Meisen evolved from the robust, moderately priced silk produced in Isesaki and surrounding towns in Gunma Prefecture, Japan. The development of mechanized spinning and weaving in the late 19th century meant that it became possible to produce a finer, more lustrous, but still hard-wearing fabric which was then patterned using a simplified kasuri method. Dyes mixed with rice paste were applied by stencils on to warp (vertical) threads woven with temporary weft (horizontal) threads. These temporary wefts were discarded after the application of the dyes and the true wefts woven in. Meisen dyeing can be see here on a blog post from the V&A Museum

Although most would recognize meisen from the bold, striking, often geometric designs that it is usually decorated with, meisen is actually the weave and can be plain or even undyed.

During the 1920s and ‘30s the bold, colourful meisen designs inspired by modernist art were very popular among fashionable, urban, middle-class women as everyday town wear. Advertisements featuring famous actresses were used to promote meisen kimono, which were sold in enormous numbers by the big department stores. However, from the 1950s onwards the growing popularity of western style clothing meant that the demand for meisen kimono declined and now there are only a few artisans in Gunma Prefecture who still make the fabric.

The Friis Collection has some beautiful examples of meisen kimono designed between 1910 to 1955 and can be see here.






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