Probably the most comprehensive study of Japanese costume in English that exists. Liza Dalby is best known as “The American Geisha”, a Californian grad student in anthropology who studied geisha communities for her thesis and ended up working as one and becoming quite a novelty. Dalby fell in love with Japanese traditional dress during her time in Kyoto and wrote this book years later. It is the only English source I know of that translates Masasuke’s 12th century manuscript, Nyobo no shozoku no iro which talks all about appropriate colour combinations in the Heian period and when to wear them. It isn’t a step-by-step guide for re-enactors or costumers, but it is a better survey of Japanese costume than any other source on this list.
Not a costume text per se, but a text dealing specifically with the Heian period. Since clothing and aesthetics were such a huge part of what made Heian-jidai Heian-jidai, I include it here.
Although I bristle at the idea of calling period clothing “kimono”, this book is a good source for Westerners to learn about Japanese dress. It also has a lot of pictures of extant period clothing.
A MODERN source. But if you know nothing about putting a pattern together, it sure gives you a hand.
Out of print (on purpose) but if you got it, use it.
This is really a book on modern kimono and how to wear it. But in the introduction it gives a brief overview of Japanese clothing from the beginning up until now. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably the easiest of these books to find. It won’t show you how to make or wear period Japanese clothing, however.
The late Izutsu Gafu established the Kyoto Costume Museum, a testament to his lifelong passion for historical clothing. Inside are mannequins dressed in reproduction clothing from various periods of Japanese history, from the most ancient times to the present day. You can view much of the exhibits on the web at The Costume Museum Website or click here for the smaller English site. If you find yourself in Kyoto, the Costume Museum is well worth a visit.
Mr. Izutsu has left us a number of books on costume; the two listed above are just an example. Today his son runs the Costume Museum in downtown Kyoto and produces replica clothing for the Imperial family and various festivals and ceremonies.
It is through the gracious permission of the young Mr. Izutsu that the Costume Museum graphics are used on this site.
An indispensible work for the re-enactor. This book shows extant garments from the Shosoin, Heian men’s and women’s formal attire and period theatre costumes, among others. More importantly, it gives pattern layouts and directions for all the garments shown. It doesn’t show every garment from every period, but it’s worthy of a place of honour in the Pre-Tokugawa Re-enactor’s library.
Two works from an undisputed source. Since his death in 1993, many of Suzuki’s works are being reprinted. The daijiten is a complete and encyclopedic listing of historical Japanese garb, accessories, and other details including armour, styles and types of palanquins, etc. It’s considered THE reference source on historical clothing, equipment, and related matters. The zuten is a short volume on the various outfits worn historically in Japan. In addition to being a wonderful basic source, it has listings of all the various parts needed (including accessories) making up any given outfit. It’s recommended as a starter book.