My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Posts tagged ‘clothing’

Victorian vs. Traditional Japanese Clothing

While writing my WiP The Scarlet Daughter, I have to research not only the Victorian clothing my MC is accustomed to wearing, but the traditional Japanese style of dress as well.

Naomi, my MC, has been raised in the Western section of Tokyo and therefore wears that style. Here’s some examples of what she might have worn:

Style of dress in 1889

This one here was 1889. As my book starts off in the very early part of 1890 and as my MC probably doesn’t wear the “latest and greatest” fashions, something like this on the left would be similar to what she’d wear. This may be slightly fancier than even what she’d have, but the style is close.

Here’s another from that year.  This is probably the simpler style that she and her mother would’ve worn. I’m not sure yet if she would’ve worn the small bustle in the back; some of the dresses had them “built in” although I have to research it more.

1889 style again

1889-1890 saw a transition in style. The bustle nearly disappeared and the waist got even smaller. A year or two later, the sleeves began to grow, what we might recognize as the “leg o’ mutton” sleeves. I think they look absolutely silly, but who’s to say 😛
Here’s a pattern/style from 1892, where the sleeves are starting to grow:

Just a slight increase in the sleeves. Notice the bustle in the back is nearly gone.

This would be about about two years after my book takes place. I have to say that part of the reason I didn’t set it in the mid 1890s had to do with the fashion. Of course that wasn’t the *only* reason, but it was an influential factor.

The height (literally and figuratively) of these sleeves reached its peak in the mid 1890s, probably around 1893-1895. Here are some pictures of the huge balloon sleeves.
Balloon…I mean, Leg o’ Mutton sleeves
The sleeve disappeared entirely by about 1905-1906. I suppose there are worse things than huge sleeves, for example the hoop skirts of the Civil War era. I think I’d much rather have a balloon sleeve than have to figure out how to sit and manuver in a huge hoop skirt.

 Now, even though we think of Japan as the land of the kimono, it’s evident that some of the “stylish” ladies of the country followed some of the Western influence. Here’s a picture from about 1887, showing two Japanese ladies dressed in the popular bustle style of the time. Notice though that the patterns are more vibrant and “busier” than what a Western woman would probably wear.

East meets West

Of course the majority of the population still wore kimono on a regular basis. But there are many different styles of kimono, depending on the season, the age and sex of the wearer, etc. For example, in spring, the colors would be more vibrant with patterns of the ever famous cherry blossom as well as other spring motifs. Winter would be more subdued and also have more layers.

Here’s what a young unmarried woman would typically wear:
These are probably a bit too modern, but the colors for an unmarried girl would be brighter, the sleeves, called furisode, would be longer, sometimes falling to just below the knee or above the ankle.

A married woman’s kimono would be plainer, but still beautiful in its own right. The sleeves, called tomisode, wouldn’t be as long either, falling no longer than the waist, as seen in this picture below.


While I like both of the patterns, I must say I’m fond of the plainer one. Perhaps it’s because I’m an old married woman 😛

Anyway, for men, here’s some of what they would wear, especially if they were of the old samurai class. I have to research and see if they still would’ve worn the hakama pants in the time and place my book takes place in, but for now I’m saying yes, at least for this draft.

Ryuji, one of Naomi’s guardians (and eventual love interest) would probably wear something similar, although I believe this is the “formal” wear (again, I have to research it):


So there you have it–the difference between East and West. Naomi gets to cross that line, dressing in both types of clothes throughout the novel. 🙂 So naturally that means more research for me…but it’s fun to see the differences.


If you write, do you have to research your world’s costumes? Is it fun? Challenging? Or just annoying? I’d be interested to hear from you in the comments.


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