How was this jacket used?
The military camp jacket (jinbaori) was worn over a suit of “modern equipment” or tosei gusoku armor. Though some jackets had sleeves, many were sleeveless vests like this one. The camp jacket offered protection from the elements, but were also personalized fashion statements; their bold patterns, rich materials, and striking color contrasts were designed to leave a memorable impression. Whether worn on the battlefield or during ceremonial occasions, the camp jacket clearly proclaimed the wearer’s status, clan affiliations, and wealth.
What materials were used to make this garment? Why are they unusual or significant?
The red exterior fabric is a type of woolen cloth treated and shrunk for a dense, felted finish. Prized for its warmth and durability, the fabric was a status symbol available only to the rich and powerful. A luxury in a country without sheep, wool fabrics had to be imported from Europe. Lining the jacket is gold brocade, and its epaulets, made of an exotic animal fur, heighten the sumptuous effect.
How does the design of the jacket relate to its function?
Cut away deeply under the arms, the jacket would have fit comfortably over a suit of armor. A long back vent allowed for ease of movement, especially important for a mounted warrior. Horizontally centered at the back is an embroidered family crest (mon), an emblem identifying the wearer to other samurai. The crest, in the form of a peony, was used by a number of military families during the Edo period.