Hitoe (unlined kimono)
Print (?)

Wool first came to Japan through the European traders, who are depicted on Japanese screens and paintings wearing flamboyant wool clothes in bright rich colors. The highly napped wool (called rasha) was much sought after by the aristocracy, and very expensive. In the Meiji period, a very fine soft wool (called mouselline) became available, but was mostly restricted to children’s clothes. It wasn’t until after World War II that wool as most westerners are familiar with it came to be used in adult kimonos.

Less expensive than silk, wool kimonos could only be used casually – not for formal occasions. This hitoe has the kind of op art design that would have been very popular in the ’60s and ’70s.  The designer has taken advantage of wool’s natural affinity for dye, and used color combinations that nearly pop off the flat surface.

There is a ‘kasuri’ look to the designs along their outlines, suggesting movement from one part of the design to the other. Since kasuri has a long history in Japan, from the visual standpoint it is not surprising to see this effect in wool. On closer inspection, however, it is clear that the kasuri look is just that. It has been printed on, not woven in.