Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Basic Kimono Pattern[1]
Wearable Art

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

The following link leads to a post that features The Kimono and Japanese Textile Design.

In 1989 I spent some three months living in Japan, stationed mainly at Okazaki - a small town of ca. 350,000 people, not far from Nagoya.

Okazaki Park.

In the last four weeks of my stay, my husband and I criss-crossed all over the country. In that latter sojourn, I accompanied him as he gave a series of lectures throughout Japan (e.g. Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya, Osaka, Takayama, Himje etc.)

While he was ensconced within the university structures, I was free to roam and learn. I had brief lessons on calligraphy, the art of the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, shibori, origami, haiku etc. We were entertained, wined and dined. My love of cooked Japanese food was heightened, but my appetite for quivering raw fish - to slice and dine on - definitely waned during my stay there.

Country Japanese Dishes (“Yum Yum”).

Of course in the process of living and touring, I bought clothes and clothes and then more clothes - amongst a large selection of porcelain, pottery, rice and miso bowls and Saki cups. Just to prove that my shopping spree, in his absence, was not totally selfish, I did buy him a yukata (unlined kimono) and some sandals. To balance that unselfish act, I then bought myself another kimono - made in the 1890s!

This post on kimonos creates a flood of wonderful memories for me.

A Brief History Of The Kimono
It has been often said that Japan is a culture in which things “become”. There is an evolutionary aspect that typifies a slow pace of an on-going development that is nevertheless steadfast with respect to progress, but in which haste is shunned and mastery is lauded. Accidental and opportunistic discovery always makes way for an evolutionary thought process.

The earliest fragments of Japanese textiles dates from the Asuka period (552-646 AD). From studying fragments of pottery designs and techniques suggests that two very distinct types of Neolithic cultures were evident: the prehistoric Jomon period lasted several thousand years, ending in the third century BC; near the end of the Neolithic age, ushered in the Yayoi period - an agrarian era. It is clear that the clothes of the hunters and gathers (Jomon) would be vastly different to the clothes needed in an agrarian society (Yayoi), although little is known of the dress in each of these periods.

The formation of the Japanese state took place from 250 to 552 AD (known as Yamato). Best-known tomb of this era was that of Emperor Nintoku (died ca. 399 AD). The sculptures known as haniwa showed male and female dress of this period. Men are often shown wearing loose trousers and women appear to have on a long pleat skirt that came to be known as a mo.

Courtesy of reference [1].

Missions were sent to China during the Asuka period (552-646 AD) - a period during which Japan aped much of what was occurring in China (e.g. Buddhism, Confucianism). Furthermore, even Nara, which became Japan’s capital in 710 AD, modeled itself on the Chinese capital of Ch’ang-an. Hence, it is not surprising to find that Japanese royalty in that period modeled itself on Chinese dress. For example, Court women wore Chinese styled dresses (e.g. a short upper garment and a long flowing skirt), whereas the common women wore kimono-like upper garments, which were overlapped from right to left, and that was usually worn with a short undergarment and a skirt.

Japanese woman’s court robe inspired by Chinese dress.
Courtesy of reference[1].

In 794 AD the Court moved from Nara to Kyoto. Life at the Heian court was refined and sophisticated. For the many ceremonial occasions, women of the Heian court wore unlined kimono, taking great care to match and contrast the colors of each layer, which were visible at the neck, sleeve ends and lower skirt. This was called juni-hitoe meaning twelve layers, but the actual number of layers may have been less or more – even as much as twenty layers weighing ca. 12 kilograms. Worn underneath were an under-kimono and a hakama.

Courtesy of reference [1].

The Heian period ended with the rise of the military families. In 1185 AD, the Minamoto family defeated their rival Taira family, and used Kamakura as the seat of the Minamoto shogunate, leaving the Imperial Court in Kyoto. The Kyoto lavish kimonos were impractical for the men and women of the samurai class. The women wore over the hakama, what had been an undergarment, the kosode (which means “small sleeve”) since the traditional large open sleeve was made smaller by being partially sewn up. From this development can be seen the beginning of the modern kimono.

Courtesy of reference [1].

Women of the samurai class would not display their faces in public. For travelling, they would wear a veil or an elaborate headdress known as ichime-gasa because of its resemblance to an umbrella (kasa).

Courtesy of reference [1].

In 1338, the Ashikaga shogunate established its headquarters in Kyoto, which became known as the Muromachi period. The kosode was adopted as the standard dress for women, regardless of class. For formal wear, there was the longer outer robe known as uchikake. In summer, this robe was slipped off the shoulders, tied to the waist and allowed to drape to the floor. Worn with a long trailing hakama this was referred to as koshi-maki style.

Courtesy of reference[1].

With the rise of warriors and wealthy landowners to positions of authority, traditional forms and conventions changed. Women of all classes continued to wear the kosode in public. The wives of the powerful wore richer designed and more elaborate looking kimonos. On ceremonial occasions these women would carry a small purse called a hakoseko tucked between the front kimono panels, just above their breast. The ceremonial kosode and uchikake (ceremonial winter robe – see below) from this period is today the most formal bridal attire.

Courtesy of reference[1].

In 1603 Tokugawa Ieyasu gained control of the whole country and made Tokyo his capital. In the Tokugawa shognate or Edo period (1603-1868) the design of women's clothes changed significantly. The fashion leader of the time (e.g. courtesans, entertainers and Kabuki actors) took to wearing increasingly more elaborate and colorful kosode kimonos. In order not to detract from the beauty of the kimono itself, the obi (sash) of the early Edo period was made of simple braided cords (see below).

Courtesy of reference[1].

While the samurai women continued to dress in a simple and restrained kimono, women outside this class, influenced by the fashion conscious leading actors and courtesans, wore furisode - a kimono with large loosely tied obi in the darari-musubi style (see below). The furisode is characterized by very long and full sleeves. The word is composed from furi which means waving and sode which means sleeve. Waving the sleeve to a man was seen as being very sensual. Needless to say, the furisode kimono was worn only by unmarried women.

Courtesy of reference[1].

Later in this period blurring occurred between the distinction of classes and so all women started to wear similar style clothing. The uchikake kimono with its elaborate patterns was no longer the domain of women of nobility. Below is a drawing of a woman in the uchikake robe, worn over a kosode, with a small hakoseko purse inserted between the front panels at the collar.

Uchikake and hakoseko.
Courtesy of reference[1].

In 1868 the Emperor Meiji moved from Kyoto to Tokyo, instituting a constitutional monarchy and so ending the isolation of the thrown from the seat of power. During the Meiji period (1868-1912) the country was flooded with Western ideas, including ideas about fashion. Hence, styles of Western dress, especially long dresses, became fashionable.

Courtesy of reference[1].

The free flowing kimono of the past, ceased to be worn by women in this period. Rather, they were tucked in at the waist in accordance with a person’s height. The hems were raised and the sleeves were made shorter. In a style that has not survived, women could be seen wearing the kimono with a hakama and high shoes (see below).

Courtesy of reference[1].

The obi was also made shorter and their bows much simpler. The most popular bow being taiko musubi (see image below) - its name being derived from an arched drum shape (Taiko-bashi) at the Tenjin Shrine in Kameido, Tokyo. This bow was created - in the late Edo period – by Fukagawa geisha, especially for the ceremony that commemorated the opening of the bridge. There are numerous variations of the taiko musubi. It is still very popular and so symbolizes the modern obi bows.

Courtesy of reference[1].

The Design of the Kimono
Japan's climate is varied. It has hot humid summers and cold raining winters. Its houses are built to accommodate natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes) and to be livable throughout the year. Hence, its houses and apartments are built to be flexible as well as to harmonize with the climate and with its surrounds, if possible.

Japanese dress must also harmonize with these elements, but more importantly with its cultural norms. The Japanese are intensely nationalistic, but in being so, their culture sits well above this barrier in that it values love, beauty and courtesy - the latter being the cornerstone to foster harmony amongst its peoples.

From prehistoric times, Japanese dress has attempted to develop beauty via simplicity: its national dress is essentially two pieces of cloth, sewn together back and front and held together via a cord or sash tied at the waist. This was further simplified to become a single garment with wide sleeves, of ample length and size, in order to make it comfortable for summer wear, but to be further layered for warmth in the winter months. This latter design, developed into the kimono.

All kimonos have the same shape and are of standard size that can be worn by anyone – men or women or children – regardless of height or weight. This gives the kimono an efficiency and a versatility not found in most clothes.

Courtesy of reference[1].

When kimono clothes are being woven or cut or sewn, they are always perfectly straight and flat, and the finished garment could be taken apart and re-sewn into its original form. This was done whenever the kimono was cleaned.

Identified parts of the front of a kimono.
Courtesy of reference[1].

This simplicity of form makes it possible for a kimono to be folded in a flat rectangular shape for storage.

Identified Parts Of The Back Of A Kimono.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Standard kimono size.
Courtesy of reference[1].

A male’s kimono is typically less elaborate, less colorful and less varied compared with that of a female’s. With respect to the latter, a multitude of variations can be achieved via: (i) types of textiles employed; (ii) textile designs; (iii) method of construction (hand-made or machine-made); (iv) methods of developing designs (e.g. weaving, hand-painting, stencil dyeing, tie-dyeing, embroidery or a combination of techniques etc.)

Next week's post will be a far a more colorful post highlighting some of the textile designs of kimonos.

[1] N. Yamanaka, The Book Of Kimono, Kodansha International, Tokyo (1982).

1 comment:

Flora Fascinata said...

Dear Marie
Love, beauty and I know why I just adore Japanese culture. I am so thrilled to read this detailed writing of yours. And, once again with my students I have one who researching this topic and endeavouring to make herself a kimono! Thank you so much, again. I cannot wait to pop this up via the data projector and show the class. You and Art Quill are such a find. Xx