History of Japanese Textiles
Much of early Japanese textile history was heavily influenced by trade with its continental neighborsChina and Korea. Silks from China and Korea were a large part of the textile industry in Japan. It wasn't until the Edo period (1603-1867) that Japanese textiles became highly culturally distinct. This occurred in conjunction with Japanese culture finding it's own distinctiveness. During this time period, linen/hemp (considered the same by the Japanese) was the only fabric rural Japanese peasants could use for clothing. The law only permitted the upper classes to wear silk. Linen/hemp fabrics were created from hand-loomed fibers
Cotton became a part of Japanese textiles in the 1700s and became a main producer for the rural areas. As more efficient spinning and looming equipment became available, cotton replaced linen/hemp fabric among peasants. During the Edo and succeeding Meiji (1868-1912) periods, there were strict feudal laws about what clothing material, patterns and colors were allowed. Only the elite classes could wear elaborate silk brocades and gauze weaves, which were commissioned from rural artisans. Dyeing as an art form emerged during this time period and vibrant colors increased.
Japanese textiles are known for several different distinctive dying techniques including kasuri, shibori, katazome and tsutsugaki. All of these techniques produce different types of fabrication and some patterns can be very elaborate. These dying techniques can be seen in a variety of traditional Japanese clothing for both elite and peasant classes. Textiles like the kimono (a traditional Japanese garment), the haori (a coat) and the obi (a belt) demonstrate the rich heritage of indigenous Japanese textiles.