I disasemble a veritable bounty of kimono every year and figure I’ve seen some crazy fabric combinations, but this piece made me laugh when I first came across it. Used as a sleeve lining for an early 20th century kimono, this synthetic fabric dyed in bright yellow and vibrant red has oodles of cheeky charm.
It’s 2:00 am Pacific Coast time and I get a little silly after midnight, but bear with me.
Like bright rings of pineapple, the kumo (spiderweb) shibori circles dance between wide stripes that were stitched, bound and dyed. Keep in mind this piece was not visible when the kimono was worn. The kimono itself was far more subdued, but this gives a hint to the potentially vivacious personality of the wearer. That’s what I like to think, anyway.
Hiding bright linings inside of more subdued garments is very Japanese. To wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve is common enough in the West, but to do so in Japan would not be iki, or chic. It was not always thus, but suptuary laws and class distinctions similar to those seen in Europe in the past made it impossible for the common man, regardless of his affluence, to wear certain colors or textiles in public. To work around restrictions, many people simply went underground, so to speak, by wearing fantastic linings under their plain kimono.
Here’s a bit on sumptuary laws from Wikipedia:
Japan under the Shoguns
According to Britannica Online, “In feudal Japan sumptuary laws were passed with a frequency and minuteness of scope that had no parallel in the history of the Western world”. During the Tokugawa period (1603–1868) in Japan, people of every class were subject to strict sumptuary laws, which extended even to the types of clothing that could be worn. In the second half of that period (the 18–19th centuries), the merchant class (chōnin) had grown far wealthier than the aristocratic samurai, and these laws sought to maintain class divisions despite the ability of the merchants to wear far more luxurious clothing and to own far more luxurious items. The shogunate eventually gave in, and allowed for certain concessions, including the allowance of merchants of a certain prestige to wear one sword at their belt; samurai always wore two swords.
Draconian as these restrictions may have been, at least people at that time didn’t have to endure seeing brand name labels splashed across bodies everywhere. That’s not iki, that’s just ick.