Today, these magnificent Japanese robes have made their way into Western culture, fashion and silverscreen. Dating back to Japan's Heian period, which began in 794 AD, in today's Japanese culture, they are reserved for special occasions.

As was tradition, unmarried women would wear kimonos with floor-length sleeves called a furisode, whilst men would adorn the robes for such occasions as weddings, tea ceremonies and other formalities.

Today, professional sumo wrestlers often wear the kimono because tradition dictates that they are to wear Japanese dress whenever appearing in public.

From the 1920's onwards, kimonos were phased out in favour of Western clothes. Two incidents caused the kimono to fade in popularity: the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923 and the 1932 fire at Shirokiya's Nihonbashi store. After the earthquake, kimono wearers were targeted by criminals as they could not run in the constricting outfit. In the 1932 fire, so the story goes that women refused to jump from the burning building into safety nets in order to protect their modesty. However, some believe the role these events played in the decline of the kimono in everyday wear was fictitious.

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 15.57.36 A Japanese silk embroidered kimono, 20th Century
On sale at Gray's

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 15.57.46

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 15.57.53

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 15.58.05

Kimonos are traditionally made from hemp, linen, cotton and the preferred, silk. The beautiful patterns on the kimono often depict seasons and are worn accordingly.  Maple leafs for autumn, plum blossoms in winter, water scenes for summer and butterflies and cherry blossoms are popular for spring.


Cult classic Ladyblood Snow, a 1973 Japanese thriller directed by Toshiya Fujita and starring Meiko Kaji features one of the most infamous scenes with a kimono. Based on the manga series, the movie tells the story of Yuki, a woman who seeks vengeance upon three people following an attack on her family. In the infamous scene, Kaji's pure white kimono is splattered with brilliant red blood.


1941 movie Penny Serenade starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, saw Grant nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance. The movie is set in Japan, where Grant's character, a reporter, is sent to work.

Marlene Dietrich, known for her revolutionary fashion choices during the 1930's Marlene Dietrich, known for her revolutionary fashion choices during the 1930's

Painted Skin Zhou Xun in Painted Skin, 2008


A chameleon of fashion, Bowie was known for his eccentric stage wear as much as he was remembered for his music. In the 1970's, during Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane eras, the star had a love affair with Japanese style. During this time, the musician was dressed by Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto. Yamamoto  described Bowie's look as "beyond nationalities, beyond gender."

image-5 9830e8e92d580cc79ab14a760448cd8f

threegeishas Scene from Memoirs of a Geisha, 2006

Cameron Diaz in Gangs of New York Cameron Diaz in Gangs of New York, 2002

Martin Scorsese's epic Gangs of New York explored the effect immigration was having on America during the mid 1800's. Perhaps Diaz's kimono-inspired costume in the movie was a nod to the melting pot New York was fast becoming.


''Paint me like one of your french girls-'' who can forget that scene from James Cameron's 1997 tearjerker Titanic. Perhaps another nod to an increase in globalisation, Winslet's character of Rose adorns a stunning floor length kimono, which she does not wear for long...

Dita von Teese Dita Von Teese

7cc8ac544741417bb181970518eb5e26 Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, 2003

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith

Not forgetting famous male kimono-wearers. It's no coincidence that the Jedi dress in Lucas' Star Wars movie franchise echoes the samurais of Japan. Lucas was inspired by Akira Kurosawa's 1956 movie Seven Samurai. Costume designers for the film were influenced by the robes of Tibet, China and Japan's Buddhist monks, who, like the Jedi, are a brotherhood of men who are not to marry, serving a higher purpose instead.

The blue kimono featured in this article will be part of Gray's sale on December 14, which also features a selection of Asian style items and furniture, Chinese arm chairs, display stands, lacquered boxes and Japanese glass. Viewings will be held from December 8-13. Check out the full sale on Barnebys here.