Kimono, Japan

Kimono, Japan

Shibui (refined austerity) colours: Indigo blue

The indigo plant was used as a textile dye from the 9th century onwards. Indigo was often used to form resist-dyed decorative patterns on a plain white fabric. Indigo was traditionally used for everyday workwear, so is associated with 'honest' hard work, and represents reliability and dedication. As in the West, lighter shades of blue are also thought to be cool and restful. Blue is also associated with the sea.

Kimono
Aomori, Japan
1890-1930
Indigo-dyed ramie, with white cotton stitching (kogin)
Width 100 cm x height 129 cm
Museum no. FE.141-1983
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This kimono was made and worn by a woman living in Tsugaru, a penisula in the very north of Honshû, the main island of Japan. It is woven with fine indigo-dyed ramie. The decorative panel on the upper part has been stitched in white with a diamond pattern, a technique known as kogin. If she was to make a good marriage it was essential that a Tsugaru woman master the skills of kogin, and training began at an early age. By her wedding day the bride was expected to have woven and embroidered a number of fine garments for herself and her future husband. These would be worn on special occasions.