japonisme: The custom of wearing concealed beauty

27 October 2007

The custom of wearing concealed beauty

Japanese Embroidery is an ancient and beautiful craft. To master it requires years of study and practice. 1

It can be said that one of the characteristics of Japanese antiques and craftworks is the particularity about little things and the refined passion towards concealed beauty. The appreciation of these two points enables us to step forward into the deep sea of Japanese culture.

In this column, we would like to introduce the 'gaku-ura' (the picture on the inner lining of kimonos), which we believe is the ultimate form of Japanese obsession towards concealed beauty.
We hope our gaku-ura collectors, people who heard this term for the first time or readers who have not been interested in kimono before will find the contents interesting and helpful for your next shopping at chuu.com.

The prohibition on sumptuous clothes and the emergence of Edo dandies

The relatively peaceful Edo period (1600-1868) under the reign of Tokugawa shogunate gave rise to a unique merchant culture centered around large cities. The well off merchants began to spend money and time on leisure and cultural pursuit, even on their everyday clothes and tools. As a natural consequence, expensive sumptuous clothes prevailed.

However, the Tokugawa shogunate feared this rising merchant power and issued an edict that prohibited the wearing of rich clothes several times during the Edo period. These edicts were very detailed. For example, highly embroidered or entirely tie-dyed kimonos were banned, and later the restriction went on to even gorgeous festival dolls and elaborate hair accessories.

It is not hard to imagine that the craftsmen who made these pieces lost a great deal, but the regulations did work in a good way in a sense that it stimulated everybody's fashion consciousness. People's interest in outwards beauty shifted to the concealed aspects, beautifying areas that could not be seen from the outside. 2

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Blogger jgodsey said...


27 October, 2007 20:38  
Blogger lotusgreen said...


27 October, 2007 21:28  
Blogger harlequinpan said...

These are really perfect comparison !
I am sorry! because of heavy working and poor health, i have less comment recently, but i always learn a lot from here, thank you!

28 October, 2007 02:45  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

hp, i'm really sorry to learn of your health concerns. i hope you are feeling good soon. and thank you so much for your comment.

28 October, 2007 04:22  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

Dear Lotus,
I do like this concept, "Concealed beauty." One can wrap one's imagination around that concept.

28 October, 2007 20:52  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks so much for saying that, princess--it made me take the thought in and consider it more fully

28 October, 2007 21:39  

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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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