Kimono History: The Meiji era

In 1868, after two-and-a-half centuries of isolation, the Tokugawa shogunate was replaced by a constitutional monarchy and Japan was reopened to the world under the Meiji Restoration, thus starting the Meiji period.

During this time large-scale industry methods and chemical dyeing techniques from the West began. In 1857 students of the Dutch language in Saga prefecture were permitted to dress in foreign-style clothes for the first time. In 1861 sailors were ordered to dress in Western uniforms, and army officers and common soldiers followed the next year.

In 1868 the sewing machine was introduced which helped speed the production of Western-style clothing. In 1871 the ordinary people were granted permission to wear this type of clothing. The majority of the people continued to wear traditional Japanese clothing, though.

One factor in altering the type of clothing worn was the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. During the war many Japanese women began working outside of their homes and this necessitated a different type of clothing than that typically worn indoors.

The pendulum swung again and during the late Meiji period there was a reaction to against dressing in Western fashions.

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