While the Heian times of Japan were glamorous, they maintained strict rules of dressing. Your rank and status determined each garment’s fabric. In the winter garments were quilted, and in the summer, stiffened silk kept the clothing away from the body.
So much importance was given to the way people dressed, it could make or break your career and/or your reputation. Color combinations, set by the season or festivals, held a particularly important aspect of dressing. Colors were also restricted by rank. For example only the Imperial family (the immediate emperor’s family) was allowed the forbidden color, murasaki (violet) and to a lesser extent, kurenai (scarlet-pink). [More about ranks on another post.]
One of the reasons colors were so important is that “the world” saw little of a woman’s clothing, What part was shown? The sleeve. The sleeve with the hem of each robe (uchigi, [ōō-chee-gee]) carefully displayed usually hung outside a cart or palanquin. Blinds and/or fans kept women’s faces hidden. A person’s sensibility, their artistic and spiritual life were often judged just by the color combinations. Wow. Talk about pressure.
(from the right:)
KARAGINU* dark purple
the first dark red
the second light red
the third light green
the fourth green
the fifth dark green
(* See post on Golden Age (Heian) of Clothing for more information)
Often the sleeve was all a man saw of a woman before they entered an … intimate relationship. So the colors were a big deal.
To see a woman being dressed by two dressers in full Heian costume:
For more detailed information on these marvelous colors and color combinations:
Liza Dalby – Kimono, fashioning culture [book]
The Costume Museum, Kyoto
http://www.takata-courtrobe.co.jp The Takata Institute of Japanese Imperial Classical Costume