Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


When we think of the Meiji period(I868-1912) and the definition of women student's roles in Japanese society, we envision young women with long black hair worn in the style similar to the "Gibson Girl" of the American Victorian period, but with a wide ribbon tied in a big bow, wearing arrow-feather-pattern ikat (yagasuri) kimono with maroon (ebicha) pleated long culotte- like skirt, called hakama, and lace-up boots. The fashion mode of Jagakusei (women students) played an improtant role in the production of meisen textiles.

They're often depicted riding on a bicycle, which was a novel attraction at that time. Around 1878 (Meiji 11), women students preferred purple for their pleated culottes, but within ten years, maroon became popular and the students were often referred to as "Lady Maroon" (Ebicha Shikibu) with a touch of sarcasm alluding to the famous 11 Ih-century courtier / author of The Tale afGenji, Murasaki Shikibu, whose name translates literally as Lady Purple. The formal culottes were made with the ribbed dense high-quality silk fabric (shiaoze), and ordinary culottes were made with cashmere.

In a September 1901 (M 34) article titled "Song of Summer Fashion" in Tokyo's Miyako Newspaper, textile scholar Kitamura Tetsuro refers ta "meisen chugara jagakusei" (women students wearing medium-size pattern meisen) describing it as "fresh and fashionable."