Historical Photos of Womens Self Defense featuring Kimono


I recently stumbled onto a series of historical photos. These photos feature a victorian woman, paired alongside an asian woman. They are performing a series of self defense moves. I find the style of dress particularlly interesting, how and different the furisode is worn from modern times.

The entire series of phtoos can be seen here. The kimono and obi are so drastically different from modern styles. I wonder…


4 responses »

  1. Those are fascinating! The style of dress is really something to look at, no oshahori and the way her obi is done intrigues me.

  2. Ohashori was not common until around the 30s, I think. Before then, not all women in even Taisho era wore it all the time- it is easier to walk around without it because not having the bottom of the skirt wrapped so tightly allows for longer strides and more positions, without worrying about stressing or tearing seams. To go out, women would simply tie up the kimono at the waist using an extra tie, like the ones maiko and geiko use when walking from appointment to appointment when they have other things to carry. Also, if you look at many older hanga and bijin prints, you’ll find that even in Taisho, obiage were not always visible or even used. The nagoya obi we know today was not invented until the 1950’s- women wore fukuro or maru, much larger, stiffer obi that did not require so much support compared to some of todays’ styles.

    However, compared to other postcards I have seen on Ichiroya and Ebay, her kitsuke is still a bit loose and sloppy. I chalk this up to her need for looser clothing for defense class, with the idea of redressing before leaving and going into the outside world. Back then, women were expected to tie their own clothes daily if the outfit was not incredibly* formal, requiring more complicated obi designs. This is why people have competitions today to tie kimono properly in the fastest time- once, women would have to hurriedly get dressed in the dark if an important visitor stopped by late at night, such as a rich guest at an inn after all the staff had retired for the night. They did not have three people and an hour to spend getting their clothes on- they had ten minutes or less by themselves! This girl may have simply loosened ties for a bit while needing to move, with the intent of re-tying at the end of the lesson.

    It’s the pattern which I find really interesting. It looks like it is not yuzen, but katagami. Look at how it repeats often, and how there are very few variations in design across the kimono. Katagami were frequently used for patterns in Edo and Meiji eras. Some of these stencils still exist today. Look them up sometime. ^_^

    • Thanks you soooooooooooooooooooo much for the info! You pretty much confirmed my thoughts.

      It’s so neat seeing an actual photo (not just a block print) of the different style in which the kimono were classically worn. It strikes me as far more pratical for everyday living, verses today the kimono feels increasingly retired to the status of formal and for special events.

      As a whole, thanks!

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