japonisme: color

20 May 2007


i am finding that colors that are common in the west in women's clothing are frequently quite uncommon in japan. perhaps the symbology of colors is more important in some cultures than in others.

in japan, for example, a guest must not wear purple or white to a wedding. purple is the color which fades the most quickly, and white, in most eastern countries, is associated with death.

black, also, is often associated with death and mourning, black with red might be acceptable, but not black with white as this is a funeral combination. interesting that death and purity are combined in so many cultures.

in japan, the spirits are usually dressed in white, signifying the white burial kimono used in edo period funeral rituals. in shinto, white is a color of ritual purity, traditionally reserved for priests and the dead.1

you will see very few black or white kimono on women. they are somewhat more common for men. colors in the purple and blue ranges are also less common than those of the red-yellow-orange.

other than a wedding guest not wearing white (or perhaps black?) i don't know of much credence lent to the colors we wear in the west. do you?

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Blogger Princess Haiku said...

Hi Lotus,
Stopped for a visit. How interesting the color thing is. Since, I wear a lot of black or white there wouldn't be many places I could go. This made me think of Emily Dickensen and her "white clothes." I guess she was close to the spirit realm. I read an interesting post tonight at Celestine Musings, I thought you might like.

20 May, 2007 22:44  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

that picture ->

yeah, i wear mostly black or purple so i guess that leaves me out of all those invitations to japanese weddings i've had lately.

you want to know something really interesting in that internet kinda way? i went and checked out the posting you mention here, and... the woman she's talking about is the same woman pictured in the icon i switched to for this blog a week or two ago!

21 May, 2007 08:57  
Blogger Karla said...

Good question... and I wear a lot of black and purple, also white in the summer. I had heard that the Chinese connect white with death (think I had also heard this about the Japanese) and red is a highly positive color in China, but not having studied Asian cultures I'm not very familiar with their color symbolism beyond that.

I'm intrigued by the colors people in Prague wear versus in the US. Granted, part of it is just fashion and fashion isn't the same everywhere at once, but in the time I've been here it seems that orange is a major color year-round, whereas I pretty much reserve it for late summer and fall (say I, wearing an orange top in May... but a very summery May day). Also, any special colors for Christmas seem to be a very new thing... the wrapping paper used to come in colors like pink and yellow and the cheaper stuff still does.

21 May, 2007 13:20  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

that is so interesting. i never thought of the variations of "national costume" even among western countries.

a cousin from outside boston came to visit, and she was wearing a lime green like sweatshirt outfit, and i suddenly knew immediately that no one else in the entire city of berkeley owned anything in that fabric and color. she became aware of it while she was here, too, it was that obvious.

it's kind of sickening having ones own prejudices thrown right in ones face.

really interesting--thanks.

21 May, 2007 15:12  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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