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The word "kosode" literally means "small sleeve" in Japanese, and refers to a robe with small sleeve openings, differentiating it from the wide, open fronted sleeved outergarments worn by both men and women of the court during the Heian period (794-1172 CE). Originally a plain white undergarment, the kosode became more visible during the Kamakura period (1172-1333 CE) and began making the transition to outerwear, particularly for women. During the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912), as Japan began to adopt Western fashion, the term kimono ("thing to wear") came into common usage as a way to differentiate between Western and Japanese dress.

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