Jūnihitoe (12-layer robe)

It was a fantastic Drawing Room session yesterday evening at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

The session was led by artist Emily Beckmann, who originally studied for a BA in Fashion Design before an MA in Fine Art. I mention this because of my current interest of art in fashion! The timing of this session couldn’t have been better to tie into my current fashion illustration studies.

The inspiration for the session was a painting by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Mysterious Garden is a dream-like painting featuring a woman not in traditional clothing, but surrounded by an “orb” of a dress.

Emily arranged a few piles of material around the room, of varying textures, and provided some magazines. She instructed us to cut out a face, glue it on the back of some tracing paper to show through on the front, and then draw the material around it to create clothing.

I snapped up the chance to employ the fashion illustration techniques I learnt in the last 3 weeks. I accentuated the verticals and diagonals, despite not drawing a full-length figure. I used opposition of line — making one shoulder higher than the other for example — to make the image more interesting and dynamic. Here is the result:

reminiscent of a Japanese 12-layer robe

There are 2 types of texture shown here: one for the robe the woman is wearing; the other for the background behind her.

Emily observed that the woman looked like a mountain, with the solidity and shape of the robe. I like that as I was particular about capturing the sharp folds of the otherwise soft material.

Drawing Room organiser Sharon Quigley said it looked like she was wearing a kimono. My wife went even further, suggesting it was like the traditional 12-layer Japanese robe called a jūnihitoe (十二単) – which literally translates as 12-1 robe. This type of kimono is built up from 12 whole layers of cloth, giving it a very voluminous look.

Empress Teimei at coronation in 1912

The quality of all the pieces in this session was great. I totally enjoyed the task and was very pleased to be able to apply what I’ve been learning in fashion illustration. Thank you Emily, and Sharon as always.



  1. Emily Beckmann

    Hi Tim,
    I’m glad you enjoyed the project. I think the look of the jūnihitoe is very interested – very structured – like a mountain!
    I love leading the drawing room projects because I start with the seed of an idea and then, when I see what everyone has made it all makes sense. Like the call and response sounds birds make to create the complete song. 🙂

    • Tim Hards Vicente

      Hi Emily, That’s a beautiful way to describe the sessions. It is nice to hear how that as an attendee I’m playing my part in completing a song! How sweet! 🙂 Thank you very much for visiting my blog and commenting. I do hope to see you again leading another session in the future, or as a fellow attendee even!

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