Art: Furisode and So-Hitta

In a time of ready-to-wear, mass-produced clothes, the kimono of old Japan seems a fabled anachronism, like phoenix feathers. In the Edo period, for example, between the early 17th and middle 19th centuries, the art of designing and dyeing those full-sleeved, sashed garments reached its peak. Fortunes were expended on kimono by merchants and nobles, whose wives might, on formal occasions, wear 20 layers of shimmering robes. Since the 8th century they have been the stuff of poetry:

Whose sleeves do you enfold

While leaving me to lie here

Night after night

Alone on...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!