent of the character of Erika in the anime/manga Pokémon. Erika is the classy, perfume-making gym leader of Celadon City, and an expert in grass Pokemon.

Erika’s furisode is not an exact copy of the look she sports in the anime; rather, the color and style of each piece is intended to evoke the character in the viewer’s mind without being bogged down in details. This look is intended to present a method for creating a cosplay that is attainable by the average cosplayer, as opposed to one who has access to a custom kimono salon and the thousands of dollars necessary to commission a custom furisode bolt to exactly match Erika’s furisode. The base color of Erika’s kimono is yellow with simple blue designs; the furisode in this exhibition remains true to the base color while incorporating florals in green, thus paying homage to Erika’s green thumb. The plum ombre hakama complement both the yellow and the green of the floral furisode more than the russet red of the hakama featured in the anime.

This bright colors in the antique furisode featured here demonstrates fine yuuzen dye work and the expanded color palettes of the Meiji and Taisho Periods. The sumptuous detail indicates the mastery of its creator and demonstrates the height of kimono artistry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Within the ground is the famed hollyhock heart-shaped leaf, a symbol of the Tokugawa clan, which ruled Japan throughout the Edo Period (1603-1868).

The kimono has many areas of hand-couching, in which gold foil-wrapped silk threads are laid out on the fabric and then affixed along the outline of a design element with fine silk thread. A decorative woven basket sits within a carriage, and flowers spill out of it: peonies, daisies, chrysanthemums, plum blossoms, cherry blossoms, and delicate wisteria. Some petals are embroidered utilizing a satin-style long stitch—a fragile element that highlights their beauty.

The maru obi paired with this kimono features areas of plain weave and complex weave, in some cases using foiled thread, in a design that shows off the technical skill of brocade weaving of the time. Traditional stitch-bound books adorn the obi, with designs of flowers contained within the covers. Irises, chrysanthemums, and plum blossoms in pale shades alternate with silver and gold elements to bring together a dreamy look.

Modern furisode circa late Showa (1926-1989) to early Heisei (1989-2019); hand-dyed and painted gold effects. Green Hakata hanhaba obi circa late Showa (1926-1989) to early Heisei (1989-2019); silk. Hakama circa late Heisei (1989-2019); synthetic. Pokéballs circa late Heisei (1989-2019); plastic.

Antique furisode circa late Meiji Period (1868-1912) to Taisho Period (1912-1926); hand-dyed, painted, embroidered, and couched silk. Antique maru obi circa Taisho Period (1912-1926) to early Showa Period (1926-1989); silk with foil silk thread.

Wedding Kimono

One of the ultimate symbols of modern kimono finery is the uchikake, which is the uppermost layer of a woman’s wedding kitsuke (kimono wearing) ensemble. This heavy brocade kimono is thickly padded at the bottom to ensure the entire back flares out beautifully. The uchikake is not closed with an obi, presenting a silhouette reminiscent of the juunihitoe, or twelve-layer robe ensembles of the noble courts of the Heian Period (794-1185). Wedding processions tend to move at a slow pace, as the weight of the many layers of kimono plus the weight of the uchikake make movement difficult.
A common motif in wedding kimono is the crane. Red crowned cranes, called “tanchouzuru,” are utilized to depict fidelity, as cranes mate for life, and longevity. The red and gold foil ground of the uchikake features multi-layered chrysanthemums, plum blossoms, cherry blossoms, and maple leaves amid swirls of water.

Prominently featured are cypress-slat fans, which were carried by Heian Period (794-1185) nobility. Stacked among the fans are tiered pine boughs, a common winter motif representing strength in the face of adversity juxtaposed against delicate dripping wisteria blossoms, a symbol of love and beauty.

Modern uchikake wedding kimono circa Heisei Period (1989-2019); silk, foil-woven silk, machine and machine-assisted hand-embroidered silk.

Vintage Men’s Kimono

Compared to women’s kimono, men’s kimono seem plain and austere. Although this centuries-old trend is slowly ceding to more colorful and patterned men’s kimono, they are typically still more conservative than their more feminine counterparts. The reasons for this are rooted in the politics of the shogunate of the Edo Period.

At the start of the Edo Period (1603-1868), Tokugawa Iemitsu wished to ensure that no daimyo could afford to rise up against him. The sankin-koutai system required all nobles to maintain dual households–one in their home fief, and one in Edo. Noblemen had to keep their primary wife and firstborn son at the Imperial Palace, and were expected to travel to and from their fiefs and the palace regularly. Naturally, after several generations of constant travel, towns grew and flourished along the nobles’ routes. Merchants (chounin) began to look for ways to demonstrate their wealth, and since they couldn’t buy their way into the nobility, they spent their money on clothes, to the point where they began to look wealthier than the nobility. As time went on, Kabuki became an increasingly popular form of entertainment, and people coveted the rich, luxurious, and extremely bold Kabuki kimono. While the Kabuki kimono patterns were designed to be seen from stage, kimono designs for the chounin were designed to been seen by everyone.

The nobility responded by issuing round after round of sumptuary laws, which were decrees restricting various aspects of clothing in an effort to differentiate people according to their socioeconomic class. While the enforcement of these laws was sometimes spotty, one of the most far-reaching of these laws was the idea that men eventually could not have any kind of ornamentation on the outside of their kimono. This led to the rise of katazome, or stencil dyeing, in which paste resist is squeezed against a firm stencil to create a dotted or small pattern effect. From a distance, the patterning is so small that it disappears and the kimono seems to be plain; but up close, the pattern gives a subtle and refined effect.

Thus, men’s kimono tend to feature muted, deep colors, geometric designs such as stripes and hexagons, and subtle, fine weaves. Another distinguishing feature of men’s kimono is that there is no sleeve opening at the underarm as there is with women’s and children’s kimono. Men’s kimono do not need as much space for the obi to settle between the hipline and the underarm, compared to women’s obi, as men’s obi tend to be narrower (approximately 10 centimeters) compared to women’s (approximately 15-35 centimeters, with wider obi folded in half lengthwise as they are wrapped around the body).

Men’s kimono and nagajuban circa Showa Period (1926-1989); silk. Kaku obi circa Showa Period (1926-1989).

Men’s Nagajuban and Haori Jacket

As Edo Period chounin became wealthier and wealthier at the expense of noble overlords, they began to adopt haori jackets, too, albeit with further restrictions due to sumptuary laws. One way around these laws was to put fantastic painted, dyed, or woven designs on the inside layer or the inside lining of jackets. Haori could then be displayed in the home on a stand called an “iko” in such a way that the artwork inside was visible. Additionally, men’s nagajuban, or kimono undergarments, became a method of self-expression. Nagajuban for men could be made of silk decorated with shibori designs, hand painting, or dye work, or simpler prints depicting anything from trains to scenic landscapes to baseball equipment.
Men’s nagajuban circa Showa Period (1926-1989); printed cotton.

Men’s haori jacket circa Showa Period (1926-1989); habutae silk exterior, hand-painted silk interior.

Antique Hikizuri

Hikizuri, sometimes known as susohiki, are particularly long kimono, worn for traditional dance as well as by maiko and geisha. The kimono is not tucked up into the waist pleat (ohashori) as it is for modern kimono. Instead, the hemline, which is typically padded to make the fabric flow more beautifully, is allowed to trail behind the wearer. The bottom portion (“skirt” portion) is elongated compared to a typical kimono. The collar line is constructed differently, to allow for greater drape at the nape of the neck, which is considered alluring. Sleeve length varies depending on who is wearing the kimono; young girls in Kabuki plays and apprentice geisha (maiko) wear long sleeves, while adult females in Kabuki and in dance have more typical sleeve length.

Traditionally, Kabuki actors are men, even when portraying feminine roles; these actors are termed “onnagata.”
The rich color in this hikizuri is indicative of the Taisho Period and demonstrates masterful use of dye and paint. It is a ryouzuma, meaning mirror image kimono, in which the front right and left okumi (narrow panels meant to overlap as the kimono is wrapped around the body) panels look nearly the same. This style was popular in Western Japan for quite some time during the Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa Periods, but finally went out of style in the 1930s.

Hikizuri kimono circa Taisho Period (1912-1926); hand-dyed and painted silk. Maru obi circa Showa period (1926-1989); brocade silk.

Kurotomesode and Irotomesode

Like the irotomesode, the kurotomesode holds a place of high formality. Kurotomesode are the most formal kind of kimono worn by married women, and differ from irotomesode by having a black, or “kuro,” ground to the kimono. In modern times, they almost invariably have 5 mon (family crests), placing them at the highest level of formality compared to kimono with 1 or 3 mon.

Prior to World War II, there were two styles of design for tomesode, regardless of color: ryouzuma and edozuma. Ryouzuma were mirror-image or nearly mirror-image along the okumi (half-width panel to create overlap) and migoro (full width main body panel) on each side. They were more common in Western Japan, while edozuma, as the name implies, were more popular in Edo (modern-day Tokyo) and Eastern Japan. After wartime, ryouzuma faded out of popularity, so that now, with rare exception, tomesode, regardless of color, have designs that sweep from the front left panel and taper off toward the right.

The modern kurotomesode is hand-dyed and painted in a lattice-like pattern, with motifs contained within fans and circles along the hemline. Irises, peonies, wisteria, bellflowers, and cherry blossoms in delicate pink juxtaposed with strong orange to slate ombre indicate a vibrant Spring, while pine boughs and Japanese maple leaves give a nod to Winter. Bamboo can be both a summer and winter motif, depending on context; for winter, it is often accompanied by plum blossoms and pine. Pine, bamboo, and plum form the fabled Three Friends of Winter, which represent strength in the face of the adversity of the season, and have come to indicate good fortune in Japan. Thus, this kimono is an all-season piece. The modern fukuro obi accompanying it contains mostly spring motifs, including butterflies flitting among cherry blossoms.

The antique, royal blue irotomesode is a ryouzuma irotomesode, thus it is likely it came from Western Japan. It features mirror-image designs of pine and plum blossoms, with bamboo leaves scattered along the dock near the bottom. Waves with dots portray dewy water, above which window screens that evoke the idea of ship sails flap in a powerful breeze. A cypress fan, mostly closed, protrudes from the screens.

The antique kurotomesode presents a sumptuous display of flower carriages bursting with blossoms. Many of the same flowers are represented as in the modern kurotomesode, against a backdrop of clouds and water flowing among rocks. This bold, yet dreamy scene is accompanied by a Showa period maru obi featuring folding fans, each containing ox-drawn carriages heavily decorated with hexagons, basket weave pattern, Chinese flowers, and more admit a burst of flowers, pine boughs, and clouds.

Modern kurotomesode circa late Showa (1926-1989); hand-dyed and painted silk. Modern fukuro obi; silk and foil-wrapped silk weave.

Antique irotomesode in royal blue, circa Taisho Period (1912-1926); hand-painted, dyed, and embroidered silk. Antique fukuro obi circa late Taisho (1912-1926) to early Showa Period (1926-1989); silk and foiled silk.

Antique kurotomesode circa Taisho Period (1912-1926); hand-painted, dyed, and embroidered silk. Antique maru obi circa early Showa Period (1926-1989); silk and foiled silk.

Grouping of Children’s Kimono and Flag

Antique Everyday Toddler Kimono

Everyday kimono for small children were a relatively simple affair: a naturally dyed, homemade kimono with a sash-like obi. This softer look is in contrast to more formal attire for special events, such as “Shichi-go-san.”

Kimono circa Meiji Period (1868-1912) to Taisho Period (1912-1926); plain weave cotton, lined in possibly homespun cotton dyed in indigo and green. Vintage heko obi in shibori dye; silk.

Formal Children’s Kimono

Shichi-go-san celebrates a rite of passage for children at the ages of three and seven for girls and five for boys. The festival first started in the Heian Period (794-1185) as a celebration among court nobles that their children had (so far) survived childhood. The current practice of presenting children at their local Temple to ward off evil spirits started in the Meiji Period, as more and more commoners adopted the once-noble custom.

Young girls wear a kimono covered by a vest called a “hifu” instead of an elaborate obi, while boys at age 5 wear hakama (large trouser-like garment) for the first time. Common motifs for young boys include eagles, arrow fletching, and samurai helmets. Girls at 7 years of age wear formal obi for the first time, and in modern times, they are often elaborate pre-tied obi.

Kimono set for 3-year-old girl circa Heisei Period (1989-2019); printed synthetic; hifu vest has flower details in synthetic thread.

Modern kimono set for 5-year-old boy circa Heisei Period (1989-2019); silk and printed synthetic

Two Antique Children’s Kimono

Cornsilk blue was a popular color during the Meiji Period, and this blue child’s christening kimono is a fine example of the artwork of the time. A ho-oh bird rises up from delicately dyed flowers along the back of the kimono, showing off its beautiful plumage. The long silk ties would have been used to tie the kimono around the mother.

The red kimono features gorgeous dyework and a ground of benibana red, a color that is considered auspicious for children. All children’s kimono are open at the underarm of the sleeve because of the belief that children’s body temperature runs hotter than that of adults. All children’s formal kimono have long, furisode-like sleeves as well. This means it can be difficult to tell the difference in gender for children’s kimono, especially since such fine garments would be re-used for younger children, regardless of gender.

Child’s kimono circa Meiji Period (1868-1912); hand dyed silk in cornsilk blue.

Child’s ryouzuma kimono circa Meiji Period (1868-1912); hand dyed and embroidered silk in benibana red.

Antique Boy’s Day Flag

Displayed alongside this antique girl’s kimono is a hand-painted antique Boy’s Day Flag. This Boy’s Day Flag was created to celebrate the Festival of Banners on May 5th each year at the conclusion of Golden Week, and is otherwise known as Boy’s Day. In 1948, Boy’s Day was changed to Children’s Day, and was dedicated to the happiness of children as well as a celebration of mothers. A flag like this depicting samurai and a horse would have been flown high on this illustrious day.

Boy’s Day Flag circa early Taisho Period (1912-1926); hand-painted cotton or hemp.

Antique Kimono with Modern Hakama, Blouse, and ACDC Rag Haori Jacket

This mix of antique and modern style creates an everyday look with a touch of whimsy. An antique meisen rayon komon (everyday kimono) is combined with blue modern women’s hakama—two garments that are not typically put together. (More often, women’s hakama are worn with the exceedingly formal furisode at the time of school graduation or the coming of age ceremony at age twenty.) Beneath the kimono is a Western-style button-down blouse, in a nod to the Meiji Period (1868-1912), when Western and Japanese fashions were often combined by fashion-forward Japanese. On top of this komon is an ACDC Rag unisex haori dye sublimated synthetic haori featuring pandas.

Many Westerners accustomed to thinking of kimono as “national costume” may find such a look a bit jarring, but it is crucial to remember that Japan’s fashion industry has been as well-developed as any Western country’s. Kimono continue to evolve, incorporating fashion elements not seen for generations alongside new ideas, the likes of which have never been tried until now.

Antique komon kimono circa Taisho Period (1912-1926) to early Showa Period (1926-1989); meisen rayon (jinken). Vintage hanhaba obi circa Showa Period (1926-1989). Western style blouse. ACDC Rag unisex haori jacket late Heisei Period (1989-2019); dye sublimated synthetic.

Kimono Remake Dress by Lisa Truong

When wafuku (traditional Japanese clothing of any type) cannot be worn anymore due to wear and tear, it is Japanese tradition to upcycle the fabric into another garment or a small handicraft. In Japan, this concept is called “kimono remake.” A quick look through the crafting section of a Japanese bookstore or on Pinterest reveals a seemingly infinite number of items that can be created utilizing wafuku fabric.

Lisa Truong, master costumer and designer, created this kimono remake dress utilizing a damaged hitoe (unlined) kimono. The dress flows down the body thanks to the drape of the fabric and the 1930s-style seaming, which was done strategically to take advantage of the narrow bolt width of kimono fabric. The tiny pattern of the dress fabric is accented by a simple modern synthetic hanhaba (half width) obi, and the look is completed with an antique haori jacket in deep charcoal.
While the idea of textile upcycling is not new to the United States, modern Americans often have no experience with the concept unless they are interested in patchwork quilting. This is to the detriment of the environmental health of the world; the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 11 million tons of textile waste goes into landfills and oceans each year worldwide. One goal of this exhibit is to encourage viewers to think about the textile waste they generate each year and what can be done to reduce that waste. Truong’s dress is just one example of the fantastic fashion items that can be created using upcycled textiles while simultaneously honoring Japanese tradition.

1930s-style dress; upcycled unlined kimono fabric. Modern hanhaba obi; synthetic. Antique haori jacket; hand-dyed silk.

Higuchi Family Samurai Armor

The Higuchi were high-ranking retainers of the Sanada clan, based at Matsushiro Castle in present-day Nagano City. At the end of the Edo Period, the Higuchi were among the wealthiest retainers, with over 230 koku of rice. They participated in the Sanada clan’s support of the military and literary arts.

The Sanada clan was split during the time of the Battle of Sekigahara (October 21, 1600), with Sanada Nobuyuki siding with the Tokugawa, and his father and younger brother, Masayuki and Yukimura respectively, siding with the Toyotomi. After the defeat of the Toyotomi, Sanada Nobuyuki took over Ueda Castle and eventually, Matsushiro Castle.

Matsushiro Castle was built in the 16th century, and eventually came under the domain of the Sanada clan. The Chikuma River forms a moat on one side, and it had other earthen defenses. The Higuchi Family Residence is located very close by. The castle was ruled by the Sanada for 250 years. Today, you can see the ruins of the castle, and sections of it are under renovation to restore parts of it to their former glory.

This particular set of armor was created in the Edo Period (1603-1868), and is considered a full set. The toggles on the armor would have originally been made of bone or wood, but were replaced with plastic during its restoration. It was professionally restored in Japan in the early Showa Period (around the 1940s), and was acquired for the private collection of Tangerine Mountain Imports & Designs in 2017.

You can learn more about Matsushiro Castle, the Sanada clan, and the Higuchi Family residence at: .

Hitatare Kamishimo

Samurai armor is not the only iconic look worn by this famous class of people throughout Japanese history.  The hitatare is the court robes worn by samurai as of the early Heian Period (794-1185), but the origins of this style of clothing likely go back much further.  Ancient statutes from the Kofun Period (roughly 300 – 538 C.E.) were sculpted wearing clothing like hitatare.  

The set consists of a jacket-like top worn over kosode (modern facsimilies are used in this example) in a criss-crossed manner, along with hakama made from the same fabric.  Drawstring cords help to close the openings along the sleeves and ankles for better freedom of movement.  The term “kamishimo” refers to the fact that the same fabric was used for both pieces.  

Over time, the hitatare was sometimes swapped out for the sleeveless version, the kataginu kamishimo.  Again, kamishimo refers to the fact that both pieces are made of the same fabric, but the kataginu is a sleeveless vest-like garment worn over kosode or kimono that is boned along the shoulders to help them sit properly on the body.  

Hitatare kamishimo, circa Showa Period (1926-1989); rayon and silk.
Modern facsimilies of kosode, circa Showa Period (1912-1989); silk.

Cosplay of Okita Souji, Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru

Our rendition of Okita Soji, captain of the first unit of the Shinsengumi, consists of modern and antique wafuku. The gray men’s kimono is made from the natural fiber of hemp, which was a common material used to create light-weight and breathable garments. The navy blue umanori (split leg) hakama, which have the same function as Western chaps, are modern. While the medium blue and white Shinsengumi jacket is modern, its pattern of large white mountains across sky blue is accurate to the original Shinesengumi coats of the very late Edo to early Meiji Periods.

Okita Soji was born Okita Sojiro Fujiwara no Harumasa during the Edo period (1600-1868). He was born to a samurai family in Shirakawa and began training in swordsmanship around the age of nine. Later in his life, he changed his name to Okita Soji Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi, and helped to form the Mibu Roshigumi, which was later renamed the Shinsengumi in 1863. He became the captain of the first unit of the Shinsengumi in 1865.

The Shinsengumi were a band of warriors who came together to fight and defend Kyoto against pro-Imperial forces during the tumultuous times of the late Edo period, called the Bakamatsu. The Shinsengumi acted in part as a police force and in part as an army. They helped to keep the peace in Kyoto between skirmishes and were therefore loved and respected by the citizens of Kyoto.

By the mid-1800s, the social structure of Japan that had held the country together for over 200 years had fallen apart. The social class system, which had strictly dictated the behavior, dress, and social status of the people had become so watered down that by the time Commodore Perry first steamed into Edo Bay, the once-aloof samurai were commonly seen at poetry readings also attended by once-lowly merchants, and all sorts of people now rubbed elbows as they watched kabuki theater together. The once-powerful Shogunate had become perilously weak, and many were afraid that Japan would be colonized by Western powers.

So, while the Shinsengumi were on the losing side of the Bakamatsu, they are venerated much more frequently than the Imperialists, who ultimately emerged from the Bakamatsu victorious. This is in a large part due to the Shinsengumi’s dedication to preserving Kyoto, and by extension, Japanese culture, despite the chaos of civil war. People like the Shinsengumi and Okita Soji represent dedication to a cause and that dedication — in spite of international pressure, domestic unrest, and a societal structure in flux — is what makes them so celebrated even to this day.

Men’s summer kimono circa early Showa Period (1926-1989). Navy hakama, circa Showa Period (1926-1989); synthetic. Green obi, circa Reiwa Period (2019- ), silk. Shinsengumi coat, circa late Heisei Period (1989-2019); cotton.

Men’s Formal Kimono and Kataginu Kamishimo

Men’s Samurai-Style Kimono and Kataginu Kamishimo

Samurai were upper class members of society, and thus had a dress code that indicated their rank. Kimono could incorporate kamon, or family crests, along the back of sleeves, the back of the neck, and the front of the kimono on either side of the collar.  Alternatively, samurai sometimes wore kimono dyed or woven with a band of color across the torso, usually a lighter color than the rest of the kimono.  When in public, it was required of samurai to wear hakama over their kimono—a wide, pleated, pants-like garment. Hakama are knotted around the body utilizing two sets of long ties, and must be worn with a kimono underneath, lest the long, triangular opening on each side of the body reveal the side of the thigh.

Over time, the hitatare kamishimo was sometimes replaced with the kataginu kamishimo.  Toward the end of the Edo period, the kataginu could be replaced with a haori jacket.  The kataginu was a sleeveless, boned vest-like garment with kamon on the back in the center and on either side of the front. The width of the kataginu implied the importance of the man wearing it; in woodblock prints, famous shogun were typically depicted with very wide kataginu, providing a simple visual clue as to which character was most crucial to each scene.

Men’s kimono circa Showa Period (1926-1989); fabric content unknown.
Kataginu Kamishimo set (Kataginu and Hakama) circa Showa Period (1926-1989); rayon or synthetic. 

Rurouni Kenshin Kimono Cosplay

Rurouni Kenshin is one of the most popular and beloved stories in the past 30 years of anime and manga history. A historical drama, it tells the story of a wandering warrior, Himura Kenshin, who has taken a vow not to kill after spending his youth as a ruthless assassin and, later, a soldier for the Imperial forces during the civil war that ushered in the Meiji Era.

The story is set in a time of enormous change in Japan. The feudal system of the Edo Period has been abolished and the emperor has been reaffirmed as the sole source of political power in Japan. The relative isolationism that characterized the Edo Period has been replaced by contact with the outside world. Western technology, ideas, and fashion are eagerly sought by many Japanese.
Kimono fell somewhat out of fashion during the Meiji Period, at least in major population centers, although Japanese textiles were still preferred when creating Western-style women’s gowns. Men mixed Western bowler hats and duster jackets with kimono, or abandoned kimono entirely in favor of Western suits.

Throughout Rurouni Kenshin, it is clear that Meiji Period Japan is in a state of transition, with many questioning what it means to be Japanese in a very different world than that of the Edo Period. While Kenshin wears kimono and hakama, others of similar status–war veterans who helped abolish the shogunate–have taken up government positions and switched to Western suits.
Kaoru is a reflection of the multifaceted nature of her country and time: she wears everything from a kendo uniform to sumptuous kimono befitting the daughter of a samurai. Interestingly, the kimono Kaoru is depicted wearing in the Rurouni Kenshin manga and anime are sometimes closer in style to Taisho Period (1912-1926) kimono than Meiji because of their large, bold patterns.
Meanwhile, Yahiko Myoujin, who takes tremendous pride in his heritage as the son of a samurai, sticks with traditional kimono and hakama, even as he trains in Kaoru’s dojo in “swords that give life,” which Kenshin has deemed idealistic, but hopes will someday replace training in “swords that bring death.”

The kimono on display in this exhibit reflects a compromise between remaining true to the timeline of the story while creating a recognizable, if slightly anachronistic look.

Himura Kenshin: vintage russet kinsha silk iromuji (single color kimono), circa Showa Period (1912-1989); vintage wool nagajuban, circa Showa Period (1912-1926); vintage silk obi, circa Showa Period (1912-1989); white hakama in synthetic fibers, likely polyester, circa Showa Period (1912-1989).

Kamiya Kaoru: houmongi kimono circa late Meiji (1868-1912) to early Taisho (1912-1926); silk. Green and orange striped chuuya obi; black satin weave silk on one side and patterned silk on the other side, intended to give a daytime look and an evening look in one full-width obi, circa Taisho Period (1912-1926).

Myoujin Yahiko: child’s cotton kimono circa late Showa Period (1926-1989); modern green obi in synthetic, circa Reiwa Period (2019- ); brown silk hakama circa Showa Period (1926-1989).


For further information about the kimono on display and Japanese culture, please visit us online at, on Facebook at, and on Instagram @TangerineKimono. To arrange a visit to our showroom in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, please email us at [email protected]