The Evolution of Japanese Fashion: from Kimono to Streetwear

By Staff Writer
July 28, 2023
Japanese fashion has changed over time influenced by historical facts. In the Edo period (1600s to mid-1800s), kimonos were the main staple wear, and what people wore depended on their social class. While today kimonos are worn for special occasions, back then they were everyday wear and were often recycled, patched, and put to good use. In the latter part of the Edo era, the government banned people from wearing ostentatious kimonos, so people adopted kimonos with plain patterns like stripes and chequered patterns.
People wearing kimono in the Edo era
During the Meiji and Taisho era (mid-1800s to 1920s), the arrival of Western culture changed many aspects of Japanese society, including fashion. Kimonos were still worn, but people started wearing Western clothes, often for formal events. Some wore a mix of both, such as a button-up outfit under a kimono or Western handbags and umbrellas used with kimonos. Later during this period, girls started wearing hakama, a skirt-like garment worn over a kimono.

A Japanese woman wearing Western clothes in the Taisho era

Between the 1960s and 1970s, the Ivy League style became popular amongst young people known as miyuki-zoku as they would hang around Miyuki-dori in Ginza. Men wore blazers and cotton trousers, while women wore long skirts with ribbons in the back and head scarves. Both carried around large paper bags. In the 1970s, women adopted a fashion style called nyutora/hamatora that featured gold buckles, pleated skirts, blouses, silk scarves, and brand name items.

From the late 1980s to the early 2000s, loose socks became a fashion trend amongst high school girls. From the 1990s, gyaru/gals appeared on the fashion scene. They were girls with deep tans, bleached hair, miniskirts, and strong eye make-up who talked and acted in a particular way.

Today, with the rise of the internet and the media, Japanese fashion has become more eclectic. We can see a mix of old and new as well as East and West. Modern-day Japanese streetwear has also been influenced by anime and manga, visible in the cosplay and Lolita fashion styles. In addition, Japanese streetwear brands are leaving a mark on fashion across the globe.
Two women shopping in modern-day Japan
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