Tuesday, 3 July 2012

BOOK: Shibusa - PART 3 - Chapter 8

SHIBUSA - Extracting Beauty
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Contextual Writings
Chapter 8: History and Techniques of The Kimono
by Makoto Mori (edited by Pip Dickens)

Extract (with kind permission of University of Huddersfield Press)

Hikari To Kage (Light & Shadow), oil on canvas, copyright Pip Dickens

History of the kimono

The original meaning of the word ‘kimono’ is ‘clothing’, although today it is often translated as ‘something to wear’. In modern-day Japan the term also often refers to traditional Japanese clothing in general. Although the history of Japanese clothing prior to the Nara period (710–94) is not known in great detail, during the Heian period (794–1185) there are records that describe the clothing of the day. Here we find evidence of the origin of the contemporary kimono in the kosode, which was originally worn by the aristocracy as an undergarment.

The kosode is a garment with a body, sleeves and a pair of collars that drape from both shoulders and cross over each other in front of the chest. Kosode means ‘small cuffs’; another type of clothing worn prior to the kosode had a larger cuff opening – as wide as the length of the sleeves – and was called osode (see Figures 8.1, 8.2 and 8.3). Clothes for the nobility during the Heian period had smaller cuffed openings in order to keep the body warm, so the kosode became a popular undergarment for the nobility from the end of the tenth century through to the beginning of the eleventh century.

The kosode became popular with aristocrats as an outer garment from the latter period of the Heian period to the beginning of the Kamakura period (1185–1333), and many nobles wore a kosode tailored from gorgeous cloth.  A samurai’s daily clothing (or formal public clothing) since the Heian period was a tube-shaped single costume called teboso, which was very similar in shape to the nobility’skosodeundergarment.

In the Kamakura period (1185–1333) samurai began to call the teboso garment kosode. Later, kimonos worn by the general public also began to be referred to as kosode because of the similarity of their shape. Ordinary people’s teboso had a white ground without a pattern and were worn as outer garments. Occasionally, plain or easy tie-dyeing was applied, but there were often bans on their decoration.

From the late Muromachi period (1336–1573) to the Momoyama period (1568–1603) the kosode developed further, with direct similarities to today’s kimonos. During this time Japan was often engaged in intensive warfare (both feudal and with the Mongols), which led to a general shortage of textiles and clothing. As a result, the simple kosode was adopted as the formal outerwear among samurai in the ascending class. Its smaller sleeves were also more practicable for physical movement. Thus the kosode became common throughout society, and not merely the exclusive garment of the nobility.

During the Heian period (794–1185), the narrow tube-shaped sleeves of the kosode became larger, although the cuff width remained almost the same. By the Momoyama period (1568–1603) the kosode shape had evolved into a configuration similar to the modern kimono. We also know that the word ‘kimono’ had become synonymous with kosode; for example, it is used in a report by the Portuguese missionary Joao Rodrigues, who came to Japan in around 1577. We can assume, therefore, that people began to use  the word ‘kimono’ to mean not only clothing in general, but to refer specifically to the kosode. As economic prosperity increased during the Muromachi and Momoyama eras, and through to the Edo period (1603–1868), female apparel became more decorative, thanks to the relatively peaceful and prosperous social conditions. Patterns on clothes became larger, and loose clothes with longer sleeves, or length, became popular (see Figure 8.4). Despite the Edo shogunate often prohibiting the wearing of this kind of clothing, the advent of bolder patterns and highly innovative yuzen techniques (hand-applied decoration of textiles, described below) heralded an explosion in kimono design. The Edo period represents the pinnacle of traditional kimono design (see Figures 8.5 and 8.6), and many modern designs are influenced by kimonos from this period.

[End of Extract] Makoto Mori's history of kimono also includes data of the kimono economy and also contemporary approaches to kimono design and production. pages 117-134 ]

More information about this book, and ordering information:
Book details:
Shibusa - Extracting Beauty
Edited by Monty Adkins and Pip Dickens
ISBN-13: 978-1-86218-101-4
Size: 280 x 210mm
Pages: 144
Number of images: 97
Images in colour: 89

published by University Huddersfield Press
Email enquiries to: university.press@hud.ac.uk
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