Author: Andrea Araknow

In celebration of the third annual New York Textile Month, members of the Textile Society of America will author Object of the Day for the month of September. A non-profit professional organization of scholars, educators, and artists in the field of textiles, TSA provides an international forum for the exchange and dissemination of information about textiles worldwide.

This lovely silk textile from Japan, of which only a detail is shown here, is part of a tan — one kimono length of fabric — printed by a small factory and distributed to its clients, retail kimono shops.

While investigating modern fabrics in Japan over the last decades, I have encountered many examples of printed cloths with many sample patterns grouped on one length. I usually see them re-used to create nagajubans or inner kimono garments, in perfect harmony with the old waste-not culture. But this configuration, seemingly from the 1950s to judge by the textured patterns, was new to me when I discovered it in Kyushu some years back. It has since been explained to me that it was designed so the retailer could hold a section up below the face of a client to help her visualize what she would look like if she ordered a custom garment in these patterns.

Imagine my amazement when I recently ran into a fellow collector who sported a blouse she made herself from an identical piece! I did a quick double take, as the image placement blended nicely with all the surrounding patterned T-shirts. Conversation revealed that she had come across her tan at a market in in Hokkaido, nearly 900 miles from Kyushu.

This is just another example of the intensely personal connection Japanese women have to their garments, past and present. I hope to continue documenting this wonderful phenomenon before it fades into memory.

Andrea Aranow is a textile collector and dealer. She is co-founder of TextileHive.com, and also maintains collections on TextileDocs.com.

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