Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Frilliness of It All: or, How Underwear Always Rises to the Top

You may be one of those people who take a look at the latest in Japanese fashion, you know, the flimsy summer-wear kind, with those lacey trimmings, and can’t help saying to themselves—hopefully not out loud—“That’s %&’’(#*?`&’%$ lingerie for God’s sake!” Believe me, my friend; I, too, know how tough it is when your well-honed appreciation of decorum is violated by the latest summer travesty against human decency. Despair not, though, because you’ll get over it. Say, in a couple of centuries, give or take a few?

You see, the casual kosode, the Eve of all contemporary kimonos, began life as underwear. And the even more humble yukata……wait, that’s so wrong—there, that’s better—gets its name from its origins as a single-layer piece that you wore during and/or after taking a bath. Yes, it was essentially a wearable towel. (So now you know the reason why you aren’t supposed to wear any underwear beneath your yukata. No, it isn’t what you were thinking.)

This urge to upgrade underwear must run deep in the Japanese psyche; I’m old enough to remember when it was not unusual to see the womenfolk of the urban working class lounging in their homes or even walking around the neighborhood in their chemise. No wonder then, that those frilly bits are now coming to you in the summer fashion landscape.

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