Juban (underkimono)
Silk, wool, cotton (lining)
Kata yuzen

In the 20th century, Japanese clothing designers often drew inspiration from the traditional arts. Here we see kabuki – and probably ukiyo-e – used as a design source. Based on the squares behind the actor above, he might be Ichikawa Danjuro, a name familiar to any kabuki enthusiast. This material is tsumugi, a soft silk with a cottony texture. The light dot in the smallest square just left of the actor’s head occurred because the textile was stenciled when a large loose fiber nub was flat, but as the nub shifted out of place it revealed a tiny undyed area. ¬†The blue patch on the actor’s head indicates the natural hairline on his partially shaved head.

This juban looks as though it was put together out of necessity. Many patchwork textiles demonstrate some overall design concept on the part of the maker, with patches juxtaposed to make interesting contrasts or patterns. Here, the arresting colors and designs of the kabuki actors on silk do not harmonize with the simple colors and designs of the cranes and mallets on wool.

The print of kabuki actors also exists in other color ways, not shown here.