The Edo period (1615–1868) was one of unprecedented political stability, economic growth, and urban expansion in Japan. Women's kimonos became very decorative from the middle of the Edo period in spite of bans on luxurious living imposed by the Tokugawa shogunate, the rulers of Japan at the time. The primary consumers of sumptuous kimono were the samurai, the ruling military class. Yet it was the merchant and artisan classes, or chōnin, who benefited most from the peace and prosperity of the period. However, the rigid hierarchy of Tokugawa Japan meant that they could not use their wealth to improve their social status. Instead they had to find different outlets for their money, such as buying beautiful clothes. It was this new market that stimulated the great flowering of the textile arts in the Edo period, what would be considered today as the “fashion industry”. The kimono developed into a highly expressive means of personal display, an important indicator of the rising affluence and aesthetic sensibility of the chōnin. During this period, woodblock-printed pattern books, called hinagatabon, played a crucial role in transmitting the most fashionable designs, just as fashion magazines and catalogues do today.
The modernization of the kimono happened during the Meiji period (1868–1912). In an attempt to place Japan on equal footing with Europe and America, Japanese officials began wearing Western-style clothing. In the late 1880s, even Empress Shōken promoted Western gowns to encourage women to adopt modern modes of dress. The kimono gradually became identified as Japan’s national dress, and at the same time became a highly sought-after fashion item in Europe and the United States, coinciding with the Japonisme craze that inspired many Western artists and designers, notably Vincent van Gogh and other Impressionists.
The Taishō period (1912–1926) saw great urban growth, particularly in Tokyo. The prosperity and optimism of the period is evident in the colorful and cheerful textile designs, such as a kimono ensemble with brilliant explosions of chrysanthemum blossoms. Although Western-style clothes gained popularity, the kimono continued to be every-day wear. The motifs were dramatically enlarged and new designs appeared, sometimes inspired by Western-style painting. In creating such boldly patterned kimonos, the designers benefited from new types of silk and innovative patterning techniques and the technological advances made during the late 19th century. The kimono became relatively inexpensive and these highly fashionable garments were made available to more people than ever before. These vibrant kimono styles remained popular until the 1950s.