Though commonly thought of as a traditional Japanese garment, the kimono actually traces its origins to China. Before the Qing Dynasty, the traditional clothing was a Hanfu, consisting of a tunic tied with a sash, a skirt and a length of fabric reaching the knees. The emergence of the Hanfu is often linked with China's first emperor Huangdi, also known as the "Yellow Emperor" or his concubine Leizu. The Hanfu was often made of silk, had a beautiful appearance and also signified the position of the individual. The use of Hanfu ended in the 17th century.
The term Kimono is a Japanese term meaning "thing to wear" and was inspired from the Chinese attire of the time. When tied around the waist, the Chinese kimono is fitted securely with a belt or sash. These belts or sashes will often feature tassels or other decorative adornments. Tassels will often be made in red or gold. Jade pieces are also often used as adornments on a Chinese kimono.
Originally the Chinese kimono was a gender-neutral garment, which means that it was worn equally by both men and women. As the styles evolved, the garment became more gender specific, with a man wearing pants under his kimono, while a woman would wear a skirt with hers. Women's kimonos began to feature ornately designed stitching and embroidery. The Chinese kimono was meant to flatter the diminutive shape of the woman.
The kimono, whether worn by a man or women, is a very stylized garment. In its most original form, there was a distinct code to be followed by the person wearing it. For example, the crossed collar was always to be worn from left over diagonally to the right. It was considered to be very bad luck to the wearer when the dress code was not strictly adhered to. The kimono itself was intended to only reach the knees of the person wearing it. This adherence to the exacting length standards indicated the high class of the person wearing it, as only those from the upper class would be able to afford a perfectly fitted garment.
Traditionally, buttons were not commonly used on the kimono. If a button was used, it would be hidden inside the garment, merely used to secure the garment so it would not come open once the sash or belt was added. The buttons used were small and usually fastened by a small loop of corded silk. This fastener was made so that it did not pull or pucker the visible part of the garment, as it was intended to appear a seamless and flawless piece of clothing.
The Chinese kimono was and continues to be a highly stylized garment. Once worn only by the Chinese upper class, now it is a common choice for people throughout the world. Today, it is more commonly worn by women than men.