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[Kimono Style] Expressions of Autumn

The kimono is excellent at capturing seasonal joys. In autumn, common motifs are dragonflies, the full moon, and symbols of the harvest, such as rice ears.



A kimono with a grape vine motif. (©Sheila Cliffe)

We are finally coming to the end of what must surely have been the longest and hottest summer on record, for Japan. The intense heat lasted until the middle of September, making us all long for cooler climes. Finally, the heatwave has broken, and with some rain and a series of cooler days, it looks like autumn (or fall) may finally be on its way. This is great news for kimono lovers. Even yukata felt too hot for many in the intense heat.

The official kimono calendar says that one can wear unlined kimono through September, but October marks the return to the lined version of the garment. I don’t adhere to this calendar too strictly. After all, it was laid down before global warming began to have such a noticeable effect. The most important thing is to be comfortable in your kimono.


Sensing the Season in Kimono

One of the aspects of kimono that I love is the expression of the seasons in the motifs. It is lovely to link what you wear with the seasons. I want to wear autumn colors as the evenings get shorter. Adding an autumn motif is also a beautiful thing to do.

Moon and maple leaves
Moon and gecko

September is dragonfly season and this kimono with dragonflies in front of the moon is perfect for this time. The autumn harvest moon is said to be the most beautiful of the year, and so it is celebrated in the kimono. Another popular version is rabbits playing under the moon, as is seen in this wonderful picture ikat, egasuri kimono by Suzuki Kiyoko. With each individual thread dyed by hand in plant dyes, it really is an incredible work.

Snail on a rice stem
Ikat kimono with rabbits playing under the moon

Motifs of the Harvest

Anything concerned with the harvest is suitable for the season and I love my old kimono with grape vines on it. I took the photograph under my three-year-old vine, which gave me my first harvest this year. 

If you drive into the countryside, you will see the harvesting of the rice. And I love this kimono with the ears of rice, bending under the weight of the rice grains and a small snail who is taking a ride on the stem. The addition of bugs gives a charm that makes the kimono more memorable.

Abstract patterns can also evoke autumn because of their warm colors, such as the meisen example here. The brown and green striped kimono is a comfortable casual kimono that also expresses the season.

Autumn in Obi

Obi also has autumn motifs. I love the moon and the maple tree and I wear it every year. A modern variation of the moon is done in silver on a black ground by Rumi Rock Studio. A small gecko and a rose both solid and in silhouette make her version unusual and contemporary. Gourds are also common at the end of summer and in early autumn.

This blue obi has a gourd in silhouette and other autumn images around it, maple and ginkgo leaves. The gold obi is unusual as it has a design of persimmons woven into it. Persimmons are just coming into season, so now is the perfect time to get out this obi.

Obi with a gourd with ginkgo leaves in the background. (©Sheila Cliffe)

Richess of Nature

Obi dome, brooches for obi can also have seasonal designs. The Kamakura bori, wood craft one is a ginkgo leaf and was originally a stand for chopsticks which I turned into an obi dome. The other one is a carved chrysanthemum which is a typical autumn flower.

The patterns in kimono remind us of the richness of nature around and these images of fruits and plants from autumn are one of the reasons why autumn is my favorite season. Look out for seasonal motifs in Japanese dishes, ornaments, and dresses. It really is a lot of fun.

Chopstick rest made into an obi dome
Obi dome with Chrysanthemum design


Author: Sheila Cliffe

Read other columns on kimono by the author.


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