Japanese Historic Costume

by - July 21, 2012

Ever since I came across the book, The Art of Edo Japan by Christine Guth (which I still can't find in stores...), I have been fascinated by all sorts of old time Japanese culture and costume.

So I did some googling, as any curious person would.

The first website I happened upon was called the Costume Museum. There, I was entranced by all the different garments worn by different people for a stunningly large amount of various occasions. Some were for formal wear in the summer, some for courtiers, and even one for a high class prostitute. Absolutely amazing.

One thing I really admire about traditional Japanese clothing is how refined and sacred it is. I'm not really referring to religion here when I say that. It's more like the fabric's purpose stems beyond creating an aesthetically-pleasing palette...it protects the body. As if the human body was so sacred that it needed to be kept away from the human eye, unless you were worthy enough to see it.

Aside from that, I also enjoy looking at the variety of patterns that each robe or kimono bears. Each one emits a separate ...feeling... or aura? I especially love the whimsical looking ones.

Here are a few of my favorites from the website I mentioned above! (all from the Edo Period)

INFO: Court lady in formal dress: She is wearing a juni-hitoe or twelve layered garment. The dress is from the Momoyama era and her hair style is called sage-gami or lowering hair.

THOUGHTS: I'm not a fan of the green and red color combo reminiscent of a certain wintry holiday but I do love the sheer white fabric piece hanging in the back. I think the design is so beautiful.

INFO: Young unmarried woman at nobility in private: This is what a princess of the Imperial Court would wear if she attended a private ceremony with her family. Her dress is made of a silk crape cloth and features patterns of cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums.

THOUGHTS: I love this. The red is so classic and pure. The decoration of the flowers is like the icing to a cake, pardon the cliche. It has a way of looking proper but not so stiff as the ensemble before.

INFO: High class prostitute: The first thing I noticed was that her feet were bare. Apparently, this is according to ancient rites but a pair of geta or wooden sandals can be prepared if she plans on walking outside.

THOUGHTS: Another thing I noticed was the large obi in the front and its shape. I wonder why it's shaped like that. Maybe it's supposed to cover something? I also think the pattern of the garment is a little odd. At first, I thought it looked like roulette wheels but now it just looks like warped geometric futuristic pizzas. Does that make me sound stupid or what?

INFO: A beautiful girl performing the Komachi-odori dance: A man named Tokugawa Iemitsu went to Kyoto and because of this, a few young ladies decided to dance around the streets during Tanabata night to welcome his arrival. This is where the Komachi-odori comes from!

THOUGHTS: What I enjoy about this costume is the color palette and how summer/spring appropriate it is. The pattern also reminds me of starfishes. I get super happy just looking at this!

INFO: A bride: She is wearing a Shiromuku or pure white dress. This garment is often worn by brides of high class samurai or just well-off folk in general. The white color is traditional of weddings while the red peeking through represents happiness.

THOUGHTS: Not to ridicule the Japanese but the cap that she's wearing reminds me of a shower cap seen in present day. I think the covering of the hair is meant to follow the whole "sacred" business but I would've preferred some kind of veil over this limp white sack.

I hope I didn't bore you with all of this. I just wanted to share something interesting and something I find wicked fascinating. :)

Let me know what you think!

Until next,
{kiss kiss}

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  1. Why is that one a high class prostitute? Is it because of all the decor in her hair? I just wonder because I really like that one. And the red you mentioned for the princess one is gorgeous. It does look pure, even though in American culture, the color red symbolizes love, and lust. Very interesting post! <3


    1. I'm not an expert on this! I'm just going by what the website said but I would think that her excessive hair decor is to make her look...appealing? Or pretty or worth the money. As in, I don't think anyone would want to go to a prostitute that looked frumpy lol!

      I never even thought about it in comparison to American culture but that really is interesting!

      Thank you <3 I'm happy that you liked this post :)


  2. all the costumes are so intricate! it must've been tiring and exhausting prepping all that makeup and dress everyday ><. still cool though~ thanks for sharing. i love japanese culture.

    keep in touch :)

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    1. Thank you for reading the post and visiting my blog! I appreciate it :)

      It really must have been a chore because it seems like they wear so many layers of clothing. I can't even imagine lugging around that much fabric on my body from day til night.



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