Thursday, August 14, 2008


A lesson in Japanese fashion as Art.
I had a wonderful afternoon at the Suntory Museum of Art (not to be confused with the Suntory Museum!) The exhibition was Kosode: Haute Couture. Kimonos of the Edo Period. Originally a lower-class outer garment and an upper-class undergarment,Kosode literally meaning small sleeves, became the principal outer robe in the 16th century, evolving into the modern kimono. The name refers to the small size of the wrist openings which distinguish it from the oosode (large sleeves). Kosode designs for the court and samurai classes in the Edo period were often based on literary themes taken from famous Japanese and Chinese poems. Kosode are made with two main pieces joined at the back center so they hang from the shoulders to the ground in both the front and back. Two shorter pieces are sewn to form rectangular sleeves. Two pieces half the width and length of the main fabric add extra width when sewn to the front. Another piece of cloth diagonally crosses the front panels to form a collar.
Designs evolved as skills developed especially in types of dyeing, as well as Korean influences and edicts about how much embroidery was allowed on garments. This latter led to robes having design just at the hem area.
Unresist dyeing is just that, either total immersion in dye or painting dye on, in varying shades and tones.
Other dyeing techniques center on two basic types of resist dyeing--paste resist (which includes stencil dyeing), and shaped resist (shibori). A resist is just what the word implies, a substance or process that stops dye from dyeing the fabric in certain places. Paste resist may be divided into freehand resist applied by a squeeze cone and stencil dyeing.
"Shibori" is often translated "as tie-dye," but this is a fr cry from our tie dyeing of the 60"s!! The bag at left is Shibori, each white dot a tiny area picked up tied off into a pattern then dyed. One Kimono had a whole sweep of the fabric done this way in a wave from hip to left side of hem, then embroidery and painted on dye on the other part. Such labour intensive work!
Yuzen is a mixture of freehand paste resist and painting, and it also may include stencil and shibori work. The decorative flexibility possible with this combination of techniques led to fabulous designs. Design motifs are first outlined in paste resist, then the dyes are applied in such a way as to give subtle gradation of tone. Both delicacy and extravagance are characteristic of yuzen, and traditional motifs and decorative concepts are most common. Embroidery and gold leaf application often finish a yuzen composition.
In the display of gorgeous garments was a "fumigation box" made to burn incense, over which the kimono was draped after use,the kimono releasing a scent as the wearer drifted past!

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