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Object Timeline

1943

  • Work on this object began.

1945

  • Work on this object ended.

1993

  • We acquired this object.

2013

2014

2019

  • You found it!

Thermal Vest (Japan), 1943–1945

This is a Thermal vest. It was designed by Junichi Arai. It is dated 1943–1945 and we acquired it in 1993. Its medium is silk floss and its technique is plain weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Until silk production was industrialized in the mid-twentieth century, fine silk threads were reserved for the wealthy. But minimally processed silk floss and wadding, often made from waste cocoons, could be made into coarse but warm garments. This simple vest of un-dyed, un-spun silk floss was made for a fighter pilot during World War II, to maintain his body heat while flying at altitude. The intrinsic luster of the material, combined with the irregular thickness of the fiber bundles, give this piece a pleasingly complex surface texture.

Known as a “textile magician” for his high-tech textile creations, Junichi Arai never failed to admire the ingenuity of the unknown craftsmen who preceded him. As a child during the war, he often saw women making vests such as this one by hooking the floss bundles around nails on a wooden board, allowing them to hand-weave each piece to shape, with no cutting.

This object was donated by Arai Creation System. It is credited Gift of Junichi Arai.

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Its dimensions are

H x W: 51.4 x 42.5 cm (20 1/4 x 16 3/4 in.)

Cite this object as

Thermal Vest (Japan), 1943–1945; Designed by Junichi Arai (Japanese, 1932 - 2017); silk floss; H x W: 51.4 x 42.5 cm (20 1/4 x 16 3/4 in.); Gift of Junichi Arai; 1993-118-7

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Making Design.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18643193/ |title=Thermal Vest (Japan), 1943–1945 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=17 October 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>