Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Josephine Rout on Dress for Female Students in Japan

Josephine discussed recent research she has undertaken as part of the Royal College of Art and Victoria and Albert Museum’s joint Master’s programme. Josephine focused on the development of dress for female students, or jogakusei, in Japan’s Meiji Period (1868-1912). In this epoch, a concern with modernisation and ‘catching up with the West’ often played out in terms of women’s education, and Josephine used a particular garment, the hakama (a sort of culottes worn over kimono) to illuminate the history of Meiji jogakusei. Associated with state functions, hakama were a garment typically worn by men prior to this period. Josephine suggested that the adoption of hakama by female students reflected an identification with the figure of the student, rather than gender travesty: the only grown-up students prior to this period were male, and as they wore hakama, so did the new breed of jogakusei. Regardless, the short hairstyles and supposed masculinisation of female students were castigated in the media, and there was a more general distaste symbolised in, for example, the magazine serial from 1905 entitled ‘Tales of Degenerate Schoolgirls’. Josephine illustrated her talk with modern-day hakama (the piece remains popular as graduation garb for female students), as well as a wealth of images that included some from children’s books of the period.

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