Bebe Taian: Finer Points of Taisho Style

November 9, 2013

Finer Points of Taisho Style

I admit, my method of kitsuke tends to look odd when dressing 'normally', but I contend that this cylindrical look for kimono is very modern. 100 years ago, women wore kimono everywhere, every day. A 'flat' look was still desirable, and much easier to achieve!

Finer points of 1900s-1930s-era kitsuke acquired from old photos:

- Wider collars

Collars in younger women showed more in the front, wider and with more variety in colour and patterns of collars, instead of the standard white that women seem to favour for 'proper' kitsuke these days. Darker collars didn't have to be washed immediately because they didn't look dingy and dirty after a single wear the way white collars do.

- Diagonal obijime

This seems especially popular for younger women in informal clothing. Similar postcards from the same era show the straight-across obijime in formal situations such as weddings or when kurotomesode are worn. This shows that the notion of obijime being worn only specific ways to be 'proper', even in casual situations, is relatively modern.

Uploaded by Monkeymud on Flickr
- Style of tying obi is different

Today's style is to tie obi 'straight across' again, one smooth perfect cylinder of fabric wrapped across the abdomen and tied tightly in back. However, chuya obi and fukuro obi of the day were often tied in a criss-cross pattern, similar to how Kyoto maiko tie theirs, with different musubi in the back. Otaiko knots ranged from perfectly shaped to relatively floppy and loose.

- Style of obi itself is different

Today's fukuro are middle- or high-formality, and as such, usually involve a lot of heavy embroidery and metallic threads to denote them as such. Compare this to today's relatively dull and simple-patterned Nagoya obi, which is standard for most casual outfits and even for some formal outfits, provided that the Nagoya is gold and more high-class in fabric. In fact, Nagoya obi didn't exist until the 1940s, so this lower class of formality did not exist in Taisho and late Meiji era!

Instead, there were high-class fukuro involving heavy embroidery (the next step up being maru obi common at the time) and 'low'-class fukuro, with all manners of dyeing and light or no embroidery. The more casual and versatile of these is the chuya obi (day/night obi) which had two sides in two different patterns.

From Old Photos of Japan
- Lots of stripes!

Stripes were ever-popular, seasonless, and easy to produce. It's a fashionable and basic carryover from feudal times, when most classes were only allowed to wear stripes in certain patterns and colours. The Meiji era carried this on presumably because many women knew these patterns and could pass them down, in an era before machine-weaving had reached Japan. By Taisho period, there was an explosion of stripes in all sorts of new colours and patterns, thanks to the advent of machine-weaving, synthetic dyes, and the newly-introduced silk/synthetic blends of fabric! Striped kimono from that era are quite easy to get. If you want to experiment with kitsuke from the past, and get the style right, I recommend bold stripes with a soft floral obi and low obijime!

1 comment:

  1. I love the images you include and the wonderful conclusions you draw -- insightful and detail-oriented. You are great at this! I wish to go try my kitsuke in this style again. It might be pertinent to note: I think the top two images are of Geisha or Geiko-san, who were leaders (at the time) in forward-thinking fashion and hairstyles. Particularly the middle black-and-white photo looks to be of a famous geisha (whose name escapes me, but might be findable in the archives of Immortal Geisha or Naomi herself), who is clearly wearing a very modern Gibson-Girl hairstyle seen in western newspapers of the time, and very popular among the elite and fashionistas. The styles of dress they wear are unfortunately about as close to what the modern person in Japanese cities would wear as Milan's fashion week is from down-town Baltimore. Which you do kindof address in the final photo.

    I may be mistaken. There are so few images from before 1900 in Japan that *aren't* of staged sets and geisha or actors in "staged scenes with costumes." One source for inspiration for what more common folk wore would be older images of Tayuu or Oiran parades. Not for the Tayuu! Although she and her attendants will be in stunning ornate clothes, look instead at the onlookers -- the crowd! It's really fun to see the slice of actual life in old Japan.

    Best wishes, and thank you for this awesome post with lots of fantastic information! I really learned a lot -- and was reminded of a lot that I probably observed in hundreds of photos, but never really put together.