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A Magnificent 19th Century Pieced Silk Han Juban

Written on August 20, 2009

This is a han juban, or a half length garment which was worn under a kimono.  Its bodice is a dazzling arrangement of recycled silks composed in a regular formation of blocks, some of the blocks are comprised of twenty or more slivers of botanically dyed silk.

In the 19th century wildly colored garments like this were worn under somber colored kimonos as there were governmental edicts outlining the kind of clothing that could be worn by different strata of the population.  By hiding this kind of fanciful undergarment beneath a dark kimono, the 19th century Japanese lady was not “breaking the law.”


Note the profusion of types of silks and the swirling combination of colors, all of which are botanical.  Chief among the dyestuffs are blue (indigo), purple (gromwell root), and orange (safflower).  If you see a lot of juban from this era you will notice that this color scheme is a predominant one, for reasons that these the dyestuffs used for these three colors were easily dyed and widely accessible.





The vertical red piece of cloth, above, is most likely a chemical dye.  In the Meiji Era (1868-1912) German synthetic dyes were introduced to Japan and the red dye was very quickly adopted for everyday use: for centuries the Japanese were not able to achieve this strident red using locally obtainable botanicals, and only those who could afford to buy imported cloth dyed in Indian madder wore a rich, deep, cold red like this one.



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  1. Comment by Zelia:

    oh, this is wonderful:)

    August 21, 2009 @ 4:21 am

  2. Comment by pam:

    I am a regular viewer/reader of your blog — this is one of the best things you have posted. Thank you — for this — your blog & your wonderful on-line store!

    August 23, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  3. Comment by Shuangshuang:

    Reading your blog is such a big inspiration!
    This one is such a great piece!

    September 22, 2009 @ 8:55 am