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Japan Anonymous, Japanese
Woman's Robe (kimono), 1920-1935
53 in. x 46 in. (134.62 cm x 116.84 cm)

Object Type: Textile
Technique: Woven
Credit Line: Scripps College, Claremont, CA
Accession Number: T685

Painted and stencilled silk satin.

Object Description
Woman’s satin kimono in alternating stripes of purple and cream with brightly-colored stenciled butterflies evenly distributed across the garment. Lined in crimson silk.

Within the purple and cream stripes, there are smaller stripes subtly denoted by their shine. Upon close examination with a 20-power microscope, it was discovered that alternating strips of plain weave and satin weave created the different sheens. Furthermore, the subtle stripes are in most cases separated by a single warp thread of gilded paper, a very delicate fiber. By calculating the thread count of the fabric, it was found that there are approximately 120 warps per inch; according to the pattern, there is one gilded paper warp for every 330 silk threads. The level of difficulty and amount of care that went into producing this pattern made this an expensive garment to own.

Slight water damage reveals that the purple stripes were painted or blow-painted on after the cream fabric was woven. The butterflies were hand-painted with care from a stencil guide, with each insect displaying unique markings and color combinations. Some of the butterflies are also decorated with thin lines of gold paint and couched gold thread. Contrary to many kimonos in the Scripps collection, the butterflies are split down the back seam of the kimono, indicating that the fabric was decorated before being sewn into one robe.

Due to the bright colors and the presence of fluttering butterflies, this kimono would have been worn by a young, unmarried woman from a wealthy family. The long, 28 in. sleeves point to the wearer’s unmarried status. It is too light to be a winter dress or and outer jacket, and too heavily decorated to be an under-dress, so it is likely that it was worn during warm weather. Like other kimono, this garment was meant to be worn with an obi, and therefore the robe was tailored without concern for subtlety in the lower torso, the area covered by the obi.

- Written by Rebecca Yankes, Monserrat '11, Fall 2008; edited by Patricia Yu, Pomona '09, Getty Summer Intern, August 2008.

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