Once an important symbolic device of the Japanese nationalist project, the kimono in contemporary use embodies time-honoured constructions of social status and ideal Japanese femininity. Although the Japanese word kimono simply means ‘a thing to wear,’ it would be a mistake indeed to assume that the national costume of Japan is as lacking in complexity as its literal translation. From its most ancient origins in China to its reinvention in the early twentieth century as a symbol of authentic Japanese culture, the kimono in all of its forms has been a concrete manifestation of the changing artistic, social, and political climate of a nation that prides itself on its uniqueness. Yuzen is the term used to describe this technique of hand-dyeing a bolt of silk before it is cut to make a kimono. It involves applying a resist medium to the fabric and then brushing natural and synthetic dyes into the spaces adjacent to the blocked off areas to achieve the desired freehand design. Kimono are soft T-shaped robes whose cut and form are such that they deliberately disregard what one would consider ‘natural’ bodylines.It is the traditional art of decorating silk textiles—not of sewing them together—that the Japanese hold in the highest regard. The interplay of colour, motif, and material present in a full kimono ensemble renders it a symbol of national pride, and an object of considerable aesthetic and social complexity. The kimono wields its vocabulary of form to convey both subtle and overt messages about the wearer.