The colorful and stylized kimono - the national garment of Japan - expresses not only Japanese esthetic sensibilities but the soul of Japan as well. Largely discarded by men a century ago in the name of modernity and efficiency, kimono is still worn by many women on formal occasions and by some women, such as geisha, in their daily work. Elegantly anachronistic, kimono still retains a powerful hold on the Japanese heart and mind. In this beautifully written and lavishly illustrated book, Liza Dalby, author of the highly acclaimed Geisha, traces the history of kimono - its uses, aesthetics, and social meanings - to explore Japanese culture. Drawing on a variety of period texts (such as seventeenth-century kimono pattern books), Dalby creates vivid pictures of kimono and those who wore them through the centuries. She discusses the development of the kimono robe from its Chinese origins two thousand years ago to its assimilation as the national dress of Japan. Of particular note are the elaborate twelfth-century robes that reveal a uniquely Japanese sensibility mirrored in the literature and painting of the Heian period; the consumerist mentality and profusion of design occurring at the beginning of the Tokugawa era; the redefinition of kimono in the nineteenth century as Japanese had to deal seriously with the dress of the outlandish West; the interpretations and uses of kimono today; and the precise rules of kimono dressing and what they signify in terms of gender, age, class, and occasion. Dalby concludes with personal reflections on the subject of geisha and kimono. An engaging mix of fashion history and social anthropology, this lively book demonstrates in a new way how clothing fashions can illuminate our understanding of culture.