Robe Worn under [Uchikake] with Boxes for the Shell-Matching Game, Pines, and Plums

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Robe Worn under [Uchikake] with Boxes for the Shell-Matching Game, Pines, and Plums

Textiles / Edo

Edo period, 19th century

1領

This garment features a design of hexagonal boxes and lids on glossy figured satin. These boxes stored the pieces used in a game that involved matching together clam shells. Each half of a clam shell can only be matched with its original partner, so shell matching games and their boxes were auspicious designs that symbolized fidelity.

The boxes and shells are rendered here in indigo and red using kanoko-shibori, or fawn-spot dyeing, a painstaking technique that involves tying small silk clumps together with thread and dyeing them. The boxes are surrounded by plum blossoms made of gold threads and red silk threads. The embroidery has come loose, but a close inspection reveals how the original design featured one single plum tree rising sinuously from the hem.

From the auspicious motifs and the way the sleeve patterns abruptly cut off, we can assume this was once an uchikake outer garment worn for a wedding. During the Edo period, new brides would shorten the sleeves and seal the sides of these uchikake to convert them into formal garments worn by married woman. Perhaps this garment was also converted in a similar manner to serve as an aigi undergarment worn beneath an outer garment like an uchikake.

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