Hinagatabon (book of textile designs)
Woodblock prints

During the Edo period, Japanese were able to order garments from books, called hinagatabon, such as this one. The book shown here, called Isho Sekai (“Design World”), was published in Meiji 34, or 1901. It contains not only designs for adult women’s kimonos, as shown above, but designs for young boys’ kimono, a sample fukusa (gift cover), and designs for textiles not associated with any particular garment.

The tastes of the times called for designs concentrated near the hem of the kimono, so the fact that the top halves of the kimono are unseen leaves no unanswered questions. The kimono on the left depicts snow-laden bamboo above a stream; the kimono on the right shows cranes in a pine tree, with other cranes in flight, approaching from the sleeve. The casual draping of the black kimono over a lacquered rod hung by a red silk cord is a nice touch, conjuring up images of court ladies as well as the poem Tagasode (Whose Sleeves) from the Kokin Wakashu, an old anthology of classical poetry. The diagonal red slash in the black kimono is a clever way of delineating the sleeve opening, and indicates the proposed color of the lining.