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Journey into unknown territory

I was feeling so awful last night that all I did was curl up with some hot coco and the two books I have on Heian dress (Kass  McGann's Complete Anachronist: Things to Wear, Clothing of the Heian Period Japan
and Liza Dalby's Kimono). I am now feeling inspired. Despite a decided lack of period depictions in either work, or on line (that I've found) and a painful lack of knowledge on my part. Maybe we should make the next tea Japanese...? But it's still a lot of work, and expensive to do, unless I dye the silk myself, and it's very difficult to dye 6-12 yard chunks evenly...so I'm told. Dying intimidates me, probably because I'm very picky about the exact shade and that's very difficult to control, and has lead to very frustrating experiences when I have attempted to dye. On Kass's website (http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/japanese/Jap123s.html) she claims to be able to make a silk uchiki for 25$ unlined and $40 lined. I expect that was written quite a while ago, as the cheapest dyed silk I've found is almost $8, which makes a $42 unlined or $84 lined (before shipping costs), and since it's china silk/habotai, it must be lined (the only unlined uchiki are stiff, which habotai most definitely is not (it's the lingerie-wear type silk)- the color selection in silk taffeta - at affordable places - isn't good enough to contemplate one of the late summer or fall unlined combinations :-( ). 

Let me digress a bit about the fabric choices discussed in Kass's documentation. There are 4 basic types of robes that Minamoto Masasuke discusses in her 12th century manuscript, Nyobo no shozoku no iro:
·          padded glossed silk (for winter and early spring combinations)
·          Ra or translucent gauze woven silk (for late spring, early summer combinations)
·          susushi or stiff edged robes (lined for the summer rainy season and unlined for early fall combinations)
·          unpadded raw silk (late fall combinations)
Kass McGann recommends using taffeta to replicate susushi, and 8-12mm weight china silk/habotai for glossed silk. She used fuji broadcloth for her kosode (the underwear kimono layer).  There's no indication for what translucent gauze woven silk might be - I could see a habotai interpretation or an organza, or maybe it's not reproducible at all... Nor is there any suggestion for unpadded raw silk - although some very confusing bits that seem to equate susushi and raw silk and separately susushi and stiff edged robes... but then why is it translated in two different ways if it's the same word/fabric?

I would love to do the fall "sumac maples" color combination: outer robe of light gold, then a medium gold, then a dark golden yellow, followed by a medium maroon, a dark maroon, and a hitoe/chemise of teal. with a kosode (underwear, seen as a shirt) of white, and scarlet nagabakama (hakama that trail on the ground). However, I have not found enough different shades of yellow taffeta from the online retailers to make this do-able. I'd also love to do the special occasion combination "pine tree" but finding 4 complementing shades of green isn't likely to happen. It also uses the restricted color of scarlet (which for some odd reason is not restricted regarding married women's nagabakama - it's required for that!) Of course, it's possible that all of Masasuke's color combinations were special (many are obviously restricted) as she was writing her recommendations for the once and soon-to-be-again Senior Grand Empress Tashi.

My current choice is the " mandarin orange flower" an early summer combination, which I'd have to interpret as china silk. The combination is: outer robe of dark gold, followed by a light gold, followed by white, followed by dark teal, followed by light teal, with a hitoe/chemise of white taffeta, a kosode of white and scarlet nagabakama.

It's certainly possible (and probably the cheapest option, since white tends to be much cheaper then dyed) to go for one of the all white with colored lining options (such as the summer "Saxifrage flower") but would that be as impressive?

The fabric choices I was referring to are from the on-line sources: thai silks, fabric fashion club, rennisance fabrics, silk connection, Dharma Trading, fabrics.net (if I want really expensive fabric... but their selection is good, and constant...)

Maybe I should make a digression on what I've learned about the layers, from the inside out:
·          kosode - this is the underwear layer, Kass talks about it being unseen, but I don't see how if the robes are worn open, as they are for informal and semi formal occasions. It is usually white, but occasionally red. In style it's a short kimono with relatively short and narrow sleeves that are sewn up the end, so there is only an opening for the wrist. Kass suggests 4.5 yards of 60" material, 4.75 yards of 45", or 6.5 yards of 36" material.
·          nagabakama - big pants (hakama) that trail significantly on the ground. Worn over the kosode, but under the other robes. Tied on the left-hand side. Scarlet was worn by married women, and maroon/chocolate red for unmarried women/girls. Unglosssed, stiff raw silk was used normally, but glossed silk was used for special occasions. Kass suggests 7 yards of 60" material.
·          hitoe - Dalby calls this the chemise, it's the first kimono-like layer, it is longer then all the other layers at the hem and in the sleeve, and is always unlined. It is usually white, teal or red. According to Tashi's commentary, it was de rigueur for summer hitoe to be white susushi. Kass suggests 6 yards of 60" or 45" material, or 7.5 yards of 36" material.
·          uchiki- kimono-like robes worn over the hitoe. Lined (either self lined or with a different color) or unlined, depending on the season. In 1074, the number of uchiki was restricted to 5. Dalby says they're all the same size. Kass McGann says they're progressively shorter as they work your way outward from the body. Kass suggests 6 yards of 60" or 45" material, or 7.5 yards of 36" material.

I'm thinking I'll do an informal set of robes, so that would be all I'd need. For semi-formal you could add another short outer robe, a kouchiki, which would be decorated (brocade, embroidery, or painting).

Here is my favorite recreation of Heian garb (done by The Rebirth of the Tale of Genji: The Costume Museum)


Here's what I see being worn in this picture: white kosode, red nagabakama, spring green hitoe, dark green, yellow, and red uchiki (possibly more then one of some of those colors?), finally the brocade kouchiki.

See here: http://fibers.destinyslobster.com/Japanese/Clothes/japuwagi.htm or the list of links on the left of this page: http://www.iz2.or.jp/english/fukusyoku/wayou/ for more recreations. Unfortunatly I've found very few period depictions, and my library is woefully short on non-western stuff.


Oct. 4th, 2007 05:36 pm (UTC)
Yes, Kass McGann thinks the back of the sleeves are entirely sewn. And the pictures might indicate the modern "not sewn under the arm" construction that McGann objects too.

The color combinations that the Costume Museum uses are pretty, but I don't think the layers in the picture I included are in either of the translations of _Nyobo no shozoku no iro_ in Dalby and McGann's work (though McGann may be refering to Dalby's translation, so they may not be independent.) Also, in some of the other recreations they use different colors for the nagabakama, which the translations were very specfic about - however, the Costume Museum is interpreting _The Tale of Genji_ and I don't know how the dates for it and _Nyobo no shozoku no iro_ compare. It may be accurate for an earlier or later period in the Heian era.
Oct. 4th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)
The Tale of Genji is a popular one in Japanese art, it pops up again and again and, judging by the artwork takes place in the Heinan dynasty because the drawings nearly always include folks in heinan dress. Though the artists in the Muromachi dynasty (for instance) may not have known that much about actual Heinan dress when they painted it.

One of these days I should find a copy of the Tale of Genji and, like, read it. (In translation of course)
Oct. 4th, 2007 08:26 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, the _Tale of Genji_ is a Heian work - the author is a contemporary with Sei Shonagun, I think they were both mid-Heian. I don't know when in the Heian era the fashion tips for Empress Tashi falls, I think it's towards the end, but am not sure... The era _only_ lasts ~400 years or so :-)

I haven't got around to reading Genji yet either, but I've read about a third of Sei Shonagun's Pillow Book, and that is a _fun_ read!