Man’s kimono
Silk, waste silk padding
Edo komon (small stenciling)

Over the course of the Edo period (1603 – 1867), numerous sumptuary laws were enacted to prevent ruinous spending on luxurious clothing, but sumptuary laws also served the purpose of preserving the rigid social heirarchy, as clothing details were proscribed along class lines.

From a distance, this gray kimono with a simple blue lining (colors were also subject to sumptuary laws) looks appropriately somber, but on closer inspection it is covered with minuscule hole-punched cloves from a paper stencil. The minute designs (called Edo komon) would have been time consuming and costly, deliberately subverting the sumptuary laws against lavish spending and conspicuous consumption while appearing to be in keeping with them. (Above tape measure in centimeters.)

Cloves were one of the so-called seven treasures. In the 16th and 17 centuries, it is said that cloves, newly discovered in the Spice Islands, cost their weight in gold. The crest, one of three on this kimono, indicating a level of formality, is painted in sumi ink.

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