Kimono

Kimono

All but one kimono are in The John C. Weber Collection.

 The Metropolitan Museum, NY on view until February, 2023

 

 

 

 

Juichimen Kannon,

the Bhodisattva of Compassion with Eleven Heads (Avalokiteshvara), mid- to late-14th century, wood with lacquer, gold leaf and metal decoration; Japan.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

A quasi-kimono shape was introduced from China almost 2000 years ago.  The national dress of Japan was formalized bit by bit for exact shape and accoutrements over several hundred years.

It has kept its shape for the last 1000 years approximately.

 

 

 

 

 

If the shape of this garment has been one of the continuities of Japanese culture, and the manner of its wearing strictly encoded,

 

its textiles – native weaves of silk, cotton, bast fibers and imported wool – 

and the kimono’s surface embellishment

have written a history of the country’s socio-political structures and mores; and of the evolution of a people’s aesthetic tastes.

 

 

 

Over-robe with willow and poem;  crepe silk with paste-resist dyeing, stencil dyed dots, hand-painted details, silk embroidery, and couched gold thread. 

The weather clears, breezes comb the hair of the young willows;

The ice is melting, wavelets wash the whiskers of the old bog moss.

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2022

 

 

The kimono marks the rites of passage of a life. It has been used to display a person’s status or occupation.  It celebrates the calendar.

 

 

Battle surcoat with fan; wool. First half 17th century. 

Private loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2022

Wool was imported from the Netherlands and Portugal into Japan in the 17th century, usually dyed red from cochineal.  The signal fan is from a Chinese design.

Battle fans were used on the battle ground for giving signals.  They were believed have innate spiritual powers; to summon the gods and also to bring good luck. 

 

 

The Met’s guidance on kimono textiles is this: 

 

Silk was (is) available only to the affluent.  Cotton was grown from the 15th C in warm parts of the country but was too pricey for farmers elsewhere until approximately 1750.

 

In colder parts of the country, cloth was made from hemp, ramie, mulberry, wisteria and other bast fibers.  Their production was long and difficult.

 

 

 

 

 

A second-hand clothing trade began to flourish in the late 17th century following the opening of a commercial shipping route between north and central Japan.  Used silk and worn cotton kimonos were transported all over. 

 

 

Farmer’s jacket; plain weave cotton scraps with mountain wisteria fiber. 2nd quarter of 20th C. 

Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

A ‘sakiori’ textile:  a farmer’s jacket.

Strips of  recycled cotton used as wefts woven together with warps of mountain wisteria on a backstrap loom. The weaver would have used a heavy batten to force the thick warp into place.

 

 

The reuse of this material, often overdyed with indigo, created the ‘sakiori’ (torn strips of cotton woven with bast fiber warps)

and ‘sashiko’ (the stitching of cotton yarns onto bast-fiber or cotton cloth):

made fairly warm workers’ clothing which today are collected for the beauty and skill of their making. 

 

 

These kimonos and vests are of a staggering beauty: 

the visible ties which are the expression of the many invisible ones which have bound a nation to its people.

 

 

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Summer robe with cormorant fishing scene; thin paste silk with paste-resist dyeing, stencil dyed dots, hand-painted details, silk embroidery, and couched gold thread. Late 18th, early 19th century.

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2022

 

 

 

 

Noh costume with orchids and interlinked circles; plain weave silk with gold- and silver-leaf application, and silk embroidery.  18th century.

  Private loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2022.

 

 

 

 

this photo from the Met’s website

9-panel Buddhist monk’s vestment with chrysanthemums and stylized flowers. Reused fragments. Materials TBD.

Loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY by a private collector

 

 

 

 

Noh costumer with dharma wheels and clouds, 18th C.;  twill-weave silk with silk supplementary weft patterning. 

On loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

 

 

 

 

Summer robe with court carriages and waterside scenes; gauze weave silk with stencil-paste resist dyeing, stencil dyed dots, hand-painted details, silk embroidery and couched gold thread.  Early 19th C. 

Private loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2022

 

 

 

 

Firefighter’s ensemble for Samurai woman, wool with satin-weave silk applique and silk- and gold-thread embroidery,  First half 19th century. 

Private loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022.

 

 

 

 

Jacket with gourd vines, plain weave hemp with tube-drawn paste resist dyeing. 

First half of 19th C.  Loaned by a private collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

 

 

 

 

 

Court ladies garment with swallows and bells on blossoming cherry tree; silk crepe with silk embroidery and couched gold thread.

Mid 19th C.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

 

Kyogen suit with rabbits jumping over waves; plain weave hemp with tube-drawn paste-resist dyeing with hand-painted details. 

Private loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

 

Noh costume with checkered ground and chrysanthemum in stream; twill-weave silk with silk supplementary weft patterning. 18th century. 

Private loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2022

 

 

 

 

Over-robe with wisteria and waves; figured satin weave silk with tie-dyeing, silk embroidery and couched gold thread.  Early 19th C.

On loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

Thought to be the wedding gown for a samurai bride.  The red was obtained from the petals of the safflower.  Motifs include chrysanthemum, orchids, trailing wisteria, stylized waves and a key-fret pattern.

 

 

 

 

this photo from the website of the Met

Over-robe with Genji wheels and wild ginger leaves; figured satin weave silk with silk embroidery  and couched gold threads.  Early 19th C.

Loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

The symbols in this kimono are thought to be related to the literary classic The Tale of Genji. Its ninth chapter is called Leaves of Wild Ginger.

 

 

 

 

Battle surcoat with tattered fan; wool.  Early 19th century.

Loaned by a private collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

By the 19th century, this kind of coat was ceremonial.  The black dye came from logwood.  The tattered fan is wool applique with gold embroidery. 

Battle fans were used on the battle ground for giving signals.  They were believed have innate spiritual powers; to summon the gods and also to bring good luck.  

The meaning of a tattered fan seems to indicate the determination of the warrior to keep fighting despite severe reverses on the battle field.

 

 

 

Vest, plain weave hemp with stencil paste-resist dyeing.  First half of 19th C. 

Private loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2022

 

 

 

 

Dalmyo Firefighter’s Ensemble, first half 19th C.: jacket, sash, plastron and ‘hakama’ pants.

wool with collar and lapels of white satin-weave silk figured with fretwork and flowers and dragons in raised gold embroidery.

Private loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022.

The wool was imported from Europe and denoted the wearer’s high social standing.  The outfit would have been worn by samurai whose job was to safeguard the place of a fire against looting and control people in the area.

 

 

 

 

 

Kimono with pine branches and interlocking squares; late 19th century.  Figured silk satin with tie-dyeing (shibori or resist dyeing). 

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

The fabric is first twisted and compressed into tiny three-dimensional shapes, bound and then dyed.  The pattern emerges when the binding is released and the fabric flattened.  This technique had several variations, some more popular than others.

This time-consuming technique produced garments which were essential to the trousseaux of the daughters of Kyoto merchants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vest, patchwork of swatches of more than 30 types of fabric including velvet and silk with gold and silver embroidery. 

Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

 

 

Summer kimono; gauze weave, warp dyed bast fiber with silk threads. 1st quarter. 20th century. 

Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum, NY

 

 

 

 

 

Ainu coat; cotton, applique and decorative stitches. Early 20th C.

Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

Recycled cotton from used clothing reached the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, c. 1750. 

In this type of garment  (ruunpe), ground fabric, dyed indigo, was appliqued with cotton in bright colours taken from recycled cotton clothing.  The designs are thought to be talismanic.

 

 

 

 

Man’s under-kimono with Mount Fuji; plain weave silk with stitched tie-dyeing.  2nd quarter 20th C. 

Private loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

 

 

 

 

Summer kimono with swirls; printed gauze weave silk with twisted wefts, 1920s and 1930s.

Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

The pattern is a reflection of contemporary Art Deco aesthetic even if the swirl pattern has a very ancient lineage in Japan.

 

 

 

 

Kimono with water droplets; plain weave reeled-silk warps with machine-spun silk wefts in double ikat.  1930-1940. 

Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

 

This pattern required three stencils to dye the warps and four to dye the wefts and a painstaking weaving technique on a floor loom.

 

 

 

 

Summer unlined kimono with blades of grass and dewdrops; printed plain weave hemp with twisted wefts, couched silver thread. 1920s and 1930s.

Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

 

Man’s under-kimono with spider and spider’s web; crepe silk with freehand paste-resist dyeing.  1920s and 1930s.

  Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

 

Summer kimono with rabbits and scouring rushes; plain weave machine-spun silk in unraveled ikat. c. 1930s.

Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Possibly made for a young girl’s celebration of The Year of the Rabbit,1939. Afterwards converted for use in summer.

 

 

 

 

Kimono with large checkered pattern, 1930’s; plain weave machine spun silk in resist-dyed large ikat with gold thread weft.

Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

The warp and weft threads were tied and then dyed before being woven.  This pattern was inspired by the paintings of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944).

 

 

 

 

Jacked with looped lines; plain weave silk warps with machine-spun silk wefts in all-weft ikat. 1950-55. 

Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

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Adaptation to ‘Western’ styles

 

Yokahama was opened as a treaty port in 1859, the same year that Shiino Shobey (1839-1900) established S. Shobey Silk Store. 

He exported articles of clothing including silk dressing gowns.

 

 

 

Dressing gown, Japanese, 1895-96, silk. 

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Adapted to Western style, this was made of Japanese plain weave, glossy silk and features traditional Japanese motifs.

 

 

 

 

 

Coat made by Iida and Company/Takashimaya (Japanese, founded 1831), c. 1900-1910, silk.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY 

A theater coat made specifically for the foreign market and tailored to the Art Nouveau style.

 

 

 

 Modern adaptations

 

 

 

Comme des Garçons, founded 1959, Sweater, 1983, wool.  

Rei Kawakubo, Japanese born 1942. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

this photo from the web of the Metropolitan Museum

 

Comme des Garçons, founded 1959; ensemble of polyester, nylon, 2018.

Rei Kawakubo, Japanese born 1942. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Kimono

  1. Breath-taking and inspiring beauty. Thank you for putting this collection together for others to enjoy. One pattern; endless interpretations and creative designs on the pattern. And so much joy where birds, flowers and other elements of the natural world are incorporated in the design!

  2. Such a simple garment made into a whole tapestry and history of a nation. It is wonderful. Thanks for your comment, Susannah~

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