women of 1798

“The tenth sheet from the set Joshoku kaiko tewaza kusa (Silkworm Culture: The Handiwork of Women), by Kitagawa Utamaro, c. 1798-1800.  Three women are wearing tasuki to protect their sleeves whilst stretching silk floss; the one on the left is turned so that you can see the way the sash is tied in a simple knot at the back.  The other thing that needed protecting when a woman was engaged in any sort of labour-intensive work within the home, or outside of it if she happened to be employed, was her hair. A woman’s hair would be heavily oiled to keep it in place, and if at all possible she’d have wanted to avoid exposing her neatly arranged coiffure to dust, steam, and anything else that might cause it to unravel or become dirty, especially as women at that time would have washed their hair no more than once a month (with combing and oiling done daily). To this end, she would wrap a simple cloth called a tenugui around her head, safeguarding her hairdo in the presence of boiling stock pots, washing tubs, and small insects coming in to land."  Text and image via Gina Collia-Suzuki.