Japanese Fashion Designs - Part II


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June 10, 2010

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As clothing leaves no fossils it is not well documented when humans began wearing clothes, so that the most we have are suppositions about this matter. Clothing made of fibers or animal skins are organic and perishable, and so they are not commonly preserved in prehistoric sites. Then fashion designs origins are unknown.

Nevertheless, over the years, various fibers have been excavated from a number of sites that belonged to Jomon culture. After the 1960s Archaeologists began to uncover more and more fragments of textiles as well as Jomon potsherds pressed with textile patterns. These finds made scientists realize the Jomon people were producing textiles from plant fibers. They now know that the oldest fabric product found in Japan is a rope made of hemp, dating back 21,000 years to the beginning of the Jomon Period, excavated from the Torihama Shell Mound in Mikata-cho, Fukui prefecture. From the same site, a woven artifact made of ramie (Boehmeria tricuspis), a vegetable fiber, was also discovered. Bone needles have also been found. (perhaps they were used by the first fashion designers, who knows?)

Clothing was also made from the fibers of the hemp plant, since around 7,000 years ago. It's thought that these ancient "fashion designs" were loosely fastened and that there was no distinction between male and female clothing. Remains of hemp fibers have been found in sites in Kyushu Island.

The Jomon people also wore deer skin jackets or tunics and waistcloths with thread-twisted braid trimmings. The line-carved female figurine from Iwakage site appears to be wearing waistbraids and waistcloth.

They also made clay figures and vessels decorated with patterns of a growing sophistication made by impressing the wet clay with braided or unbraided cord and sticks. These clay figurines often give us good clues as to the fashion designs of the time. Many Jomon clay figurines appear to be wearing waist-clothes, jackets and elaborate masks.

The culture of the Jomon Period was still spreading and developing across the rest of Japan when a new culture fashion that we now call Yayoi began in Kyushu. This new culture which Period lasted from about 400 or 300 BC to 250 AD featured several key technological advances marking the influx of new practices such as weaving, rice farming, shamanism, iron and bronze-making brought from Korea or China.

During the Yayoi period, numerous small kingdoms existed in Japan. Ancient Chinese texts relate that the strongest of these kingdoms was Yamataikoku or Yamatai).

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