Japanese Fashion Designs - Part IV


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June 10, 2010

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By the Edo Period the Kimono, the building block for all traditional Japanese clothing fashions, had become an outer garment worn in a single layer, and was made of all types of fabric, depending on the status of the user, from plain, solid cotton to heavily embroidered multicolored silk made or highly decorated fabric.

Kosodes in early Edo period also introduced the different material, satin, instead of nerinuki (plain-weave silk fabric). A new category of kosode known as Keicho kosode, fashioned mainly from black, white, or red figured satin, was introduced. It was decorated with metallic leaf (surihaku) and it is also interesting to realize how it had first time in history, stunning three-dimensional decoration.

The Samurai used garments in conjunction with the Kimono. When dressing formally the hitatare gave way to the kamishimo (probably the most well known samurai dress) which consisted of a two-piece costume worn on top of their kosode. It resembled an apron. The upper piece was a stiffened fabric called kataginu, and was essentially a sleeveless jacket or vest with exaggerated shoulders symbolizing authority.

When traveling or in bad weather, a long sleeved coat, the haori could be worn. It is held closed with a braided cord tied in a decorative knot. These pieces were worn over the Hakama, which were wide, flowing trousers that has significant meaning applied to the design of the garment. The seven folds in these pants represent seven virtues of the Samurai - Yuki (courage), Jin (humility), Gi (justice), Rei (chivalry), Makoto (honesty), Chugi (loyalty), and Meiyo (prestige). Hakama are worn today on formal occasions, and are also used in the practice of the traditional martial arts such as Aikido, Kendo (fencing) and archery.

By law the working classes wore simpler garments based on the Kimono. The Happi, similar to a Kimono in construction and wear, was a short coat both genders wore. Men used it combined with either somewhat fitted pants and women used it with very loose pants and aprons. To close these jackets they used cording, sashes and Obi. Under this, for men, it was a loincloth, a piece of fabric wrapped around the groin, held on using cord as a belt or tied like a diaper. In cold weather, a Hanten (quilted jacket) was worn over the Kimono or Happi. In rainy weather all classes wore coats and hats made of straw.

The Obi, a sash or belt, required to hold together the Kimono, was ornamental and expressive of class, age or marital status. In the early part of the Edo Period, the Obi was tied either at the front or to the side. By the mid 1770s, the Obi was tied in the back due to fashion and ease of dealing with an ever increasing width. The fabrics used for Obi varied from simple leather cording to highly decorated bands of fabric.

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