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Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Fashion of a Japanese Empress

In the beginning of March, Japan celebrates a special day for girls, called "Hinamatsuri" (Girl's Day). On this day beautiful dolls representing the royal court of the Heian period are displayed. 

This particular doll is the empress and was a gift from my grandfather when I was born, and when I took them out on March 3rd it inspired me to write about the amazing fashion of a Heian empress.  

During the Heian period, beauty, was of extreme importance. It was in fashion for aristocratic women to powder their faces and blacken their teeth. Lips were painted small and bright red, and their eyebrows were plucked or shaved and redrawn higher on their forehead.

The empress would wear her hair long, natural, shiny, and long.

 The empress's formal dress included a complex "twelve-layered robe" called junihitoe.  As seasons changed the costumes would also follow the seasonal changes. Robes always followed a system of color combinations representing flowers, plants, and animals specific to a season or month. Like poetry, every step and choice had a greater meaning and process. 

The various layers are made of silk, and the innermost garment is made of white silk, followed by other layers which have various names. The final layer is the most intricate and luxurious. Weighing nearly 20 kilograms, it made it very difficulty for the empress to move.

All color choices set for the layers are very important. The colours have poetic names, such as "crimson plum of the spring".  The arrangements of layers and colors represented their rank and taste. 

Such a dream like era, the Heian period is one of great mystery and inspiration. The amazing details in their fashion, and their dedication to achieving the highest level of artistic beauty, has created pure fashion poetry. An achievement of breathe taking form and ultimate craftsmanship, it is ready to be walked down any Couture Runway of today. 


  1. I'm fascinated by other cultures! Great post!

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