Altfield Gallery is pleased to present a collection of vintage Japanese kimonos to showcase the wonderful wearable textile art form -- one of the most distinctive Japanese national crafts.

The Kimono is one of the most recognisable and iconic Japanese art forms. Meaning "thing to wear", this versatile garment was worn by men and women throughout Japan until the late 19th /early 20th century when western styles of dress slowly slipped into normal life. Until today, women continue to wear kimonos, embodying all the virtues and beauty of a traditional way of life.

Wearable & Decorative art

The kimono is a straight seamed garment made up of seven long thin strips of fabric. These are cut and hand-sewn loosely together so that a design can be drawn on the textile. They are taken apart for several specialist stages - dyeing, printing, hand-painting, embroidering, gilding - then re-sewn again by hand. The garment is treated as an artistic canvas, and can truly be considered a work of art - art to wear.

The kimono allows the wearer to express her own personal style and taste. The stunning kimonos in this exhibition were created for women, in which the colouring, textures, and surface patterns provide a canvas for very vivid personal expression. Many kimonos are specifically reserved for special occasions and special situations marking the life cycle, such as the first visit to a Shinto shrine, coming of age, welcoming the Spring, weddings and so on. The kimono hung on a rod or rack becomes a stunning interior wall hanging and decoration.

Preserving traditional Japanese crafts

From the 1950's, great efforts have been made to protect cultural artisan crafts in Japan. They include silk weaving, specialist dyeing, painting and printing techniques and also needlework traditions such as embroidery, all of which are used in the creation of these special kimonos. Such is the importance of continuing the traditions that some of the artists and creators involved have become recognized in Japan as Living National Treasures.

Kimono exhibition

The beautiful collection of kimonos in the exhibition includes Uchikake - an outer coat, usually lined with red silk with a thick padded hem, worn over other garments without a sash, usually only worn by brides for weddings, or Kabuki stage performers, Furisode (meaning swinging sleeves) - a full length and long-sleeved kimono for young unmarried women, or Kabuki stage performers, and Haori - a short length Furisode.

We invite you to visit us at the Gallery and appreciate the fine collection of traditional kimonos on display.