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)


As a site seminar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a rare early seventeenth-century Japanese robe (kosode) in the Museum's collection (see ill.) was examined in depth. The sumptuous complexity of the textile from which the robe was made was analyzed, with emphasis on the textile's makers and their methods as well as the markets of the period.

The ground fabric, a white float-patterned plain-weave silk, was probably produced in China. During this period Chinese silk was highly prized in Japan; nevertheless, this imported cloth was then highly embellished. The textile was resist-dyed in irregularly bordered bands that alternate in color-blue and white. On the robe's white bands hundreds of small seashells were embroidered in polychrome silk floss-giving the robe its informal nickname, "the seashell kosode." The light blue bands were decorated with gold leaf that outlines and gives interior details of the textile's repeating woven floral design.

The seashell kosode was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1992. Formerly, it was in the collection of Nomura Shojiro (1879-1943). Mr. Nomura was a famous Japanese collector and dealer in Japanese textiles.