layers of meaning
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.