The Development of Ebdurian Clothing: II

The Second Concord (c.800-c.1300)

Background

The period of the Second Concord, in which the clans became more organised, settlements became larger, and attempts at national co-ordination in trade and war were made, saw greater connexion with the mainland, and in particular influence from the great Kingdoms and Empires of Gureha.

Garments

It was probably under the influence of Gureha that bare female breasts began to be considered problematic, and it is at this point, consequently, that we see clear distinction being made between the four genders that existed at the time. At first, women simply wore the itàko, which gradually became rectangular instead of circular. This, however, was prototypically a rain-garment, and wealthy women did not need to go out in the rain – the itàko would therefore be demeaning to them and their husbands. Instead, they created the lajodàn, crafted out of three lajo-cloths, with the third cloth around the abdomen and breasts. This was held at the top with a belt above the breasts. In the interests of stressing the breasts, a second belt was worn beneath them, and for convenience a third belt was retained around the hips (this belt by now being used for carrying small items). Meanwhile, poorer women made do with a second, narrower, piece of cloth across the breasts, unattached to that around the hips.

A distinction arose at this point, however, between two types of women: the tàniko acted as described above, but the mahikò, who could be of either sex, but in either case would have no husband to shame, and who frequently went out in the rain, saw no reason to eschew the itàko, and continued to wear it.

Three further dramatic developments occurred in this era. Firstly, sheep were introduced, and their wool quickly became the dominant textile, although tòpite remained in use for ‘special’ indoor clothes. Secondly, a new dye was discovered that could create dark red, blue or purple colours depending on the mordent employed. This wider availability of colours increased the trend toward dying the different lajo-cloths composing the lajotō and the lajodàn in different colours, in a form of conspicuous consumption that emphasised the sewing that had taken place. Thirdly, it was realised that by wrapping the lajo more loosely, and holding the excess cloth in pleats, the ‘skirt’ of the lajo could become less constricting. A hierarchy was quickly established according to the number of pleats of a lajo – the more pleats, the more convenient to wear, but the less convenient to wrap. Women in general had fewer pleats than men.

Last of all, a new invention expanded out from within the prostitute community – one that probably had been in existence for some time, but that became more common in this period. These prostitutes would pay for less cloth, and wrap the cloth only once, not one and a half times. This left the cloth open along the outside of the left leg – which had the additional advantage of being appealing, if not particularly respectable. In this period, however, this cheap and convenient clothing style became commonplace among poorer women, and even among men dressing informally. This garment is called a kinyajo, or “egg-lajo”, after the kimyō, “egg-layers”, the prostitutes who, like oviparous mammals but unlike other women, never appeared to be pregnant.

At the end of this period, then, there were four main styles of dress: the lajodàn, the multicoloured dress of the wealthy tàniko, usually with two large pleats; the kinyajo, the casual skirt of poor women and informal men, accompanied for women by a second, lajo around the breasts (a deilajo); the làjomam, the simple formal lajo of men and sometimes women (when it would be worn with a deilajo); and the lajotō, the two-coloured lajo worn by mahikò of either gender.

Design

In the arena of design, the main development was the invention of block-dying. In this process, wooden blocks were clamped to the cloth to resist dye, with certain pre-cut holes in the blocks to enable dying of patterns. These blocks had a number of ramifications. Firstly, large-scale dying became available to the masses, as the process was far cheaper than the careful application of gum. Secondly, patterns became more regular and uniform, both on a single garment and between garments, with colour changes noticeably easier than arrangement changes. Thirdly, the system was geared toward dyed figures on a clear background, rather than vice versa, and this became dominant for most cloth – the multicoloured garments would usually alternate clear-and-decorated cloths with undecorated coloured cloths.

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