Costume Con 26 Historical Masquerade Entry (Ethnic)
Title of Costume: KARAGINU MO.
Entrant: Lisa A. Joseph, 2065 Eagle Ave. #C, Alameda, CA 94501
Designer/Creator/Model: Lisa A. Joseph

Karaginu mo is the most formal court attire worn by ladies of the Japanese Imperial Court, dating to the Heian Period (794-1172 CE). (See Illustration 1.)

The foundation layer consists of a white kosode, a plain robe with small sleeve openings. Nagabakama, scarlet trousers with trailing hems longer than the wearer’s legs, are worn over the kosode. (See Illustration 2.)

Kasane no irome refers to a set of robes arranged in a combination of colors that evokes a particular image of nature appropriate to the season or occasion. Worn over the kosode and nagabakama, a kasane consists of a hitoe (unlined inner robe) and five additional uchigi(robes) which may be lined or unlined depending on the season. In the early Heian period, kasane might include as many as forty uchigi, however, a sumptuary law passed in 1074 limited the number of uchigi to five.

Over the uchigi, the lady would wear an uwagi, usually of figured silk brocade. On less formal occasions, the uwagi was the outermost layer and therefore showier than the inner robes.

On the most formal occasions, the karaginu ("Chinese jacket") and mo completed the lady's ensemble. The karaginu’s shorter open sleeves are designed to display the layers beneath. The mo, a train whose construction is often compared to a "backwards apron" might be decorated with dye or metallic leaf attached with rice paste.
“Juni-hitoe” is sometimes used to describe Heian ladies' dress. Meaning "twelve unlined robes", the term "juni-hitoe" appears to have come into use during the Edo period (1603-1867 CE.)

Liza Dalby's Kimono: Fashioning Culture includes a chapter devoted to a 12th century text on kasane no irome. The kasane chosen by this entry is known as “Yamabuki no nioi,” evoking the yamabuki flower (kerria japonica). (See Illustration 3.)

"Arranging hues of gradated intensity of a single color was known by the term nioi, a visual concept later applied to an olfactory one - the word nioi now means fragrance. The gradual intensifying or fading of a color is metaphorically akin to the nose's experience of an odor."

"….Because most colors were made by repeated dippings in a dye, the nioi aesthetic could be created systematically by regulating the number of dye baths for each robe of a combination."

"….Shades of golden yellow (yamabuki no nioi)
All five robes are in shades of golden yellow. The deepest shade goes on top. They become successively paler and the last robe is pure yellow. The chemise [hitoe] is blue-green."

"Here is another case in which the natural object (the kerria rose), the color name, and the layered combination all of the same name, yamabuki, blend together. The classic Genji yamabuki combination was old leaf tan (kuchiba) over pure yellow (ki).

    This description of formal dress worn after the birth of an Imperial prince appears in the 10th century diary of Murasaki Shikibu.

 "When they had finished serving, the women went to sit down by the blinds. Everything was sparkling in the light of the flares but, even so, some women stood out: Lady Oshikibu wore a beautiful train and jacket, both embroidered with the Komatsubara scene at Mount Oshio. She is the wife of the Governor of Michinokuni and His Excellency's envoy, you know. Lady Tayu had left her jacket as it was, but her train had a striking wave pattern printed on it in silver, not overly conspicuous but most pleasing to the eye. Ben no Naishi had a train printed with an unusual design, a crane standing in a silver seascape; as a symbol of longevity it was a perfect complement to the pine branches on the embroidery. Lady Shosho's train was decorated with silver foil that was not quite up to the same standard as the others, and it became the subject of some adverse comment."[2]

The mo is hand sewn from cotton jacquard to simulate a patterned weave silk. It is decorated with Lumiere metallic paint to simulate surihaku. This technique involves the application of rice paste through a stencil, then gold or silver leaf is pressed against the stenciled design. The moon and wave motif was inspired by the passage quoted above. While researching this project, it appeared to me that the cut edges of the longitudinal mo seams are left unfinished in modern reproduction garments. I chose to finish the top-most seams to allow for cleaner application of the painted design. The underside-seams have been left unfinished.

Colors for the uwagi and karaginu were chosen to compliment the kasane. All colored robes in this ensemble were sewn by hand out of habotai or silk jacquards and dyed using Jaquard Acid Dyes. The uwagi is fully lined in white cotton and the sleeves and overlap panels of the uchigi are lined in matching dyed cotton to provide body. Cotton was not available during the Heian period, but was used in this instance due to budget constraints. The uwagi was stenciled with Neopaque white to simulate the look of Heian silk brocades. Cotton was also used for the kosode and nagabakama for breathability and durability. The entire ensemble from skin out used approximately 70 yards of fabric.

With the exception of the kosode, all garments were sewn completely by hand. Japanese garments are traditionally constructed from relatively narrow fabric bolts. Each body panel and sleeve would use one bolt width, each overlap panel and collar would use a half width, resulting in minimal cutting and selvages on most seams. (Garments would be taken apart for cleaning, or repair, then re-assembled.) As I used modern fabrics woven on wider bolts, it was necessary to finish exposed seams rather than rely on selvages. All seams are sewn using running stitch and finished by folding the cut edges inward and closing them with overcast stitch.

Patterns were adapted from a borrowed copy of Jidai Ishô no Nuikata, a text on constructing historical Japanese clothing. (Sadly, this text is not currently in print and is difficult to find. Please refer to Attachment 2 for more information.)

The hiogi (ceremonial fan) was constructed from craft basswood and sewn together with silk, based on an example in the Miho Museum. (See Illustration 4.) The pine tree motif is traditional.

1] Dalby, Liza. Kimono: Fashioning Culture (Seattle, University of Washington Press) 2001. ISBN 0-295-98155-5, pp. 240, 245, 252.

[2] The Diary of Lady Murasaki, translated by Richard Bowring, New York, Penguin 1996, p. 17-18.)

Dalby, Liza Crihfield. Kimono: Fashioning Culture. (Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2001.)

Kawamura, Machiko and Kurihara, Hiro. Jidai Ishô no Nuikata (Tokyo Genryu-sha Joint Stock Company, 1984.)

Minnich, Helen Benton. Japanese Costume and the Makers of Its Elegant Tradition. (Rutland, VT/Tokyo, Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1963.)

Noma, Seiroku. Japanese Costume and Textile Arts. (New York and Tokyo, Weatherhill/Heibonsha, 1974.)

Okudaira, Hideo. Emaki: Japanese Picture Scrolls. (Rutland, VT/Tokyo, Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1962.)

Shikibu, Murasaki (Richard Bowring translator) The Diary of Lady Murasaki (New York, Penguin 1996.)

Online Resources:
Kyoto Costume Museum,

Japanese Court Costume of the Imperial Household, Takata Takata Institute of Japanese Imperial Classical Costume,

Hachijo Tadamoto’s Karaginu page,

14th c. hiogi (fan), Miho Museum Collection,

Thai Silks, Los Altos, California., Hollywood, California.

Dharma Trading, San Rafael California.


Illustration 1: The poet Ko Ogimi from the Satake version of Sanjuroku Kasen Emaki, (Picture Scroll of 36 Poetic Immortals), 13th century.






Illustration 2: Women in kosode and nagabakama, from the Oeyama Emaki 16th century, Tokyo National Museum Collection.










Illustration 3: Kerria japonica, or “yamabuki,” the flower represented by the kasane.









Illustration 4: Hiogi (fan) from the Miho Museum collection, 14-15th century.




Heian costumes from the Murasaki Shikibu Emaki, 13th century, Tokyo National Museum Collection. The woman at left with the baby is in karaginu mo.

 Heian Costumes from the Genji Monogatari Emaki, 13th century, Tokugawa Museum Collection. The woman at upper right wears a brocaded uwagi in kuchiba (dead leaf gold).


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