What's the difference between a kimono and a robe?

What is a traditional Japanese kimono?

 The traditional Japanese kimono started out as the most inclusive garment of all time. It was a garment that was easy to wear and infinitely adaptable. Its adaptability was first seen in the design of the kosode, the kimono’s predecessor which was worn by men and women as an outer garment. 

The kosode influenced the various pieces of the kimono, but differed quite a bit in proportion. The kosode featured a wider body, longer collar, and narrower sleeves. Instead of the T-shaped design that created the signature kimono sleeve, the kosode sleeves were sewn to the body of the garment with rounded edges. 

The kosode was worn in Japan as common, everyday dress through the Edo Period, at which point its proportions had evolved to be closer to the modern day kimono. At this point, the term kimono came more widely into use in naming the garment. The word kimono literally meaning “the thing worn” came into use, and the kosode and the kimono became synonymous with Japan to the rest of the world. The style, motif, texture, material, color, and production technique of the modern kimono would all indicate social position within Japanese society, it would tell a story and place your heritage at the center of your garment. According to J Stor Daily, each individual kimono became, “the biodata of its wearer.”

Influences on the Traditional Kimono

 Even as the kimono is the traditional garment of Japan, it has also been influenced by other cultural traditions in the region.

As the kosode transformed into the kimono in Japan, Chinese cultural influences wove their way into the pieces. Chinese sartorial influences like the quality of the fabric, and choices made in the pattern, threads used, paints, prints, and colors were used to define and present the wearer’s status. These artistic details were adopted in many traditional Japanese kimono as well.

The hanbok of Korea also influenced the designs of the traditional Japanese kimono. Both the hanbok and kimono were meant to be worn by everyone, as everyday, common dress. The hanbok relies on simple lines and can sometimes come in two pieces, a top and a bottom. But the hanbok itself was meant to be able to move in, with a wide cut in the bottom piece for maximum ease of movement. While featuring a slimmer silhouette, the kimono also used elegant simple lines in its design.

The common elements of this traditional Japanese kimono have been influenced from many directions to create a distinctly Japanese style. The elements you’ll see in the traditional garment are the T-shaped design which is usually hand-sewn, an obi or sash to wrap around the kimono, motifs of nature and beauty that are meaningful to the wearer, and they are handmade on materials like silk, hemp, and even linen.

The History of the Modern Bathrobe

While you may be more familiar with the rich history of the kimono, you may be less familiar with the history of the modern bathrobe. In the 1800s, modern bathrobes came into fashion to provide warmth after bathing as an alternative to a towel. While the earliest bathrobes were floor length, heavy, and even hooded to provide warmth, the bathrobe evolved over time to more of a dressing gown with a sleeker silhouette and a more lightweight material.

Silk luxury dressing gowns as we now know them can trace their origins to 5000 years ago in China. This is where silk was first produced and considered a luxury material for wealthy and prominent citizens. During the Edo period in Japan, silk dressing gowns were worn by Japanese samurai warriors as a symbol of their rank. Then, as time went on, the traditional Japanese kimono used mulberry silk, was adopted by women as well, and became a fashionable look around the world.

Later in the 17th and 18th centuries, the silk luxury robe was a dressing gown popular among the wealthy aristocrats and worn outside as formal attire. Just one hundred years later in the 19th century, these dressing gowns became silk luxury robes people wore at home.

Luxury silk robes have beautiful benefits as compared to cotton robes. While you may feel like a 20th century glamorous movie starlet in your luxury silk robe, there is so much more to it. Cotton robes tend to absorb water and are heavier pieces, but silk bathrobes are lightweight against your skin with a fluid, liquid drape. Cotton robes can be heavy and retain heat in the summer, but silk robes are breathable and lovely to wear inside or outside during the summer months. And now with the advent of washable silk, silk robes are even easier to care for and clean at home.

The Intention Behind Every Kimono Robe

 Our modern kimono robes are a culmination of all of these compounding influences over time. Our founders Renee and Tiffany Tam have looked to their own childhood experiences with traditional Japanese kimono, as well as inspiration from vintage Asian art to create modern kimono robes connected to heritage while keeping the modern woman in mind. Our unique designs rely on a modern aesthetic with a gentle touch, allowing for a deep breath each time you slip into one of our silk or charmeuse robes.

The rich history and heritage that inspired these kimono robes is woven into every piece by talented artisans who are preserving handcrafted techniques that have been passed down through the centuries. 

Your modern kimono robe is an everyday ritual, connected to the influences of the past. In every iteration these traditional garments have been a point of self-expression for the wearer, and our modern kimono robes are just the same. Now that we’ve explored kimonos vs robes, we hope every time you slip into your favorite kimono robe, you feel connected to the history and heritage that inspired these pieces and connected to your own beautiful self-expression.

Creative Process Design Heritage Kimono Style

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