A 19th Century Hand Spun Cotton Jacket: Edo Komon Katazome

$275.00 USD

mid nineteenth century
31" x 46", 79 cm x 117 cm

This is a visually complex and subtle jacket which is hand stitched from beautiful hand spun, hand woven cotton--exactly the quality of cotton you would want from an antique Japanese textile.

The jacket is old as it dates most likely from the mid nineteenth century when this kind of stencil resist dyed patterned cotton called Edo komon was popular among people of means.

The pattern is made of a very small-figured design. In pre-Meiji era Japan (before 1868) there were sumptuary laws which governed what could be consumed, by whom and how. For example, only the samurai class could wear large-figured, boldly colored silk clothing. Most of the population was ordered to wear clothing made of cotton or of a bast fiber and the clothing needed to be patterned in a subtle way: it could not be flashy or call attention to the wearer.

People of means in Japan at that time still wanted to be stylish and wear fine clothing, so Edo komon, a small-figured, all-over pattern like the type seen on this coat, became a popular way to wear beautiful, expensive clothing while still staying within the parameters of the law. 

Because Edo komon patterns are so small the dyeing is difficult: dyeing it takes a great deal of skill and therefore its cost was high.

This lovely jacket beautifully shows Edo komon dyeing in its repeat pattern of small Xs. Unlike super-fine Edo komon patterns where you cannot see the repeat, this one is a bit less fine in that you can see the repeat if you squint hard enough.

The jacket is roomy in size and one or two seams are unraveling a bit. There is a very faint stain in the center of the back of the jacket, illustrated here in a detail photograph, and it is very, very difficult to see in real life.

A wonderful addition to any collection of old Japanese folk textiles, this jacket has great age, great cotton and great dyeing.