Yûsoku Kojitsu Ron
A History of
Japanese Clothing and Accessories

Fabric Details

= Kasane no Irome =

  

     I am frequently asked for information on one of the most complex aspects of Heian women’s fashion — kasane no irome, the proper layering of robes to produce specific colored patterns. These colors varied by season (and sometimes days within the seasons) and wearing the wrong color pattern out of its proper date could have been far more catastrophic to a lady’s reputation (and reputed aesthetic sensibilities) than the modern wearing of white shoes after Labor Day.

     Often the variation would be a simple application of shading more subtle than can be reproduced with “web-safe” colors. This would be the production of multiple infusions in carefully regulated dye-baths. While to the English ear (and perhaps eye) there is no distinct difference between “pale purple” and “light purple,” the Japanese had a color distinction between “usuki murasaki” and “asaki murasaki” (equivalent terms in Japanese to the English example) that we simply can’t appreciate with a web browser or monitor. In fact, unless one is actually interested in recreating the actual dying process, it may be safer to consider both a paler purple (call it “lavender” if you will) and be done with it. Of course, such a simplification would have struck Sei Shônagon — that self-proclaimed paragon of style — as near heresy.

     It will be noted that some color patterns have multiple names, and just to make things more difficult, some identical names have different color patterns. Fortunately, these typically at least differ in seasonal use — but don’t count on it.

     This page represents a first draft of what I hope will ultimately be a definitive enumeration and presentation of all the possible color patterns. I still have about twenty-five or thirty patterns to be done, and then sorted. This is a temporary solution to the long-standing question of what the layers were.

Layering the robes

Name of style
(translation)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
The under-robe  1st layer 2nd layer 3rd layer 4th layer 5th layer over-robe
Actual names of the colors in the garments (check against color chart for more specific details on the proper coloration).

     Each of the styles is represented in color by a chart such as is shown at left. The layout represents what would be seen at the end of a woman’s sleeve; the hitoe (an unlined under-robe) peeks out at the wrist — sometimes for considerable length; over it is worn a series of kinu, or robes (which can be lined or unlined depending on the season). Typically these robes are called the “itsutsu-ginu” or “five robes” (count them and see why — even though some styles actually called for six). Like the hitoe, the kinu were plain or figured cloth, but were not actually multi-colored patterned brocades; the heavily patterned cloth was reserved for the upper or outer robes.

     Over itsutsu-ginu was worn the uwagi, and sometimes over that was worn a kouchiki.

Color patterns worn seasonally

Celebrations / festivals kôbai no nioi, kurenai no nioi, kurenai no usuyô, matsu-gasane, moegi ki , moegi no nioi, shiroginu, suô no nioi, ura koki suô, yanagi

10/1 – to go-sekku ao momiji, haji momiji, kaede momiji, kiku no samazama, kurenai momiji, momiji no samazama, moriji momiji

Go-sekku through spring futatsu iro, hana yamabuki, iro-iro, moegi, momiji no nioi, murasaki no nioi, murasaki no usuyô, murasaki murago, sakura tsutsuji, ume-gasane, umezome, ura yamabuki, yamabuki no nioi, yanagi, yuki no shita,

4/1 – 5/1 fuji, hana tachibana, kaki tsubata, mochi tsutsuji, nadeshiko, shiranadeshiko, shobu, tsutsuji, waka kaede, waka shobu, yanagi no hana

5/1 – 6/1 hana tachibana, kurenai no usuyô, murasaki no usuyô, nadeshiko, shobu

6/1 – 7/7 kuchiba, kurenai, rindô, suô, zometsuki,

7/7 – 8/1 hagi, ominaeshi

8/1 – 8/15 kiku, momiji, kurenai no usuyô, murasaki no usuyô, susuki

8/15 – 9/9 momiji, ominaeshi, shira-giku, suô, usuiro

9/9 on kurenai, murasaki, shiro, usuiro

Colored exemplars

Patterns worn year-round, and at celebratory festivals

Kôbai no nioi
(lightening red maple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: ao. Kinu: koki kôbai, kôbai, kôbai, awaki kôbai, paler awaki kôbai.

Moegi no nioi
(lightening green)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: koki moegi, moegi, moegi, awaki moegi, paler awaki moegi.

Kurenai no usuyô
(paling scarlet)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: shiro. Kinu: shiro, shiro, pale usuki kurenai, usuki kurenai, kurenai.

Kurenai no nioi
(lightening scarlet)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: kôbai. Kinu: pale asaki kurenai, asaki kurenai, , kurenai, kurenai, fukaki kurenai.

Matsu-gasane
(layered pine)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: pale asaki moegi, asaki moegi, moegi, asaki sûo, sûo.

Sûo no nioi
(lightening crimson)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: ao. Kinu: fukaki sûo, sûo, paler sûo, asaki sûo, paler asaki sûo.

Patterns worn from 10/1

Ki-giku
(yellow chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: ao. Kinu: awaki ki, awaki ki, awaki suô, awaki suô, suô.

Kurenai momiji
(scarlet maple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: awaki ao, koki ao, ki, awaki kuchiba, kurenai.

Haji momiji
(sumac foliage)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: suô, kurenai, asaki kuchiba, paler asaki kuchiba, ki.

Ao momiji
(green maple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: suô. Kinu: kurenai, asaki kuchiba, ki, asaki ao, ao.

Kaede momiji
(maple foliage)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: suô. Kinu: kurenai, asaki kuchiba, ki, asaki ao, asaki ao.

Mojiri no momiji
(???? maple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: kurenai, asaki kuchiba, ki, asaki ao, ao.

Patterns worn from the go-sekku to spring

Murasaki no nioi
(lightening purple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: pale awaki murasaki, awaki murasaki, murasaki, murasaki, koki murasaki.

Murasaki no usuyô
(paling purple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: white. Kinu: white, white, pale awaki murasaki, awaki murasaki, murasaki.

Ura masari kôbai
(reverse grouped-maple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: ao. Kinu: awaki kôbai, awaki kôbai, awaki kôbai, awaki kôbai, awaki kôbai.

Yamabuki no nioi
(lightening globeflower)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: ao. Kinu: ki, pale asaki kuchiba, asaki kuchiba, asaki kuchiba, kuchiba.

Ura yamabuki
(reversed globeflower)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: ao. Kinu: ki, ki, ki, ki, ki.

Hana yamabuki
(globeflower)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: ao. Kinu: asaki kuchiba, asaki kuchiba, asaki kuchiba, asaki kuchiba, asaki kuchiba.

Ume gasane
(layered plum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: koki murasaki. Kinu: koki suô, kurenai, kôbai, asaki kôbai, pale asaki kôbai.

Yuki no shita
(beneath the snow)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: ao. Kinu: pale asaki kôbai, asaki kôbai, asaki kôbai, white, white.

Murasaki murago
(variagated purple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: awaki ao, koki ao, pale asaki murasaki, murasaki.

Futatsu iro
(two colors)
Hitoe “Itsutsu”-ginu
               
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: moegi, moegi, ki, ki, usuiro, usuiro

Iroiro
(varied colors)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: suô, ki, kôbai, murasaki, usu iro.

Patterns worn from the fourth month

Shobu
(lily)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
            
Hitoe: white. Kinu: asaki kôbai, kôbai, white, asaki ao, ao.

Waka shobu
(young lily)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: white. Kinu: white, white, asaki ao, asaki ao, ao.

Fuji
(wisteria)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: white. Kinu: white, white, paler awaki murasaki, awaki murasaki, awaki murasaki.

Tsutsuji
(azalea)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: white. Kinu: asaki ao, ao, pale asaki kurenai, asaki kurenai, kurenai.

Hana tachibana
(orange blossom)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: white. Kinu: asaki ao, ao, white, pale asaki kuchiba, asaki kuchiba.

Nadeshiko
(pink)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: white. Kinu: white white, asaki suô, asaki suô, suô

Mochi tsutsuji
(rice azalea)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: white. Kinu: asaki ao, ao, asaki suô, asaki suô, suô

Kaki tsubata
(persimmon bud)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: asaki ao, ao, usuiro, usuiro, asaki murasaki

Susuki (also “usu”)
(pampas grass)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: white. Kinu: asaki ao, ao, asaki suô, asaki suô, suô
(NB: identical to mochi tsutsuji)

Ominaeshi
(ominaeshi flower)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu
           
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: ominaeshi, ominaeshi, ominaeshi, ominaeshi

Patterns worn from the tenth month to the go-sekku

Kiku no onzoyatsu
(honored eight-layered robe chrysanthemum)
Hitoe "Itsutsu-ginu" Uwagi Kouchigi
                      
Hitoe: ao. Kinu: shiro, shiro, shiro, asaki sûo, asaki sûo, sûo, sûo, fukaki sûo. Uwagi: ki. Kouchigi: sûo.

Momiji-gasane yatsu
(eight-layered maple)
Hitoe "Itsutsu-ginu" Uwagi Kouchigi
                      
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: suô, koki kurenai, asaki kurenai, asaki kuchiba, paler asaki kuchiba, ki, ki, ki. Uwagi: white. Kouchigi: ki.

Shiragiku
(white chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi Kouchigi
                
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: shiro, shiro, shiro, shiro, shiro. Uwagi: ki. Kouchigi: sûo.

Utsuroi-giku
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi Kouchigi
                
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: murasaki, murasaki, murasaki, murasaki, murasaki. Uwagi: ao. Kouchigi: ao.

Ki momiji
(yellow maple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi Kouchigi
                
Hitoe: kurenai. Kinu: ki, ki, ki, ki, ki. Uwagi: sûo. Kouchigi: ao.

Additional patterns to be sorted shortly

Ura-giku
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: midori ao midori ao, ki, white, white. Uwagi: white.

Matsu-gasane
(layered pine)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: midori ao, midori ao, midori ao, murasaki, murasaki. Uwagi: murasaki.

Chiri momiji
(scattered maple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: shu, shu, ki, midori ao, midori ao. Uwagi: midori ao ao.

Kurenai no usuyô
(paling scarlet)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: white. 5-ginu: white, white, usuki kurenai awaku, (ô)dan, shu. Uwagi: shu.

Murasaki no usuyô
(paling purple)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: white. 5-ginu: white, white, shira murasaki, asaki murasaki, murasaki. Uwagi: murasaki.

Kôbai nioi
(ddddd)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: midori ao. 5-ginu: shu, shu, shu, (ô)dan, kôbai. Uwagi: kôbai.

Moegi nioi
(lightening moegi)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: midori ao, midori ao, midori ao, asaki ao, SOME DARK GREEN. Uwagi: SOME DARK GREEN.

Yanagi-zakura wa urausu iro
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: white, white, white, white, white. Uwagi: white.

Ume-gasane
(layered plum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: midori ao. 5-ginu: sûo (or shu), shu, akaku shu, shu, white. Uwagi: white.

Yuki no shita
(under the snow)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: midori ao. 5-ginu: asaki sûo (or asaki shu), sûo (or shu, if previou layer was asaki shu), shu, white, white. Uwagi: white.

Kurenai momiji
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: fukaku shu, midori ao, ki, (ô)dan, shu. Uwagi: shu.

Yamabuki
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: midori ao. 5-ginu: ki, ki, (ô)dan, usuki kôbai, (ô)dan. Uwagi: (ô)dan.

Matsu-zakura
(pine cherry-blossom)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: shiro, shiro, ?????, midori ao, midori ao. Uwagi: midori ao.

Kabo-zakura
(kabo cherry-blossom)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: murasaki, murasaki, murasaki, murasaki, murasaki. Uwagi: murasaki.

Rindô
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: midori ao, midori ao, usuki murasaki, usuki murasaki, murasaki. Uwagi: murasaki.

Murasaki mura go
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: midori ao, midori ao, asaki murasaki, asaki murasaki, murasaki. Uwagi: murasaki.

Chiri momiji
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: shu, shu, ki, midori ao, midori ao. Uwagi: midori ao.

Kihaji momiji
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: shu, shu, shu, ki, ki. Uwagi: ki.

Kaede momiji
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: (ô)dan, (ô)dan, ki, midori ao, midori ao. Uwagi: midori ao.

Kurenai momiji
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: fukaku shu, ao midori, ki, (ô)dan, shu. Uwagi: shu.

Usuginu shôbu
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: white. 5-ginu: kôbai, shu, white, usuki midori ao, midori ao. Uwagi: midori ao.

Tsutsuji hitoe
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: white. 5-ginu: usuki midori ao, midori ao, kôbai, shu, shu. Uwagi: shu.

Hana tachibana
(mandarin orange blossom)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
             
Hitoe: white. 5-ginu: usuki midori ao, midori ao, white, shu, shu. Uwagi: shu.

Fuji
(wisteria)
Hitoe Itsutsu-ginu Uwagi
           
Hitoe: shu. 5-ginu: white, white, usuki murasaki, usuki murasaki, murasaki. Uwagi:

Mutsu-ginu futa-iro
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Kinu Uwagi
               
Hitoe: shu. Kinu: midori ao, midori ao, ki, ki, asaki midori, asaki midori. Uwagi: asaki midori.

Mutsu-ginu sakura tsutsuji
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Kinu Uwagi
               
Hitoe: shu. Kinu: midori ao, midori ao, white, white, asaki midori, asaki midori. Uchiki: midori.

Mutsu-ginu iro-iro
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Kinu Uwagi
               
Hitoe: shu. Kinu: shu, ki, midori ao, shu, asaki midori, asaki midori. Uchiki: asaki midori.

Suô nioi (also “kiku”)
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Kinu Uwagi
               
Hitoe: midori ao. Kinu: midori ao, murasaki, asaki murasaki, asaki murasaki, white, white. Uwagi: white.

Utsuroi kiku
(reverse chrysanthemum)
Hitoe Kinu Uwagi
               
Hitoe: midori ao. Kinu: asaki murasaki, asaki murasaki, asaki murasaki, asaki murasaki, asaki murasaki, murasaki. Uwagi: murasaki.

 

 

This page last modified on 5/10/04

This page and all contents copyright ©2001, 2004 by Anthony J. Bryant.
Copying or transmission in all or part without express written permission is forbidden.