Resist-dyed purple clouds share the landscape with embroidered painted clouds on this semi-formal kimono, or furisode, meaning “fluttering sleeves.” Notice the small squares of gold and silver leaf applied to the red silk lining. A furisode is the type of kimono worn by unmarried women, characterized by vivid colours, bold patterns and curved mid-length sleeves.

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What are the origins and inspirations of the patterns on this kimono?

responded: Jan 28, 2012

Posted by Alexander Mascardo

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Kimono's have a special function in the Japanese culture. There are usually worn for special occasions such as a girl's 21st birthday, a wedding, etc. This furisode shares a few characteristics with its more traditional counterparts. The long sleeves indicate that the maker intended it to be for a young, unmarried women as the long drapes signify youth. Shorter sleeves are usually intended for older, married women because it allows for the wearer to be more modest and not attract attention from others. The pale cream background has a few motifs of interest. The first one are the big chrysanthemums that are centred around repeating geometric patterns. This flower is connected with the month of September, thus hinting that this piece was meant to be worn during the autumn season. Although hard to see, the repeating geometric patterns (also seen in the green cloud on the right sleeve) centre on the Buddhist swastika (Manji in Japanese), representing eternity. The next motif of interest are the purple clouds that appear to be floating in the sky. Clouds are a reference to the floating world of Edo, the Samurai seat of power for over 400 years. A central philosophy of the time was the idea that life, beauty and art were but a fleeting moment. The choice of purple signifies wealth and position. The other clouds on the kimono exhibit a variety of repeating geometric shapes with flower motifs or symbols on the front. These are known as mon (family crests) and indicate perhaps that the kimono has changed hands from different families over time, or the creator for this piece was referencing his/her family tree. Finally, the inner part of the kimono gives a modern flavour to the design, with the repeating flower motif similar in appearance to a calico floral pattern.

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