A short history of the kimono

‘Fashions have changed’, said the Japanese writer Ihara Saikaku in 1688. ‘Certain shrewd Kyoto people have started to lavish every manner of magnificence on men’s and women’s clothes. By then, everyone in Japan was wearing a kimono. But it was the new, eye-catching, sumptuous ones wrapped around a flourishing breed of fashionistas that Saikaku was talking about. How to show off your wealth and status in Edo-era Japan? Wear the latest kimono. This was the starting point for the V&A’s exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, which opened, then hurriedly closed just days before the lockdown. Those of us lucky enough to catch it can tell you it would’ve been the