japonisme: layers of meaning

17 March 2007

layers of meaning

i have heard, and read, many different explanations of the many layers worn under kimono. the first thing i was told, years ago, was that it was a way of establishing status.

more recently i have heard that each layer has very particular meaning, as does the particular design, color, etc. i do not exaggerate when i say i haven't the foggiest.

today i read that the many layers was a fashion in the heian era, and then was revived during the edo era. this latter is when utamaro kitagawa made this print.

correct me if i'm wrong, but it seems to me that the only times we in the west have had a particular reason for wearing many layers, other than when it was cold, or we were escaping a pogrom in the dead of night wearing as much as we could, is when we wore many layers of petticoats, and then surely for 'decency,' but yes, probably fashion as well.

and perhaps the jokesters and pundits made wisecracks about the petticoats as they did about the layers; i wouldn't be surprised.

some info on this can be found in a discussion about a woman of the court, but obviously this is not a courtier but rather a courtesan. you can see by her hair ornaments, even if you didn't know the image was called The courtesan Imose of the Yoshiwara House.

and for the regency fashion plates, see cathy decker's fascinating pages. and pray these clothes never come back in style.

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Blogger Florence said...

I've read about the ten layer kimonos of the heian era. A lady's taste and style was displayed in the layers of the sleave visible out of her travel wagon. As the court ladies were cloistered this was a form of acceptable and poetic display.

The patterns all have names, as do all the methods of making the different cloths. During the Heian era dyed and patterned figured silk was mainly used.(Figured silk is silk with a woven pattern.)

many of the layers would have been very thin, especially in summer.

It's a very interesting area. The Tale of Genji speaks of it quite a bit.


30 March, 2007 06:24  

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