The Ritual - Dressing for Court

Countdown to publication: 15 days.

For a courtier to attend court, she had to prepare in very specific ways. Just as any woman would, Miyoshi enjoys the attention paid to her from her attendants when preparing to attend the court of the Empress, but it is not all that easy or comfortable. The one thing she detests is the blackening of her teeth. An excerpt of her preparation for court:

Three days before leaving, excitement permeated her apartments. This was the day preparation for court began. After washing her hair with shiromizu rice-soaked water, camellia nut oil was applied to make her black hair shiny. Then it was draped over burning incense all day to perfume it while it dried, before it was combed smooth. Longer than Miyoshi was tall, it flowed onto the floor and was her great pride.

During the hours it took to dry, her waiting ladies laid out her many robes and gowns from which she chose the twelve combinations she would wear—one set for each day of her stay— with matching ornaments for her hair.

The next day, coarsely ground red beans were used to cleanse her face. Afterward, she soaked in special bath salts and oils to soften her skin, leaving it with a light fragrance of cherry blossoms that would swirl about her whenever she moved.

Shortly before she was to leave, odorless, whitening creams were applied to all parts of her face, neck, and chest not covered by clothing. Then, white rice flour powder was dusted on top of the creams. Her eyebrows were plucked and a smudge of dark placed above each eye,

high on her forehead, leaving her with the affect of an alert and charming coyness. Finally it was time for the part she detested. But she followed custom and had her pearly teeth stained black with the tar mixture.

Just before she was to depart, Akemi helped Miyoshi into her Kosode under-robe and loose nagabakama trousers which were tied at her waist. This was followed by the twelve gowns of the color-set Miyoshi would wear her first day at court. The kinu were carefully put on so each sleeve peeked out at just the perfect distance back from the one below, displaying all the colors in the cloak combinations she’d chosen.

Next, her maid helped her into the uwagi over-robe. Finally, the karaginu, a short, boxy, Chinese jacket was donned before the mo was tied around her waist and allowed to trail down in back.

At last, it was time to leave. Akemi and two more maids accompanied her. Her father smiled with pride as he bid her goodbye to begin her ceremonial trip to court.

As she entered the quarters of the princess, Miyoshi was announced with the formal plucking of bows and reverberations of gongs. All customary rituals and expected conversations were performed with precision.


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