Kimono History: The Muromachi era

The Kamakura era gave way to the Muromachi era. During this time there was a great deal of emphasis on art and architecture. Emphasis was given to the tea ceremony and Noh drama. Many of the shoguns and daimyos became patrons for the various artists, writers and craftsmen.

The capital was moved back to Kyoto. There was a spread of culture from Kyoto outward through the various fiefs and across the country. The daimyo were developing industries in their own fiefs and this set up competition between daimyos.

Also during this time new textiles came in from Ming China. In the latter part of the time Spanish ships began to bring in wool fabrics, velvets and cottons. This led to the development of new weaving techniques which themselves then spread throughout the country.

The warriors kept to simple styles in their clothing. For women, though, the kosode became the standard dress. For formal wear there was a long outer robe called a uchikake which later evolved into the type of dress chosen for weddings. The common people wore a short coat similar to the haori.

The last part of this ear was marked by civil unrest. From the 1560s onward, Oda Nobunga gained control of eastern Japan and his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, worked on reunifying the country.

Although there was a lot of warfare going on, there were still some positive results of the constant warring. The warlords who were fighting each other needed military equipment for their soldiers and domestic equipment for their fiefs. This resulted in various commercial centers beginning to appear in order to provide these goods. Artisans' guilds and merchants' associations began to be active.

The result of this was that the class of merchants, considered one of the lowest classes of people in Japan, began to acquire wealth, power and status.

By the end of this period all social classes were wearing the kosode as their main outer garment except for formal ceremonies.

The second-oldest surviving kosode is from this period. It's from the year 1566 and resembles later kosodes, showing that the evolution of kosode design was progressing.

Then there are twelve more kosodes surviving, all belonging to Ueugi Kenshin (1530-1578), a powerful feudal overlord.

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