English language sources
Dalby, Liza Crihfield. Kimono: Fashioning Culture. Boulder, Colorado: Avery Press, 1993.
Probably the most comprehensive study of Japanese costume in English that exists. Liza Dalby is best known as “The American Geisha”, a Californian grad student in anthropology who studied geisha communities for her thesis and ended up working as one and becoming quite a novelty. Dalby fell in love with Japanese traditional dress during her time in Kyoto and wrote this book years later. It is the only English source I know of that translates Masasuke’s 12th century manuscript, Nyobo no shozoku no iro which talks all about appropriate colour combinations in the Heian period and when to wear them. It isn’t a step-by-step guide for re-enactors or costumers, but it is a better survey of Japanese costume than any other source on this list.
Hempel, Rose. The Golden Age of Japan: 794-1192. New York: Rizzoli, 1983.
Not a costume text per se, but a text dealing specifically with the Heian period. Since clothing and aesthetics were such a huge part of what made Heian-jidai Heian-jidai, I include it here.
Liddell, Jill. The Story of the Kimono. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1989.
Although I bristle at the idea of calling period clothing “kimono”, this book is a good source for Westerners to learn about Japanese dress. It also has a lot of pictures of extant period clothing.
Marshall, John. Make Your Own Japanese Clothes: Patterns and Ideas for Modern Wear. Tokyo and New York City: Kodansha International, Ltd. 1988.
A MODERN source. But if you know nothing about putting a pattern together, it sure gives you a hand.
McGann, Kass (Fujiwara no Aoi). Things to Wear: Clothing of the Heian Period Japan. Compleat Anachronist #80 (July, 1995). Society for Creative Anachronism. 1995.
Out of print (on purpose) but if you got it, use it.
Minnich, Helen Benton and Normura Shojiro. Japanese Costume and the Makers of its Elegant Tradition. Rutland, VT: C. E. Tuttle, 1963.
Yamanaka Norio. The Book of Kimono. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1982.
This is really a book on modern kimono and how to wear it. But in the introduction it gives a brief overview of Japanese clothing from the beginning up until now. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably the easiest of these books to find. It won’t show you how to make or wear period Japanese clothing, however.
Japanese language sources
Inokuma Kaneshige. Kodai no fukushoku (Clothing and ornament during ancient times). Tokyo: Shibundo, 1962.
Ishimura Teikichi and Arashi Yoshindo. Yusoku kojitsu (Ancient customs). 2 vols., Gakujitsu Bunko, Nos. 800 and 801. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1988 printing.
Izutsu Gafu. Fukushoku no nagare (The Flow of Clothes). Kyoto: Korin sha, 1984.
Izutsu Gafu. Nihon fukushoku shi ko (Treatise on historical Japanese attire). Kyoto: Korin sha, 1983.
The late Izutsu Gafu established the Kyoto Costume Museum, a testament to his lifelong passion for historical clothing. Inside are mannequins dressed in reproduction clothing from various periods of Japanese history, from the most ancient times to the present day. You can view much of the exhibits on the web at The Costume Museum Website or click here for the smaller English site. If you find yourself in Kyoto, the Costume Museum is well worth a visit.
Mr. Izutsu has left us a number of books on costume; the two listed above are just an example. Today his son runs the Costume Museum in downtown Kyoto and produces replica clothing for the Imperial family and various festivals and ceremonies.
It is through the gracious permission of the young Mr. Izutsu that the Costume Museum graphics are used on this site.
Kurihara Hiro and Kawamura Machiko. Jidai isho no nuikata [How to sew period costume]. Tokyo: Genryu sha, 1984.
An indispensible work for the re-enactor. This book shows extant garments from the Shosoin, Heian men’s and women’s formal attire and period theatre costumes, among others. More importantly, it gives pattern layouts and directions for all the garments shown. It doesn’t show every garment from every period, but it’s worthy of a place of honour in the Pre-Tokugawa Re-enactor’s library.
Maeda Ujo. Iro (Color). Volume 38 of Mono to ningen no bunkashi (Cultural history of people and things). Tokyo: Hosei Daigaku, 1980.
Maruyama Nobuhiko. Clothes of Samurai Warriors. Kyoto Shoin’s Library of Japanese Textiles, vol. 3. Kyoto: Kyoto shoin, 1994.
Sato Yasuko. Nihon fukuso shi [History of Japanese clothing]. Fifth printing. Tokyo: Kenpaku sha, 1992.
Suzuki Keizo. Yusoku kojitsu daijiten [An encyclopedia of ancient customs]. Tokyo: Yoshikawa kobun kan, 1995.
Suzuki Keizo. Yusoku kojitsu zuten [An illustrated dictionary of ancient customs]. Tokyo: Yoshikawa kobun kan, 1995.
Two works from an undisputed source. Since his death in 1993, many of Suzuki’s works are being reprinted. The daijiten is a complete and encyclopedic listing of historical Japanese garb, accessories, and other details including armour, styles and types of palanquins, etc. It’s considered THE reference source on historical clothing, equipment, and related matters. The zuten is a short volume on the various outfits worn historically in Japan. In addition to being a wonderful basic source, it has listings of all the various parts needed (including accessories) making up any given outfit. It’s recommended as a starter book.