A revered symbol of Japanese culture often handed down through families over generations, the kimono (Japanese for “the thing worn”) can tell a unique story based on the chosen fabric and details of each one.

The garment originated in the 8th century during the Heian period, when a new tailoring technique called the straight-line method was developed. It allowed dressmakers to easily wrap fabric (usually silk or satin) around the person wearing it.

The traditional kimono soon became a marker of social class, and also distinguished married women from single women. While it is now usually worn on special occasions in Japan, the sakura (cherry blossom-patterned) kimono below is typical for a young woman, or maiko, to wear in the spring months when cherry trees flower.

You can read more about each part of the kimono — both the function and significance — below.