Ancient Japanese clothing is often mistaken as the Kimono. The word kimono simply means thing to wear and it is a modern term coined when Japan was pressurized to name a national costume. Though what is call a Kimono today is somewhat similar the clothing of ancient Japan. The long, narrow garment worn now tied with an Obi, or a Sash around the waist, was a look achieved around the Edo period (17th to 19th century).
Japan was a collection of loosely tied clans and while Japan aspired to become an Empire, it had increased trade with China. With the advent of trade, came Chinese dress materials and style of clothing. Ti will hence be safe to assume that ancient Japanese clothing was largely influenced by ancient Chinese clothing. By 718, the clothing codes had restrictions entirely influenced by china. The influence of china on ancient Japan was no less than a military siege! While wearing a robe, the Chinese considered wearing a robe form right to left barbaric since it was easy for right handed people. The code in Japan specified that robes had to be worn right over left and it became a convention of Kimono wearing in Japan ever since.
Chinese ancient clothing has been setting trends for centuries. Rules of dressing were followed religiously and most dress patterns and designs were influenced by religion. Ancient Chinese clothing was in warm tones with a lot of embroidery and silk sashes used to tie the robes instead of buttons. During the Zhou Dynasty, dragon robes were seen mostly worn by emperors. These were heavily embroidered with nine yellow dragons and five cloud patterns. These were considered auspicious for the wearer and had a symbolic meaning. The nine and five combinations were calculated deliberately used while designing; this symbolized the dignity of the throne. Dragons were embroidered on the front and back of the robes, also the knee areas and even shoulders.
Ancient Chinese clothing for women was the Cheongsam which was a one piece suit consisting of a high neck with a closed collar and short or medium sleeves. The fitted waist and slits on the sides complimented womens figures well. The tunic suit dominated ancient Chinese clothing, known as the Zhongshan suit, had a turned down collar and 4 pockets. Animal print embroidery patches were used during the Ming and Qing dynasty. Beautiful in appearance and very intricate, these embroideries also symbolized the ranks of officers who wore them.
Both the ancient Chinese clothing and ancient Japanese clothing evolved over the centuries and during different dynasties ruled. The major differences in the designs and embroideries were that while the ancient Chinese clothing symbolized religion and auspicious symbolism; the ancient Japanese clothing was more colorful and used floral patterns without any symbolic meanings. Both the clothing styles however distinguished in social ranking, age, sex and other aspects. Clothes of a wearer explained their social status or their marital status where women were concerned.