By Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Beginnings of Heian
During the Heian period (794-1185), before the birth of kimono, a beautiful costume culture blossomed. By the eleventh century the Chinese style costumes (karafu) prevalent earlier in the Imperial Court evolved into uniquely Japanese garments, such as the formal uniform with round-collared jacket (sokutai), the less formal, round-collared kariginu, the women’s layered costumes (itsutsuginu-karakoromo, popularly referred to as a “twelve layer costume” jūnihitoe), and inner pleated trousers (keiko).
One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets
The cards for the game “One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets” (Hyakunin isshū) depict the poets and poetesses in a variety of court costumes, since the great majority of them were born at a time when such garments were the cultural norm.
Although today they may seem unfamiliarly distant, the people appearing in such world-famous Japanese classics as the Tales of Ise and the Tale of Genji were appareled in costumes of this sort.
Full shot of sokutai and jūnihitoe, Heian Period CostumesKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
the Heian period, knowledge about court costumes was transmitted
along with the court ceremonies as the scholarly field known as
the methods of donning the costumes were passed on in the academic
field known as emondō
way of garments and patterns”). Even today, the imperial family
wears Heian-period style costumes such as the sokutai
weddings. For the marriage ceremony of the present Emperor (at that
time he was Crown Prince), the beautiful figure of the bridesmaid,
Michiko, wearing a jūnihitoe
the talk of the town.
work of Costume Firms
Not only the royal family, but also shrine priests wear court costumes for ceremonies and festivals. Since the Meiji period the Shinto shrines have played an important role in sustaining the culture of court costumes. The job of creating them belongs to the costume firms. Their products are not limited to garments, but include all manner of related items such as furnishings like the standing curtains (kichō) used to divide room spaces, and implements like the folding fans made of slats of Japanese cypress (hiōgi), as well as portable shrines (mikoshi).
The most formal court attire is the sokutai for men and the itsutsuginu-karaginu-mo (commonly referred to as the jūnihitoe) for women； both are tailored from woven silk. The costume outfits are composed of numerous layers worn one over the other. It takes quite a bit of knowledge and experience to dress a person: for the jūnihitoe each layer is temporarily belted in place until the next layer is carefully draped over it.
The woman’s jūnihitoe sports a long pleated half skirt (mo) draped from the hips and trailing out to the back, and the men’s under robe (shitagasane) has a long narrow trains trailing behind the person. Scenes in picture scrolls depict men with their shitagasane trains (kyo) hanging out of ox carriages or hung over the balustrades of verandahs.
Detail of the shitagasane train of the sokutai costume, Heian Period CostumesKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Beauty of the Costumes
A unique beauty lies in Heian-period costumes. Even among the wide variety of traditional costumes, these stand out for the quality of their silks, their combinations and layering of colors, and their voluminous, sumptuous fabrics. The colors and color co-ordinations created by the layering of garments (kasane no irome) have poetic names evocative of the seasons. The “scent of red plum” combination shown here brings to mind the red flowers of the plum tree blooming in early spring.
Patterned weave (mon
Here is a brief introduction of the production process. Skilled professionals specializing in each step of the making create the costumes. In modern times, first the desired design is planned on a computer, and then the threads are selected. Next, the warp is set on the loom and the weft woven in according to the design. The costume fabrics are woven with traditional court design motifs (yusoku monyo) such as round medallions (marumon) composed of birds and flowers or continuous patterns forming a background, like arabesque scrolls or diagonal lattices.
Preperation of the warp, Heian Period CostumesKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Stretching out the
To give the fabric buoyancy, the woven cloth is stretched out using tenterhooks (shinshi), and paste is brushed on it.
This press of stretching the fabric (shinshibari) is said to have started around 1558-1600. Glutinous rice past called manori is usually used in this process.
Finally the fabric is cut and tailored into a garment. The edges of the fabric may be folded under into a three-layer hem and stitched down, or the edges may be rolled and glued. The basic sewing technique is straight stitch, but there are exceptions as well.
The costumes are produced by the division of expertise. The past thousand years have seen some change, but the culture and techniques have been carefully transmitted, with some new elements added, to create the beautiful costumes of today.
Supported & Supervision by:
Kuzebari, Hattori Tokihiko (Shitate)
Maruhashi Haruki, Saitosehshoten
Matsubara Aya, Kiyomizu Sannenzaka Museum
Miyo Kurosaki Bethe
Melissa M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum
Exhibition created by:
Sugishima Tsubasa, Kyoto Women's University
Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University