Japanese Fashion Designs - Part VI

June 10, 2010

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In 894 Japan broke off all diplomatic relations with China, due to political turmoil at the end of the Tang Dynasty in this nation. A new distinctive Japanese culture began to sprout, and the style of dress fashions became more Japanese in nature. This can be thought of as Japan's adolescence - a period in which Japan "grew up," discovered itself, and became more than just a reflection of China.

Times came when the Capital of Peace and Tranquility (Heian-kyo) did not remain the same forever. In the late 12th century battles raged between provincial lords and the Heian courtiers. No longer being the center of beauty and refinement, the country began to be under a military regime. Since the 12th through the 19th centuries Japan was nominally still ruled by the Emperor in Heian-kyo, but in fact the government was dominated by the powerful regional families (daimyo) and the military rule of warlords (shogun).

This was the "feudal" period of Japanese history. This time is usually divided into periods following the reigning family of the shogun.

Kamakura Period (1185?-1333)

Kenmu Restoration (1333-1336)

Muromachi Period (1336-1573)

Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1603)

During these "feudal" times, the aristocratic culture of the Heian period decayed and the Samurai gained power. Clothes fashion designs were modified to be simpler and easier to move around in to fit the more active lifestyle of the Samurai.

In the Kamakura period with the rising influence of the military class and warriors, people had no patience or need for elaborate kimono. Austerity was the hallmark fashion of the Kamakura Period and practicality prevailed. Instead of the many layered silk garments, Kamakura ladies wore "underwear." Actually, it is said that the kimono which is the native costume worn by the Japanese was the clothing used as a juni-hitoe "undergarment" by the aristocrats in the early Heian Period. Men and women in court had used it as a first layer of cloth. Kosode became also cloth of the samurai.

White kosode and red hakama, which on the Heian noblewoman was rarely seen, became the utilitarian garb of the new order. The kosode is much like the kimono we think of today. There is strong significance in the names of the main garment - ko-sode means small sleeve as opposed to hiro-sode: wide sleeve or o-sode: big sleeve. The cult of beauty was truly gone.

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