on 3 July 2001
...I have to be honest I bought this book because Liza Dalby wrote the introduction and because Arthur Golden was quoted saying it was a good book. Having read the books by Liza Dalby and Arthur Golden I wanted to see some pictures of kimono and geisha that were more than just pretty pictures. And that's exactly what this book does, it gives you 120 beautiful pictures and a lot of information.
The book is divided into sections: 1. The use of kimono in festivals, 2. Kimono you see in the street, 3. Production (weaving,spinning, dyeing), 4. The commercial side of kimono (fitting, kimono shops), 5. Maiko and Geisha (including some wonderful pictures made at the Nyokoba Geisha Training school in Kyoto), 6. Men wearing kimono (storytellers, sumo referees, tea ushers, monks) 7. Kabuki (this is my favorite. You see a kabuki player back stage getting dressed for a female role) 8. Work (the kimono as a uniform) 9. Footwear (an interesting detail) Apart from the beautiful pictures this book has an informative introduction by Liza Dalby and with each picture you get a caption that gives you some little piece of insight that changes the way you look at the picture. Having been to Japan this book to me is a souvenir of some of the things I've seen, the people wearing kimono in the street, the festivals. But it also showed me some things I could never see (the behind the stage kabuki pictures and the manufacturing of the kimono). If you have been to Japan you too will recognize some of these pictures. If you have not been to Japan this book gives you a great impression of what to expect (kimono wise that is). Last but not least the book has a beautiful design, it's a great coffee table book.
on 14 April 2003
As someone who wears kimono almost everyday, I found the book informative and fascinating. The research concerning the history of Kimono developement is absolutely fantastic.
As always, she is most brilliant when dealing with Japanese history rather than modern Japan.
When she starts talking about "modern Japanese society", it often sounds extremely 1970-80s and what she calls "Japanese mentality" to me looks like the characteristics of a generation or two above.
All in all, I find them boring and having no resemblance to the reality as I know it in Japan.
(If you can imagine yourself meeting a Japanese who had been to the UK in 1970s and firmly believed some of the hippies' styles as "essentially British", you would see the slight dizziness I felt in reading some of her comments.)
As for the kimono in our life, although she makes a point that it has more or less completely dissappeared, they are making a new come back. Observations of a foreign culture is a difficult thing. Just like milk, they have sell-by date and once it's gone, they start smelling rather bad.
But perhaps I should not be too harsh on those points.
After all, the book itself was first published quite some time ago. And, as I have already stated at the beginning, the research itself is absolutely brilliantly done.
on 9 January 2002
'Kimono: Fashioning Culture' is much more than the story of a single garment. A dynamic blend of fashion, social history and anthropology, the book traces the evolution of Japanese self-identity through the kimono. Dalby offers a carefully researched history of kimono, mouth-watering excerpts from a seventeenth-century Japanese fashion magazine, interviews with modern kimono wearers, and illustrations that are informative rather than blandly pretty.
Far from being a stable, tradition-bound political and cultural symbol, the kimono has passed in and out of fashion, changing to suit its times and wearers. Dalby deftly dissects the subtle differences-the length of a sleeve, the placement of a collar-that proclaim a woman's age, class, marital status, and personal taste.
Dalby writes about the look and feel of kimono with the authority of personal experience; while researching her doctoral dissertation in a geisha community in Kyoto (the basis of her previous book, Geisha), she wore kimono every day. Indeed, geisha are the only women who still wear kimono on a daily basis, and Dalby points out that the fates of geisha and kimono are intertwined: 'Whether or not a Japanese has ever met a geisha or used her specialized service (and most have not), a feeling remains that Japan would be losing something unique and precious by allowing geisha to disappear. Kimono has a similar hold on the Japanese imagination.' After reading Dalby's insightful account, it is easy to see why.
on 8 October 2009
This is an excellent book - recommended for costume, art, literary and social historians, as well as those interested in modern and older Japanese society. As a small-time kimono collector, dabbler in Japanese literature, and historian of early modern European art, I found a huge amount to stimulate and inform me.
The book is a series of linked essays on the structure and history of kimono, its adaptation under the impact of the introduction of Western dress in the Meiji era, the significance of kimono as worn today, and the way in which just one kind has come to be accepted not only as the prime kimono type, but a symbol of Japanese-ness. There are also fascinating chapters on the significance of colours in costume in Heian Japan - a system of conventions surely unique in world history in its elaboration - on costume books from the 17th C, and on the author's own experience in working with geishas. The book is beautifully and copiously illustrated with line woodcut prints. The writing is vigorous and lively, though the American English is sometimes less than intelligible.
At times I felt this was a brilliant book, but ended with some quibbles. While the author displays an admirable range of skills, it sometimes seemed to fall between several stools - neither a fully coherent history of kimono styles(what about developments in the Taisho era?), nor anthropology supported by enough evidence. As another blogger has said, the remarks on modern Japan may be out of date, and the author's desire to push her favourite ideas sometimes jarred. But altogether. most impressive.
on 29 June 2012
This was the first book I've read on the subject of kimonos and I'm glad I picked it up. It is very well written and researched: Dalby makes reference to a variety of sources (including woodcuts and literature) which gives a nice flavour of the interaction between culture and kimono. The book is also sprinkled with interesting socio-historical information in general and anecdotes.
My only complaint would be that at times I struggled a little because there was just so much information on cuts, patterns and colours! Sometimes I found this a little hard to 'picture' (would have liked more of those) so at times I got a little bored and skipped sections. However I imagine that this would be very useful if you do want/need a book that is really detailed. If you're just reading it out of personal interest (like me) you may well find this makes the book 'lag' a bit but then again the detail of how to wear a kimono was/is obviously very important so Dalby would have been remiss if she omitted it. I also didn't agree with some of Dalby's opinions/evaluations but that's just me.
Overall it's a very interesting read and I thoroughly recommend it. I now want to read her other books 'Geisha' and 'The Tales of Murasaki'!
on 13 March 2010
I am still reading 'Kimono' after just finishing Liza Dalby's 'Gueisha', and I am finding it extremely interesting and very well written. She manages to do a historical and anthropological approach in the most engaging way. Her personal history as a gueisha in the late 70s is fascinating and the elements she collected through her experience contribute in a brilliant way to her study of kimono.
on 3 March 2014
Nice, detailed book about the beautiful and complicated language of kimono. It gives a good overview of the history of kimono-wear, how it developed during many centuries and it gives detailed instructions how to wear kimono today. Great for enthusiasts and beginners as well.
on 4 April 2002
If you've read 'Geisha' by Liza Dalby, you'll find this a wonderful exploration of one important aspect and reflection of Japanese, and Geisha culture. The book takes a journey through the history and social meaning of kimono.
on 11 December 2011
i bought this book for a friend who is doing artwork in stitch based on kimonos and i am sure she will be delighted with it
on 13 December 2015
very nice book i really like it very usefly