Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Outer Robe (Uchikake) with Mandarin Oranges and Folded-Paper Butterflies

Edo period (1615–1868)
late 18th–early 19th century
Tie-dyed satin damask with silk embroidery and couched gold thread
Overall: 69 1/2 × 48 1/2 in. (176.5 × 123.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Ilse Bischoff, 1976
Accession Number:
Not on view
The outer robe, or uchikake, was worn without a sash over a kosode on formal occasions. Originating in the Kamakura period (1185–1333) as a robe for highranking samurai ladies, it later was used more widely as formal winter attire. In traditional marriage ceremonies, an uchikake is worn over a wedding kimono. Extra padding is inserted into the hem to provide a seamless flow of the train.

Wedding uchikake are decorated with auspicious motifs, such as the folded-paper butterflies depicted here in pairs, male and female, to represent the newly wedded couple. Folded-paper butterflies attached to thin strips of paper were also used to adorn presents and may be the origins of this pattern. “Butterfly” in Japanese is pronounced chō, which sounds like the word for “long” (長), so the motif also symbolizes a long and happy marriage. The evergreen mandarin orange tree (tachibana) is executed in tie-dye (shibori) on a patterned black silk satin damask (rinzu) ground. Teal, red, and gold details are added in embroidery and gold couching.
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