Koshimaki, 19th century
Silk with gold thread 66 in. x 50 in. (167.64 cm x 127 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Annie Laurie Guest1971.27
In the West, we think of the loose T-shaped garment worn by Japanese women as kimono, a general term that has been applied to clothing in Japan since the 19th century. The Japanese use a number of terms to describe various types of clothing, each having a distinct form and being worn during different seasons. The term koshimaki refers to a summer “waist wrap” worn open and off the shoulders to reveal an under katabira (a thin silk kosode).
Wide-sleeved clothing worn by the wealthy of the earlier periods gave way during the Edo Period (1603–1867) to narrow-sleeved kosode of the lower classes. With the increased wealth of the merchant and artisan classes, the textile arts thrived, and new techniques and dyes were developed as a response to changing Japanese aesthetics and in reaction to government sumptuary laws. The details of those techniques and the varieties of kimono styles that arose embrace too large a topic to address here, yet the richness of the embroidery of this robe illustrates the opulence of the textiles of the period.
The koshimaki style, with its small repeating patterns of auspicious designs became popular in the 15th century (when it was called uchikake); by the 17th century, upper class women of the samurai class wore it as summer garb. Here, diamondshaped patterns are superimposed over a field of flowers.