November 06, 2017

The Development of Modern Kimono: Homongi II

現代の着物の開発 〜訪問着〜 二


The formal garment of the Meiji period was an eba-gara suso-moyō type of hem design, which it was worn in layers of two or three kimono, with a large and weighty maru-obi. With the introduction of Western culture, women started to attend social functions, possibly because in Western culture men typically attended social events with their wives. In addition to social functions, wealthy women of the upper classes started to form small study groups like mandolin lessons or study of the Tale of Genji. For both the social events and study groups wealthy women of the upper classes wore the formal garment as described above. With the introduction of Western furnishings, women often sat in chairs and at tables for these events, and the design of the hem of the kimono disappeared when they sat down. Thus, the need was perceived for a kimono that had designs on the upper-half of the kimono as well.

The desolate chest area of Japanese clothing in the Meiji era
明治43年7月号 (1910) 『婦人画報』「胸辺の淋しい日本服」

The 1910 (Meiji 43) July issue of the Fujin Gahō magazine (p.41) has a discussion of this very issue, complaining that when one sits, the design of the kimono completely disappears, and wouldn’t it be nice if there was some design on the front chest area to compensate. Furthermore the article even makes the suggestion of having a finely detailed design on the top of the kimono to supplement the hem-line design.

1900s Meiji 染分藤竜胆模様振袖 TNM明治時代、20c 「鼠色羽二重地枝重桜小紋・裾藤紫色地菊ニ龍胆模様・笹龍胆三所紋附」 (TNM collection)

And, lo-and behold, the Tokyo National Museum has a late Meiji period early 20th century kimono answering this description nearly perfectly, except that the upper half is not a miniaturized version of the bottom half, but rather a completely different design. The hem-line has a design of chrysanthemums and bellflowers on a purple ground, the upper part of the kimono has a fine design of weeping-cherry branches on a dark grey ground, and the kimono has three crests of the “sasa-rindō” bellflower design.

Kimono of this time for the well-to-do ladies was still privately commissioned for their very own unique kimono, as was no doubt true for the image above. These are not merely kimono with designs along the hem, but specifically an eba-moyō design. For an eba-moyō design, the cloth for the kimono is first baste-stitched together (kari-nui, 仮縫い), the design drawn on it, then it is taken apart again to be dyed and sometimes then embroidered in parts or added with gold foil, before it is sewn into its finished form as a kimono. All of which makes for a highly labor intensive and very expensive kimono.


大正2年1月号 (1913) 『婦人画報』「若奥様の訪問服」
One of the earliest, if not the first, appearance of the word “hōmonfuku” was in the women’s magazine “Fujin Gahō” of January 1913 (Taishō 2), which made suggestions for a simplified New Year’s “visiting dress” (hōmonfuku) for young wives, especially since the Meiji Emperor had just died in the summer of the previous year.

昭和モダンキモノ p61大正2年9月号 (1913)『婦人画報』「裾に鉄線の花をあしらった縞の着物」図
In “Fujin Gahō” magazine of September 1913 (Taishō 2), there is a photograph of a woman in a vertical-stripe kimono with large clematis flowers on the bottom half, and smaller clematis flowers around the chest area. With no text, it is impossible to identify what this type of kimono would have been called at the time.

大正8年1月号 (1919) 『三越』「初春の御訪問服と梅見服」
One of the earliest, if not the first, appearance of the word “hōmonfukualong with an image in print appeared in the department store magazine “Mitsukoshi” of January 1919 (Taishō 8), for which Mitsukoshi is attributed for first inventing this “new” kimono. In this issue, “Calling Clothes for New Year’s Greetings and Clothes for Plum-Blossom Viewing” are introduced along with an image of said kimono fabric.

大正14年4月号 (1925) 『婦人画報』「社会服と訪問着」
One of the earliest, if not the first, appearance of the word “hōmongi” was in the women’s magazine “Fujin Gahō” of April 1925 (Taishō 14), and in addition, the term “shakaifuku” (社会服) also appeared. This issue introduced hōmongi as a dress for social events, for which one could enjoy freely choosing the design as one likes.

image大正14年4月号 (1925) 『婦人画報』「下町風の若婦人向訪問着」図
The same issue also has two images of said kimono, one for the wealthy upper-class ladies of Tokyo (yamanote no waka-fujin, 山の手の若婦人), and another for regular married women (shitamachi-fū no waka-fujin, 下町風の若婦人). There is an English title to the illustration for the illustration for regular married women, “A downtown young housewife in calling dress.” The photograph is in black and white (actually sepia), but there is description included: “On an eggplant-blue ground of scattered small chrysanthemums komon, there is a hem design of chrysanthemums and leaves against a lattice. The obi is a shioze habutae fabric with birds and flowers in light colors. The obi is tied in a “wakayagi-musubi” (若柳むすび), and the other bow in the inset is tied in a “Chidori-musubi” (千鳥むすび). The kitsuke dressing is by Kume Nanoko of the Beri-in beauty parlor [apparently, the predecessor to the Marie Louise beauty salon].

1932 昭和7年10月号『主婦の友 10月号附録 冬物の和服裁縫』昭和7年10月号 (1932) 『主婦の友 10月号附録 冬物の和服裁縫』「流行の口綿入訪問着」図
The supplement to the “Fujin Gahō” magazine of October 1932 (Shōwa 7), has both a photo and a description of the type of kimono at hand, with all three terms in one sentence: Hōmongi (訪問着) “Calling Dress,” Sanpofuku (散歩服) “Promenade Dress,” and Shakōfuku (社交服) “Society Dress.” It is describing the latest style in winter kimono.


(upper-right) The popular hōmongi―― or sanpofuku, or shakōfuku etc., whatever it may be called, this an adult full-length garment,
(lower-right) The photograph is a single garment with the sleeve openings and hem lined with batting (kuchiwata-ire, 口綿入れ), but the color scheme is excellently arranged, and if worn with under-layers of kimono, it would be quite useful.
(upper-left) It is a figured-weave fabric dyed with a eba-moyō design. Over the giant motif of bamboo, blossoms such as plum and camellia are dyed to mimic embroidery, making for quite a bold pattern.
(lower-left) The sleeve openings and hem are lined with colored kohama-chirimen, and the lining of the garment is crimson silk (momi, 紅絹). It is a gorgeous garment, that one would even want as one layer of a wedding dress.

* Traditionally, a “kuchiwata-ire” (口綿入れ) garment would be worn between a kimono lined with cotton batting (wata-ire, 綿入れ) worn on the inside and a lined kimono (awase, 袷) worn on the outside. Nowadays a kimono lined with cotton batting is almost never worn, and “kuchiwata-ire” is mostly seen on wedding kimono, or formal furisode and tomesode.

See also Part 1: The Development of Modern Kimono: Homongi I

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