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A Resist Dyed Bashofu “Kimono Dress”: Okinawan Banana Fiber Cloth

August 9, 2014

BashofuDress1Cloth from the Ryukyu Islands, or Okinawa as it is now called, is some of the most admired and prized cloth in the Japanese cultural sphere.  Of the several types of traditional textiles produced in Okinawa–Miyako jofu, bingata, hana ori–it is bashofu, or cloth woven from fibers taken from the banana leaf stem, which is the most widely known.

Bashofu shows very distinctive characteristics: it is lightweight, almost translucent and extremely durable, which is why it has been is likened to a dragonfly’s wing.

BashofuDress1aI acquired this piece because I love bashofu, but more so for two separate reasons.

First, the resist dyed pattern on the cloth is unusual and second, and maybe more importantly, this is a hybrid costume: it is a traditional kimono-shaped garment that has been re-worked to become something of a dress.

You can see the machine stitched seams (above) and Western tailoring (also seen above) that would never have been seen in the Ryukyu Islands until the early twentieth century.  The fusion of two distinct cultures captured as they are in this garment is a fascinating comment on Okinawa’s developing history.

BashofuDress1bAnd getting back to bashofu‘s translucency, the photo above attempts to give a sense of this quality.  What else can be seen is the repair to the cloth and the sprinkling of pinprick-sized holes, both evidence that this finished garment had a much different life when it was first created as a kimono-shaped one and was entirely hand stitched.  The age of this garment could easily span from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century.

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A Fantastically Good Boro Kaya: Rustic Hemp or Ramie Mosquito Netting

July 17, 2014

KayaBoro2I brought this magnificently beautiful thing back with me from my April buying trip to Japan–and when I first saw it my heart raced.  Such good, boro mosquito netting–woven from rustic hemp or ramie yarns as this one is–are harder and harder to find these days.

KayaBoro2aIts threads are rich, wiry and hand plied.  And the color: that watery, pale, blue or asagi iro as it’s called in Japan, helps create the impression of a cooling waterfall in the way I have it displayed.

KayaBoro2bThe patches and mending are gorgeous.  Have a look.

KayaBoro2c

KayaBoro2dI’m not sure when this was made, but I suspect it was woven in the Meiji era (1868-1912).  It’s large at about 107″ x 37 1/2″ or 272 cm x 95 cm.

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