A View into our Collection: Japanese Symbols and Motifs

From 1965-95, Susan Tehon lived in Japan and frequented the monthly flea markets at the Arai Yakushi shrine in Tokyo. She purchased used kimonos, which were readily available since the Japanese did not, at the time, like to wear old or used clothing. In 2012, she donated 38 boys’ kimonos and other Japanese costumes, textile, and photographs to the Henry.

The kimonos were used in the Miyamairi (Shinto shrine visit) and Shichi-go-san (seven-five-three) ceremonies, both celebrating traditional rites of passage. The Miyamairi was for one-month-old boys, and the Shichi-go-san for three- and five-year-old boys and three- and seven-year-old girls. New research by the Henry Collections staff has revealed some of the folk tales, symbolism, and other meanings associated with the imagery on the kimonos.

In the Miyamairi ceremony, a sashed kimono, like the boy’s kimono pictured below, is draped over an infant boy when he’s taken to the Shinto shrine. The sashes may also be tied around the neck of the person holding the infant. Relatives congratulate the baby by placing paper money between the sashes.




Japan. Boy’s kimono [front and back view]. 1926-1989. Plain weave; Resist dyed, paste resist (katazome); Painted (on fabric); Printed, stenciled. Silk. Henry Art Gallery, gift of Susan Tehon, 2012.3-27.

Amulets (semamori), which are traditionally hand-stitched by mothers or grandmothers, appear where the sashes join the lapel and serve as a charm against evil.


Japan. Boy’s kimono [detail of amulet]. 1926-1989. Plain weave; Resist dyed, paste resist (katazome); Painted (on fabric); Printed, stenciled. Silk. Henry Art Gallery, gift of Susan Tehon, 2012.3-27.

Japan. Boy’s kimono [detail of amulet]. 1926-1989. Plain weave; Resist dyed, paste resist (katazome) embroidered; Painted (on fabric); Printed, stenciled. Silk. Henry Art Gallery, gift of Susan Tehon, 2012.3-27.

The drum, arrow, and Shinto paper pendant on this boy’s kimono are all symbols of the warrior class. The paper strips on the pendant evolved over time from being symbolic offerings to becoming deities themselves. Warriors would attach the strips or incorporate their design on their standards (identification banners) and clothing in a show of faith.


Japan. Boy’s kimono [back detail]. 1926-1989. Plain weave; Resist dyed, paste resist (katazome); Painted (on fabric); Printed, stenciled. Silk. Henry Art Gallery, gift of Susan Tehon, 2012.3-27.

Japan. Boy’s kimono [back detail]. 1926-1989. Plain weave; Resist dyed, paste resist (katazome); Painted (on fabric); Printed, stenciled. Silk. Henry Art Gallery, gift of Susan Tehon, 2012.3-27.

Many of the Miyamairi kimonos have family crests at the shoulders. This boy’s kimono bears the wisteria crest. It became popular at a time when Fujiwara (“Field of wisteria”) was in power in the latter half of the Heian period, and it is one of the most intricate design motifs in Japanese heraldry. These circular emblems identified an individual or family.


Japan. Boy’s kimono [detail of crest]. 1926-1989. Plain weave; Resist dyed, paste resist (katazome); Painted (on fabric); Printed, stenciled. Silk. Henry Art Gallery, gift of Susan Tehon, 2012.3-27.

Japan. Boy’s kimono [detail of crest]. 1926-1989. Plain weave; Resist dyed, paste resist (katazome); Painted (on fabric); Printed, stenciled. Silk. Henry Art Gallery, gift of Susan Tehon, 2012.3-27.

Crests appeared on many artifacts, including futon covers and wrapping cloths, and seen illustrated on costumes and textiles on woodblock prints.

Japan. Furoshiki (wrapping cloth). Plain weave; Resist dyed, paste resist (tsutsugaki). Cotton; Vegetable dye (indigo); Pigments; Tsutsugaki printing. Henry Art Gallery, Frances and Thomas Blakemore Collection, 96.2-181.

Japan. Furoshiki (wrapping cloth). Plain weave; Resist dyed, paste resist (tsutsugaki). Cotton; Vegetable dye (indigo); Pigments; Tsutsugaki printing. Henry Art Gallery, Frances and Thomas Blakemore Collection, 96.2-181.


The Kabuki actors depicted in this woodblock print performing the play Kanadehon chishingura can be identified by the crests on their respective kimonos.


Yoshitaki (Utagawa Yoshitaki). Ozeki. 1865. Color woodblock print on paper. Henry Art Gallery, bequest of Miss Edna Benson, 69.68

Yoshitaki (Utagawa Yoshitaki). Ozeki. 1865. Color woodblock print on paper. Henry Art Gallery,
bequest of Miss Edna Benson, 69.68


Explore more Japanese crests identified in the Henry’s collection!
The Henry’s Collection Search now features extended notes in the detailed view option. We have begun to use this feature to showcase our Japanese research and will provide more extended object information in the future.

Thanks to researchers Elisa Law, graduate student in Museum Studies, and Diana Ryesky, costume scholar and volunteer, for their contributions to this research and post.



The Blanche Payne Regional Costume Photograph and Drawing Collection Now Digitized

In the 1930s, Blanche Payne took two leaves of absence from her position teaching historic costume and apparel design in the UW’s School of Home Economics to travel through Central Europe and the Balkans surveying folk costume in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Albania, and Yugoslavia. In addition to exploring museum collections, Miss Payne visited remote villages, markets, and festivals throughout the country to study and photograph peasant costumes. She augmented her studies by drafting patterns, commissioning watercolor paintings, and collecting postcards of the clothing she encountered.

These visual materials (photographs, pattern drawings, watercolor paintings, and postcards) collected by Miss Payne now live in the University of Washington Libraries’ Special Collections Division and have recently been digitized and made available online.

During her travels, Miss Payne also collected costumes and textiles (aprons, blouses, skirts, outer garments, accessories, and household textiles) which became part of the Henry’s permanent collection (over 694 objects). You can view these unique objects on the Henry’s website through our online collections database and the Costume and Textile Digital Gallery.

Digitizing the Payne Collection provides a virtual and intellectual connection between the visual materials and costumes. The photographs, pattern drawings, watercolor paintings, and postcards in UW Special Collections are valuable tools to help understand the ways the costumes in the Henry’s collection were worn and made.

Kosovo back apron

While in the field, Miss Payne photographed costumes from many different angles, realizing that each view helped to assemble the story of how a costume was worn. In this case, she photographed two women from Peć, in the Kosovo region of Serbia, from the rear, showing back aprons suspended casually below the waist. She collected an actual back apron from the period, now in the Henry’s collection. Within the upper and lower borders lie two pieces of striped fabric, joined horizontally, similar to the aprons in the photograph.

Back Apron

Women in costume from behind, Peć (Arnauti people), Serbia (Kosovo, former Yugoslavia), circa 1930-1937. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, BPC0360 

Smilevo outer garment

Miss Payne made scale drawings of costume items from museums, personal collections, and the items she collected in the field. This woman’s fulled wool outer garment from Smilevo, Macedonia layers over a chemise with the arms going through the large armholes in the front. The thin triangular items at the shoulders (vestigial sleeves) are tucked into the sash at the back waist. The scale drawing, which illustrates the cut, seams, and placement of the braid adornment, shows a triangular shaped lower side piece that fits into upper side front and back pieces and provides a unique way of adding fullness to the garment’s skirt area.

Fulled outer garment

Yugoslavia: Macedonia, Bigla, Smilevo. Outer garment (sajak — woman’s). early 20th century.
Twill weave; Fulled; Applique; Embroidered. Wool with wool, silk embroidery, braid, and tassels.
Henry Art Gallery, Collected by Blanche Payne.      78.3-20, t3

We are lucky to retain all of the Payne Collection on the UW campus and we invite you to visit us in person or on the web to see these amazing objects yourself.

Many thanks to long-time volunteer and costume scholar Diana Ryesky for her research and contributions, both to the Henry and to this blog posting.

Aesthetic Dress: The Scandal!

Gertrude Käsebier. The Picture Book. 1903. Photogravure. Henry Art Gallery, Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen and The Boeing Company, 97.249.

Gertrude Käsebier. The Picture Book. 1903. Photogravure. Henry Art Gallery, Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen and The Boeing Company, 97.249.


Today’s post is written by Kimberly Hereford, a PhD candidate in art history at the UW.

Just what is Aesthetic fashion and how was it different than everyday Victorian dress? In the day, Aesthetic dress was daring and existed outside the framework of etiquette and correct Victorian society. Though deemed scandalous and unfashionable by the public at large, initially a small group of avant-garde women dared to wear these gowns in public. 

On Thursday, May 23 I hope you will join me in the museum’s Reed Collection Study Center for “Off with the Corset!” to view a select group of objects from the Henry’s permanent collection and to discuss how Aesthetic dress differed from more conventional and acceptable woman fashion.

By looking at objects from the Henry Art Gallery’s permanent collection, we will explore what constituted “unfashionable” versus “ideal” Victorian standard of beauty, themes evident in the museum’s current exhibition Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty.

The Aesthetic dress movement grew out of the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement, which also influenced the Arts and Craft movement in England. “Truth to nature and beauty in all things,” was the guiding principle of Aestheticism, a Victorian art movement designed to counter the Industrial Revolution by rejecting conformity and materialism. The adherents to Aesthetic fashion believed that clothing should not distort the natural form of the female body, but rather should be in harmony with natural and individual characteristics with the wearer, and above all, allow ease of movement. The greatest outrage for the adherents to the Aesthetic movement was the tight lacing of the corset and the bulges caused with stiff bustles.

There are two excellent examples of Aesthetic dresses in the Henry’s collection, a hand-sewn blouse and a light blue silk dress from Liberty & Co. Each piece contains detailed smocking, a hallmark of Aesthetic fashion.  Rather than harsh aniline dyes, these dresses were often made using “natural” dyes and would have been worn without a petticoat or bustle. The total effect, would have seemed droopy, limp, and even “sloppy” – the antithesis of everyday fashionable attire

By 1884, a shift occurred and Aesthetic dresses could be procured by the everyday Victorian woman from Liberty & Co. in London, which was deemed the “chosen resort” for the followers of this movement. The Liberty silks and its distinctive floral motif became associated and trademarks of the Aesthetic dress and instantly recognizable.  

My talk on the 23rd will also focus on these daring and fashion-forward women who were the first to cause a stir with their unusual style. Although Aesthetic dresses such as those in the Henry’s collection, would have been initially perceived as eccentric and “out of fashion,” we will also consider how, as the century progressed, this style not only became acceptable, but eventually influenced dress designers and continues to linger even today.



Facial Recognition Defense Workshop: A Make-Up Tutorial

CV Dazzled Bronwyn and Whitney (in the lower left) escape recognition, while the men do not.

CV Dazzled Bronwyn and Whitney (in the lower left) escape recognition, while the men do not.

This is a guest post by artist Bronwyn Lewis, who will be teaching the workshop

As part of his MFA at NYU’s International Telecommunications Program, NYC artist Adam Harvey developed CV Dazzle (short for computer vision dazzle) using one of the common algorithms used in facial recognition software that measures images for variations in light and shadow to indicate if a human face is present. As any good drag queen will remind you, your eyebrows, nose, and cheekbones look lighter than the rest of your face—they are more prominent so the light hits them first—while your eye sockets are darker because they are in shadow, and your mouth is darker, because the skin of your lips is thinner, so it appears dark, red, or pink.

In traditional makeup, you exaggerate some (or all) of these qualities. Harvey, working with hair stylists and makeup artists, created looks that targeted the areas of the face that facial recognition software looks for, and disrupted them, by putting unexpected blocks of hair or makeup there, so that the algorithm could not determine for certain if a face was there. The picture above is from the Henry’s Spring Open House last Friday where I was giving CV Dazzle makeovers. When the software detects faces, it places a red box around them. My hairdo and Whitney’s makeup allowed us to escape detection.

There are also some facial recognition programs that measure your specific biometrics and basically “memorize” your face which is how Facebook can automatically tag you or your friends –we have taught the software what we look like.

This Thursday April 11th, we’ll be learning more about how the software work, why we should be concerned about the increase in surveillance by the government and private sector, what “dazzle” camouflage is, and how to create our own digital camouflage –using hair and makeup to thwart face detection.

Interested? Tickets here.

Guest Blog from Rebecca Migdal, Summer Intern

Throughout the year, the Henry offers a variety of student internships in different departments. Find current opportunities here. This past summer, Rebecca Migdal, a Lois F. McNeil Fellow and  graduate student in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture at the University of Delaware, interned in the collections department under our Curator of Collections, Judy Sourakli. She recently blogged a reflection of her internship at the Henry on the University of Delaware’s Museum Studies in Motion blog. Here is an excerpt:

“Hands-on access also developed my visual vocabulary for late 19th and early 20th century clothing, the various issues with their conditions, their storage requirements, and other special needs. Throughout the internship, I contributed to other collections management functions, too. I helped research selections from the historic dress collection so we could more precisely date costume pieces. I also learned about the Mimsy XG database and the preparation and organization of digital images for both internal and external use. Learning a little about the Henry’s methods for condition reporting, storing flat textiles, and its accession process was also a focus during the summer.”

Read the rest of the post here!



The Henry Open House is teeming with fun, excitement, and art! Not only are we opening two new exhibitions, Like a Valentine: The Art of Jeffry Mitchell and Now Here is also Nowhere: Part I, but we are also throwing a museum-wide party! Come dressed in your conceptual best for the Student Henry Advisory Group’s Conceptual Costume Contest. Enjoy the sweet music of the UW Mariachi Band, Fainting Goats, and FBDC ~ ФБДЦ; Check out the FAN CLUB in the Study Center; eat some delicious babycakes courtesy of Cupcake Royale and enjoy libations from Pyramid Breweries. All of that PLUS installations of Public Health Poems by Rachel Kessler!

Rachel Kessler will premier her new poem cycle on public health posters installed in The Henry’s restrooms by sinks and in bathroom stalls.  Kessler will lead groups in hand-washing poetry usage, demonstrate hand washing technique, recite bathroom stall limericks, and sing sea shantys.  Each poem lasts approximately 30 seconds, the amount of time the department of health recommends lathering hands for.


About the project:

Remember how your preschool teacher instructed you to rub your soapy hands together for the entirety of the Happy Birthday song?  Now there is a poem for that.  While scrubbing in like surgeons, our minds and mouths deserve something more than that same old dreary song.

Rachel Kessler, a poet of the everyday, has composed a new poem cycle that will appear on bathroom stall doors, above urinals, and next to sinks in public restrooms. Posing as Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work signs and stall door advertisements, these poster poems will provide entertainment while imparting a useful earworm of knowledge.

She began writing her first anonymous protest poems on the bathroom stall walls in seventh grade, and has long been fascinated by graffiti art. Inspired by a collaboration several years ago with poet Pete Miller and their collective LOCCAL: League of Citizens Concerned About Literature, her work with homeless adults, and as a preschool teacher and parent, began trying her hand at School House Rock style poems for her kids to recite while scrubbing their hands at the sink.

Determined to put poetry in unlikely and non-traditional venues, her work explores the function and origin of poetry, not only as a mnemonic device, but as a way to reflect on the mundane, daily activities that comprise the majority of our hours. After a short residency in Rome researching ancient public health works, she collaborated with graffiti, nursery rhyme, fairy tales, health department propaganda to compose poems for hand-washing, poems for toilet use, poems for dental hygiene, poems for bathroom stall decisions.  Like the “Talking Fountains” of Rome, defaced statues where poets post anonymous political commentary, bathroom stalls are the original online comments.  Public restrooms, like phone booths, are one of the few public-private spaces where a citizen can find respite in a public place.

This project was funded by a City Artists award from the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.


About the Henry event:
Several Public Health Poems will be installed in the Henry restrooms by sinks and in bathroom stalls. Rachel Kessler will lead individuals and groups in handwashing-poetry usage in the restrooms via demonstrations, in impromptu bathroom stall limerick recitations, and in other public health poetic concerns.  Sea shantys will be sung in bathroom stalls.



Rachel Kessler, co-founder of poetry-performance collaborations Typing Explosion and the Vis-à-Vis Society, is a writer and performer from Seattle.  Passionate about presenting poetry in non-traditional venues, she has performed interactive poetry in parks, on buses, in phonebooths, hair salons, and abandoned motels. She is visiting faculty and writer-in-residence at Centrum, a Whiteley Center Fellow with the University of Washington, a Jack Straw Writer, and senior writer-in-residence with Seattle Arts & Lectures.  She has performed at multiple times at the Seattle Art Museum, Bumbershoot, Night School at the Sorrento, Galapagos Art Space and Bowery Poetry Club in New York City.  Her poems have appeared in Tin House and the Monarch Review, and her text-based visual art is featured in The Open Daybook and Sea-Cat.

In summary, she’s a pretty rad lady. Make sure to spend some time in the loo at the Open House!

Fashion and the Henry

Did you know that the Henry has over 18,000 pieces in our Textiles and Costumes collection? Our extensive collection includes objects that range in date from 1500 BCE to the present. In particular, the collection affords historic overviews of early Coptic and pre-Columbian textiles; rugs; European fabrics; lace; and fashion from the late 18th century to the present. The holdings include significant sub-collections from India, China, Japan, Central Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Central America.

Collections in Focus: On Fashion:
Friday, March 16th, 7-8:30 pm
Reed Collections Study Center
RSVP to Rachael Faust, Assistant Curator of Collections & Academic Programs, rachaelf@henryart.org

This Friday, as part of our Collections in Focus series, we will host a talk on fashion. Sarah Nash Gates, Costume Designer and Executive Director of the School of Drama at UW, and Rebecca Kaufman, co-owner of the Seattle-based costume company Period Corsets will give presentations highlighted by the Henry’s collection. Nash Gates will examine tailoring, construction details, and silhouettes of historic costumes; Kaufman will address the role of corsets in body shape modification.

Eternity in a Ruffle:
Thursday, March 15th,  7pm
Henry Auditorium

The Henry Art Gallery in partnership with Seattle Arts and Lectures will present a class Eternity in a Ruffle: Fashion in Art, Art in Fashion. The last lecture will take place tomorrow at the Henry Art Gallery Auditorium. The class will be led by our Curator of Collections, Judy Sourakli, and Sandra Kroupa,  Book Arts and Rare Book Curator in Special Collections at Suzzallo/Allen Library. Both will share and discuss objects from the Henry Art Gallery and Special Collections relevant to the course.

In the meantime, check out the Henry’s Costume and textile collection in our Digital Interactive Gallery HERE.

Inspired by ART at the Henry

Guest Blog Post by Rachel Apatoff

Apatoff is completing her MFA in costume design through the UW’s School of Drama.

UW Drama's 2012 production of Jane Austen's Emma. Photo by Frank Rosenstein.

Diving into a moment in history is one of the most exciting things about being a costume designer. This year when the UW’s School of Drama released their season line-up, I spotted a stage version of Jane Austen’s Emma and knew it had to be the production for my costume design thesis.

Because I’ve always been a voracious researcher, Deborah Trout, Senior Lecturer in Costume Design and my thesis adviser, challenged me to take my love of research to the next level by spending time behind the scenes in museums, photographing and drawing real clothing from the period (1810-1815). Because Emma is set long before photographs, portraits and fashion plates count as primary research, but nothing can rival seeing the objects in person. Taking the time to draw each one enables a profound understanding of construction, which, when translated into the design, gives a truer and less “costume-y” appearance to the costumes on stage.

I was lucky enough do so at four museums across the country: The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology, New York; Smithsonian National Musuem of American History Museum, Washington D.C.; Chicago History Museum; and the UW’s own Henry Art Gallery.

After searching the Henry’s online collections database, I was aided by Rachael Faust, the Henry’s Assistant Curator of Collections and Academic Programs. She looked at what I’d been able to find on my own, and suggested additional objects. I made an appointment to view the objects in the museum’s Study Center and had the whole room to myself; full of gorgeous objects to be inspected.

Clothes that are 200 years old are obviously quite fragile, if they exist at all, and no other museum except the Henry had accessories, so I was excited to see what shoes and bonnets look like in person.


Nuremberg, Germany. Woman’s bonnet. 1804-1814. Straw; Silk brocade ribbon. Plain weave; Braided; Supplementary weft patterning. Henry Art Gallery, 77.8-265.

In 1815, shoes still were identical– no difference between the shoe for the right or left foot! I can’t do that to the actors, of course, but seeing the shape of those shoes and bonnets in person informed my choices as I was trying to translate my research to the stage. Understanding such small details, never could have been gleaned from fashion plates or paintings.

Woman’s wedding Escarpine. 1800-1850. Leather. Plain weave; Satin weave; Fabricated (leather, cloth). Henry Art Gallery, transfer from Columbia Teacher's College, 66.25-239, m1 and m2.

Because every dress was handmade, each is totally unique, down to its decoration. My favorite custom trim was on a sheer white dress in the Henry’s collection. I meticulously drew and photographed the trim and brought my photos to the costume shop’s draper (dressmaker). Together we puzzled out how such trim might be made and applied that technique to a dress that’s on stage in the very first scene! Go see the show, and let me know if you spot it.

Nuremberg, Germany. Detail of woman’s day dress. 1813-1822. Cotton. Leno weave; Twisted. Henry Art Gallery, intradepartmental transfer, 77.8-10.

The UW Drama’s production of Emma will run until February 26 at the Jones Playhouse.

Tickets are available online through the Meany Hall website

Open to the Public!

The Henry’s Study Center is open to the public tomorrow, Thursday 2/16 from 6-7PM. Visitors have the opportunity to see a selection of objects from the Henry’s permanent collection including dresses and photographs from the 1930-70s.

Christian Dior. Woman's dress. c. 1947-1948. Silk organdy with cotton embroidery. Plain weave; Embroidered, machine; Net, machine. Henry Art Gallery, Mrs. Theodore Plestcheeff Collection, 87.4-52.

Objects on display in the Study Center correspond with ideas being presented by UW professor Jessica Burstein in the SAL U class, Eternity in a Ruffle: Fashion in Art, Art in Fashion.

This class, which takes place in the Henry’s auditorium every other Thursday 7-8:30PM, only has 3 session left, 2/16, 3/1, and 3/15. Sign up now through the Seattle Arts and Lectures website or if you have a student the class is free!

Shared Sensibilities: Cunningham, Rauschenberg, and Johns

Robert Rauschenberg created the "parachute" costumes and other set pieces for Cunningham's "Antic Meet."

Sunday, October 23, 2011, 2:00 – 3:00 PM
Henry Auditorium
FREE for Students and Henry Members | $5 General Audience. Advance tickets recommended.



Between 1953 and 1980, the visual artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns frequently designed décor, costumes, and even lighting for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. This lecture will examine the sensibility shared by all three artists. Merce Cunningham began his professional career in dance as a member of Martha Graham’s legendary company. But by l953, when he first formed his own company, Cunningham had eliminated virtually every vestige of Graham’s influence from his own dancing and choreography. Significantly, 1953 was also the year in which Robert Rauschenberg created his Erased DeKooning Drawing, a work which –both literally and figuratively – declared his independence from the ethos of abstract expressionism. This lecture will argue that Cunningham’s repudiation of Martha Graham’s approach to choreography is paralleled in precise ways by Johns’ and Rauschenberg’s repudiation of painters like DeKooning, Pollock and the other great abstract expressionists. Collectively, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns (along with John Cage), spearheaded one of the great paradigm shifts in 20th century art: a transition away from the “hot,” anguished, personal energies of abstract expressionism toward the cooler, brainer, more impersonal aesthetic that would eventually manifest itself in minimalism and conceptualism.

Roger Copeland is Professor of Theater and Dance at Oberlin College. He is co-editor of the widely-used anthology What is Dance? and author of Merce Cunningham: The Modernizing of Modern Dance.