Making the Case for the Kimono

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An example of Japanese textile techniques. Courtesy LongHouse Reserve.

LongHouse Reserve, the 16-acre nature reserve and sculpture garden in East Hampton, is hosting a series of virtual talks led by Yoshiko Wada, one of the leading experts in Japanese textiles and techniques. The next talk, “Japanese Costume in History: A Kimono Journey,” is Sunday, March 28, at 4:30 p.m.

In her talk, Wada will shed light on the Japanese clothing from the Yayoi period (200 BCE–250 ACE) onward, showing illustrations and images of the remarkable textile art that was worn. The word kimono derived from “kiru mono,” meaning a thing to wear, morphed into “kimono” around the 1800s. Later in the West, or in modern Japan, it came to mean “national clothing of Japan” or a “T-shaped Japanese robe, generally of full length.” There have been specific styles of robes worn by nobles, warriors, commoners and farmers over the 2000-year history of the archipelago, not to mention the Noh Theater costumes, the robes of the Ainu and the Ryukyu people, which have now been integrated into Japanese “kimono culture” in modern Japan.

In present-day Japan, one finds a purveyor of wafuku (Japanese clothing) and bolts of fabric for traditional “kimono” and a huge array of accompanying accouterments at a “Gofuku-ya” not at a “Kimono-ya.” “Ya” means a shop and in this case “gofuku” means traditional Japanese wares or attire.

Wada’s final talk in the series will be “The Power of Stitchery: Nui Project and Sashiko” on Sunday, April 25, at 4:30 p.m.

LongHouse founder Jack Lenor Larsen, who died in December, was an ardent admirer of Wada, and wrote the foreword to her book, “Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now,” saying, “Perhaps more than anyone else, Wada caused the evolution of fiber focus from cloth structure to the dye patterning that we now recognize as surface design.”

LongHouse Reserve invites viewers to explore the timeless art and craft of fabric and broaden their knowledge of textile design in these conversations with Wada, who Larsen called “a Colossus, spanning east and west, past and future.”

Each lecture is $35 ($25 for LongHouse Reserve members). Tickets can be purchased through longhouse.org. A recording link will be emailed to registrants and is viewable for 30 days after each event.

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