Inside the beautiful Fashion Books of the Edo Period
The roots of the kimono
The roots of the kimono date back to the Heian period (794–1185). At that time, aristocratic women wore what are now known as twelve-layer robes (jūnihitoe), whose outer layers, such as the uchiki, had large, wide sleeves that were entirely open at the outer cuff ends (these were called ōsode, or “large sleeve [openings]”). The under layers of this outfit would include a kimono-like garment with small sleeve openings at the cuff (kosode, or “small sleeve [openings]”). But it was not until the Momoyama period (1573 –1603) and beginning of the Edo period (1603–1868) that this kosode inner robe came to be decorated in beautiful designs using techniques such as embroidery and tie-resist dyeing (shibori).
Edo period fashions
During the Edo period, as Japanese society became more stable, the potential of the kosode came into fruition. The creation of new techniques led to numerous innovative, richly colored kosode designs.
The kimono we know today developed out of Edo period kosode fashions as they changed over time according to changes in tastes and lifestyle.
Next, let’s look at some of the most important resources we have for understanding these Edo period fashions: kosode pattern books (hiinagata bon).
Distribution of the pattern books
The impetus for producing these kosode design books was threefold: a culture of publishing that began in the 1600s, the development of new textile production techniques, and an active commercial distribution system focused in the three cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo (now called Tokyo). Also, as the merchants and other commoners became wealthier, their interest in custom order clothing grew, leading to increased demand for custom order garments.
Characteristics of Some of the Kosode (Kimono) Design Books in Kyoto Institute, Library and Archives
These kosode design books in the collection of Kyoto Institute, Library and Archives were published in the 18th and 19th centuries. They include four different titles totaling seven volumes. The designs in these books are mostly organized by category, and their designs tend to have motifs clustered around the hem.
Translated by Melissa M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum
Text and images courtesy of KYOTO prefectural INSTITUTE, LIBRARY and ARCHIVES
Hangi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto