The Discord and Fourth Concord (1808-1894 and 1894-present (2052))
The expansion under the Third Concord was not sustainable. Though fuelled by population increases, the tactical and technological superiority of the nation caused conquests to outstrip the supply of colonists and marines; an inevitable period of contraction was exacerbated by plague at the height of the Empire. Collapse, after the death of the all-conquering King Komorò, was rapid. A succession of weak and warring monarchs withdrew forces from the colonies and protectorates to guard against their rivals at home, and their inability to protect their subjects at home from the ravages of rival soldiers led to a widespread withdrawal of support from the regimes and widespread chaos. The terror of a new plague, poor harvests, and rampaging urban brigands led to an exodus from the cities, and in some cases mass popular uprising against the ruling classes; social tensions were made worse by religious and philosophical factionalism, as the old religion was discredited by its close association with the Third Concord. Often in such times there is a current of conservativism, an appeal for a return to the old system; in this case, the monarchy, imposed from abroad, had never been an intellectually popular system with the populace, maintained only for pragmatic reasons, and instead there was a revolutionary fervour. Families that had once flaunted their wealth concealed it now, presenting themselves as of, and for, the common people, and anything considered elitist or wasteful was eliminated.
Eventually, through a dreary process of alliances and negotiation, the disorder subsided as the clans agreed a new (non-monarchic) Concord, and the revolutionary elements were suppressed. At the same time, the puritanism of the Discord was given a new philosophical justification in an aesthetic of functionality, humility and simple perfection, turning the focus from social justification to artistic justification.
By far the greatest impact of these changes has been on the dress of the tàniko. Once walking displays of wealth, they found themselves stripped of their excesses and largely confined to their homes. At first, the lajodàn was simplified; later, it was in effect (and sometimes by local or family law) abolished, replaced with the “popular” costume of kinyajo and deilajo. The Fourth Concord, however, for all its emphasis on simplicity, is essentially still an aristocratic regime, and when it came to power such revolutionary cladding was no longer acceptable.
The modern tàniko, therefore, has turned to an unimpeachably simple, yet at the same aristocratic garment: the tòpite lajo, the plain undyed lajo that covers only the lower half of the body, that had for centuries been worn as casual indoor wear. As the tàniko remains almost entirely in her house her entire life, with occasional visits to the houses of friends and family, its inappropriateness for the wet outdoor life of the island is no great obstacle. For the same reason, she need no longer wear hats of any sort, as neither rain nor sun are relevant to her.
The lajodàn does still exist, albeit not as a true item of clothing. Instead, a simplified Imperial lajodàn, of similar general design but without the great part of its former expense and display, is now a ritual and ultra-formal garment, most frequently seen at weddings, and traditionally hand-made by a girl and her family before her majority.
Kanihā, less ostentatious, have been less affected by the changes, and their costume has developed organically throughout the period. The yanauta became more complex in shape, its connections across the shoulder becoming broader, until eventually the shoulders became sown. To reduce pulling of the material, additional seams were added beneath the arms, resulting in, essentially, a three-piece waistcoat. This remains unfastened at the front, and is held closed by a sash, although it is usual to leave visible skin between the two sides. Their lajomàm has extended somewhat, falling to below the knees, but for convenience (and display) the lower two-thirds are split down the centre. Accordingly, it is now known as a waràngu keti lajomàm (divided lajomàm).
The clothing of men has evolved into three different forms. Formal wear is a long lajomàm, with a cloak worn outside. Working wear, on the other hand, is a waràngu. The third category may be termed ‘official’ wear – the clothing worn in official capacities, or highly formal occasions. This consists of a runi lajomàm, or “short lajomàm”, which does not reach to the knees, and an arnyahà. The arnyahà’s collars have risen again to hide the chest, and the remnants of sleeves have been discarded. Most importantly, the front hem of the garment has acquired a long tail, which descends beneath the runi lajomàm to around shin level. The rear hem has a similar but smaller tail, which is tucked between the legs and knotted around the front tail.
For any of these three costumes, a banātiyosa is essential.
The three less significant genders have changed rather less in their costume. The mahikò have extended their itàko to the ground, and now wear a sash around their waist to hold it. The kimyō have extended their lajomàm to the ground in imitation of formal male clothing, and now hold it up with a rātajoùn – their banātiyosa has ceased being a belt at all and has moved up to cover their navel while the top of the lajo has moved down onto their hips. The ortu have made their cloak into a constant garment, not worn only outside, but in the process have shortened it into a cape that hangs upon the shoulders.
At the same time, there have been many developments in hat design. Most importantly, the hat of the mahikò has become specialised: from the side, the front curves concavely back but then forward again into a horn protruding forward from the head; there is then a flat peak until a right angle and a drop to the back of the head. From the front, there are two sides curving convexly to the peak, leaving a triangular piece between them. Around the entire hat is a broad circular brim, from which hangs the veil.
All other genders, barring the hat-less tàniko, wear shallow conical straw hats against the weather; men and kanihā have developed felt hats for casual and indoor wear, but these come in a wide variety of fashions, often associated with particular geographical areas. In general, male felt hats are simple and close to the head, while those of kanihā tend to have brims, and sometimes floppy peaks, and usually have a cloth falling over the back of the neck.
Finally, a word may be said about less noticeable garments. Shoes are generally leather sandals, while socks exist for padding purposes on long walks but are not fashionable. Those wearing a waràngu often wear sewn underwear over their private parts, though those with longer lajo do not, and nor do the poor. Women do not wear bras, although some yanautas may be sown in such a way as to accentuate the curves of the breasts. It is common for kanihā and kimyō to wear gloves outdoors.
The most notable change in this period has been the near-extermination of decoration. The soin and the barta have been retained as of near-religious significance, but even they generally occur only in strips around the hems, and never on male clothing. The mahikò are the exception to this rule, as they retain a considerable degree of ornament, in defiance of aesthetic norms. A lesser exception are the kimyō, who it is popularly imagined are perpetually struggling against the restraint of taste, and who may occasionally have distinct patterns on their clothing, though such patterns are still unusual. If they are not soin and barta, they will be abstract shapes.
However, this lack of patterning does not make clothing entirely drab – and nor does the poverty of dying colours caused by a loss of expertise in the Discord, as this is gradually being remedied through imported technology. The great design invention of this period has been thread-dyeing, in which individual threads are dyed in many hues before being woven. This, and the subtle introduction of rarer textiles into the weaving, has as its purpose the creation of a “shimmer”, or nù, in the fabric – the colours are not garish, but fade from one tone into another, slightly different, tone in a way that suggests the play of light on the material even when light is constant.