A visit to Somerset House London for the Beg Boro Transform exhibition.
During the Edo period (1603-1868) Japanese commoners were only permitted to wear clothes that were dyed blue, brown, grey or black. Cotton had been cultivated in southern Japan from the sixteenth century but it was considered a luxury fabric and could only be afforded by the better off urban populace. It was warmer and lighter than the cloth woven from homespun nettle, ramie or hemp. Discarded, ‘worn out’ cotton garments from the south were valued enough to be collected by merchants whose boats plied their trade up the northern coast. It was there they found a ready market. Fragments were purchased and pieced into layered clothes and futon covers by the rural poor for whom cotton cloth was rare and expensive. The making of Boro cloths and clothes continued into and beyond the Meiji period (1868-1912) Text by Andy Christian.