Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Japan's Empress' Etiquette of Dress

Civilisation has reached a stage
never yet attained in the past history of this country, and everything seems to point to the necessity of reviving the old 'standing etiquette' of the Naniwa Court, for it is evident that the sitting form of etiquette can no longer hold its place in society. 
Japanese Female Costumes
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The Empress Advises Her Countrywomen How to Dress

Her Imperial Majesty, addressing the wives of the high dignitaries and nobles of the Empire, has given expression to the following views with respect to the dress of the women of Japan: 

"In ancient times the costume of the women of Japan consisted of an upper garment and a skirt. Following in the wake of the administrative reforms instituted in the period of Taikwa, in the reign of the Emperor Kotoku, a specific style of court costume was fixed and established in the reign of the Emperor Jito; while later, during the reign of the Emperor Gensho, the folding of the left side of the dress over the right side was prohibited. 

Still later, in the time of the Emperor Shomu, a decree was promulgated throughout the Empire ordaining that all women should adopt and wear a style of dress which had been established by law. The new costume consisted of an upper garment and a skirt, and in some cases women went the length of wearing two skirts, an inner and an outer. This custom, however, was afterwards prohibited by statute. Thus, until the middle ages, the women of this country, both in cities and in the rural districts, continued to wear a skirt, which was generally of a scarlet color. 

But about this period dissensions arose among the members of the Imperial Family as to the succession, and a Northern and a Southern Court being formed, the country was for a long time the scene of civil discord and warfare. Under each circumstances our women were compelled by necessity to content themselves with only one upper garment. Once established as a custom this style of dress continued long after the conditions that had prompted its introduction ceased to exist, the skirt being dispensed with, and the upper garment simply lengthened to cover and protect the lower limbs. 

In recent years since the period of Yenpo, the width of the belt was gradually increased until the costume as a whole has assumed its present form. But a dress consisting only of an upper garment, and destitute of a skirt, is manifestly imperfect, and ought to be supplemented in some way on the lines of the ancient costume of Japan. 

Moreover, civilisation has reached a stage never yet attained in the past history of this country, and everything seems to point to the necessity of reviving the old 'standing etiquette' of the Naniwa Court, for it is evident that the sitting form of etiquette can no longer hold its place in society. If we examine the dress of Western women we find that it, like the old dress of Japanese women, consists of both upper garment and skirt, and, further, that not only does it lend itself readily to the requirements of the 'standing etiquette,' but also affords every facility and ease for changes of posture and for the movement of the limbs. 

It is, therefore, only right and proper that we should borrow suggestions from the Western style in order to the improvement of our clothing. But, in endeavoring to bring about this costume reform, there is one consideration that ought to receive very special attention, and that is the necessity of utilizing as far as it is at all possible, the fabrics manufactured and the materials produced in this country. 

If the products of our own land are properly made use of, then the reform in question will certainly tend to impart a powerful stimulus to the progress of manufactures and of the fine arts in Japan, while at the same time it will confer no inconsiderable benefit on merchants and others. It may therefore be expected confidently to be productive of good in many respects other than the mere improvement of the costume of our women. 

Passage from an old into a new order of things, as in this case, cannot fail to be attended by great, and in many instances needless, expenditure of money; but if due care be exercised, if the wearer's expenses are kept proportionate to her means, and if simplicity is always preferred to extravagance, I think it will be possible to attain the object hoped for without undue lavishness. These are my sentiments and my hopes in reference to this reform in the costume of Japanese women." — The Daily Alta, 1887


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