No Sweat: How Textiles Help Beat the Heat

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    Left: Hitoe (Woman’s unlined summer kimono). Japan, mid-20th century. Silk, plain and nanakoshi-ro, stencil printed. Purchase, 1999. | Right: Hitoe. Japan, mid-20th century. Silk, plain and figured gauze weaves, stencil printed. Purchase, 1999.

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    Duijin Zhu Gua (Breasted bamboo jacket). China, 19th century. Bamboo, linen, cotton, netting, plain weave. Gift of Mrs. C.M. Cooke, 1927 (1064).

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    Sirat sungkit (loincloth). Indonesia, Borneo, Coastal Region, Iban. Early-mid 20th century. Cotton, silk, discontinuous supplementary weft, weft wrapping, pattern weave. Gift of The Christensen Fund, 2001 (9988.1).

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    Pio uki’ (Loincloth used as a Ceremonial Banner). Indonesia, Sulawesi, Galumpang, Sa’dan Toradja, c. 1915. Cotton, plain weave with supplementary weft, pattern weave. Gift of The Christensen Fund, 2001 (10470.1).

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May 19, 2016 - September 18, 2016
Honolulu Museum of Art

Exhibition Overview

How do people keep cool in hot climates? Clothing is one way, and No Sweat reveals how fiber and material preferences, weave structure, apparel construction and design, color selections, motifs, surface coatings, and sun protection offer relief from the heat in centuries-old traditional and contemporary high-tech textiles. 

See how today’s high-performance, synthetic microfiber athletic wear, made for “moisture management,” pays homage to the 19th-century Chinese duijin zhu kanjian, a jacket of interlaced segments of bamboo stalks, worn as an undergarment to create a barrier between the body and any outer robe.

Lightweight cloth, leno or gauze weaves facilitated air circulation for retaining a fresh appearance. Go-kochi-ro, a leno woven silk, was popular in Taisho Period (1912-1926) Japan for use in unlined summer kimono. Motifs and colors had strong metaphorical and cultural connotations, such as the use of water swirls and light blues to impart a cooling effect on the wearer. 

Gambiered gauze, from the Guangdong Province of southern China was dyed with natural juices of the shoulang yam (Dioscorea cirrhosa) and later glazed in river mud offering antiseptic merits as well as a faint scent. Before the invention of air conditioners, Japanese used cooling yuton—paper floor mats, treated with kakishibu, persimmon tannin containing anti-bacterial properties that reportedly have the ability to bring down one’s body temperature. No Sweat showcases the significant role that textiles achieve in promoting healthful living.