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Skirt (kain panjang)

This kain is patterned using a distinctive method that dates it to Japanese-occupied Java during World War II. This style of patterning, called hokokai, developed as a response to the Japanese embargo of cotton yardage. The batik makers treated the remaining few lengths of cloth to repeated applications of wax and dyes. The resulting tiny patterns are filled with bright details in a riot of colours.

Where was this textile created?

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Cloth of War

Skirt (kain panjang)
Asia: South East Asia, Indonesia, Java, Yogyakarta
c. 1940
Batik technique on woven cotton
250 cm x 106 cm
Gift of Hunter Thompson
T89.0137 Textile Museum of Canada

In Java, a kain is generally considered more formal than a sarong. Both are worn as wrapped clothing. This kain features pagi soré (morning and evening) design, with two related yet distinct patterns on each half of the fabric. Depending on how it is draped around the waist and lower body, it can appear to be two different garments.

In a tropical country like Java, the light, cool comfort of cotton batik is ideal. The kain is a variation of ingeniously simple and adaptable wrapped clothing, similar to the Indian sari and the Roman toga, which require no shaping or fastenings.

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