Mo is one type of kimono that constitutes Junihiote (twelve-layer robe).
Mo consists of a pair of kogoshi used as waist belts, ogoshi similar to koshiita (waist plate) of hakama (men's formal divided skirt), a pair of hikigoshi similar to strings dragged backwards and the main body of the mo similar to a pleated skirt.
The Way to Wear Mo
The way to wear mo today is firstly to slip on karaginu (a waist length Chinese style jacket) and then mo is lastly tied at the waist. Fix the ogoshi to karaginu with pressure and then turn kogoshi to the front and tie it well to arrange the shape. Mo also works as a belt or sash to fix hitoe (a light white, red or blue unlined robe), uchigi (a series of brightly colored unlined robes that create a layered effect), uchiginu (a beaten scarlet silk robe worn as a stiffener and for supporting the outer robes) and uwagi (a patterned woven and decorated silk robe that is shorter and narrower than the Uchiginu).
In the Heian period, it seems that they put on mo first and then slipped on karaginu.
In and Before the Heian Period
There is speculation that koshimaki (waist wrap), a traditional Japanese women's undergarments since ancient times merged with hirami imported from China and the Korean Peninsula and became mo.
According to the "Engishiki" (codes and procedures on national rites and prayers), mo has two types which are hitoe mo and awase (lined garment) mo depending on the season, and the code stipulates the wearing of the two types of mo, the outer mo and inner mo, however, it became single (hitoe) mo only due to the collapse of the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) and the prosperity of native Japanese culture. Although originally the way to wear mo was following the same way as to wear skirts, it changed from the middle of the Heian period and they started to drag the long hem of mo.
The mo was made by sewing eight strips of cloth and one each short cloth called agachino was added to the both the right and left sides of the sewn strips. Speculation is that it was a remnant of an old tradition of the time when they wore mo like a wrap skirt in order not to step on the hem of the long mo. However, it was customary that lower-ranked maids did not attach agachino. Agachino fell into disuse in the Kamakura period, and only the form is left to the offerings made at shrines to Shinto gods at Ise Jingu Shrine and Atsuta Jingu Shrine.
As mo is the most important garment in juni-hitoe (traditional multi-layer court costume, literally, twelve-layered ceremonial kimono) layered garment of the Heian period, and people had to wear mo when they served those who were elder or at a higher rank than themselves. There is an episode in "Makurano soshi" (the Pillow Book) that informally dressed and relaxed court ladies were surprised at the sudden appearance of the Emperor Ichijo and quickly slipped on karaginu or mo, and also there is a scene at the chapter 'Wakana (New Herbs), Part One' in "Genji Monogatari" (the Tale of Genji) that Akashi no onkata (Lady Akashi) appeared alone wearing mo in respect to the other wives of Genji.
From the Kamakura to Muromachi Period
As agachino became dead as mentioned above, in the Kamakura period, the simplification of mo was advancing. In the court, it became generalized that instead of layered uchigi such as itsutsu-ginu (5-layer garment), they usually wore futatsu-ginu (2-layred garment) in case of high ranked ladies and others who slipped on usuginu, although while karaginu was not omitted at the palace of the Emperor and Crown Prince, it was often that mo was not used. And that at the end of Kamakura period, so-called kakeobi type mo, with kogoshi loosely tied at the waist was put on the shoulder in order to make it easy to put on and take off of it became easy, was already established is known from historical materials and pictures such as statues of Fugen Bosatsu (universal god) and ju-rasetsunyo (the ten demonesses), possessed by the Nara National Museum and illustrated narrative scrolls of waka competitions of a different time. However, while the change in the way to wear mo was obvious at the time, the way to tailor it was not much different from before and the change was slow.
In the meantime, when the Onin War broke out and the court nobles were dispersed and the court ceremonies died out, the form of mo and the way to handle it was not passed down.
The Edo Period
When Tofukumonin was sent to court to marry the Emperor Gomizunoo, research on the proper way to wear juni-hitoe was conducted, however, the costume newly made from the research was different from the traditional one and the length of mo became extremely short and the hem barely reached the floor. It is said that wearing a costume over mo which was similar to a kind of mo with the divided hem of sokutai called kokechi no mo began around this time. These types of mo were worn with a pair of suspender-like supporters called kakeobi attached to mo hanging down from the shoulders and tied around the chest. While this kakeobi of the Kamakura period was the same form as that of kogoshi, modern kakeobi was wider and had different embroideries depending on the rank of the wearer. It is customary to use the same textile as the worn karaginu. While the kakeobi type mo of modern times is very short in the main body, hikigoshi was extremely long and there was a custom that one point was loosened and temporally fixed to make a loop.
A series of 'restoration' of the Yusoku kojitsu (court and samurai rules of ceremony and etiquette) to make this costume was called 'Kanei (a name of an era during the Edo period) revival,' however, it came far shorter than that at the peak of the culture of court nobles during the Heian period. Later, the way to make the costume was modified a few times and finally the form fit into the current style in 1842. This mode is based on emaki of 'Kasuga Gongen Kenki' (miraculous stories of Kasuga deity picture scroll) as a main historical material and was intended to revive the depicted form.
Kogoshi,' the important decorative composition of mo changed in the way it was used in tune with the times.
Hikigoshi and Kogoshi
Although the way to wear mo today is to tie it with kogoshi at the waist and hikigoshi drags behind, originally there was no kogoshi and mo was tied at waist with hikigoshi. Hikigoshi used to be a decorative mosuo obi (hem belt), however, it is thought it became more fancy, kogoshi was added separately to make it easier to tie mo. According to 'Genji Monogatari emaki' (the Illustrated Handscroll of the Tale of Genji) and so on, kogoshi was not directly stitched to mo like it is today, and it is understood that a small loop was attached to the end of ogoshi and tied with hikigoshi. Kogoshi was detachable and tentative. This way to attach kogoshi was the same as done with the early kakeobi type mo seen in the statue of Fugen Bosatsu ju-rasetsunyo, the possession of Nara National Museum, and further, also the same as the kakeobi type of mo of modern times. Ironically, the traditional way to attach kogoshi disappeared with the 'Revival' of restoration style of Tenpo (a name of an era during the Edo period), and became today's stitched type. It is an example that although 'Revival' means returning to the old-fashion, at the same time it means discontinuing detailed traditions.
Changes of Kogoshi
After the Kamakura period, as the curtailing mo is described as 'Not a hanging kogoshi' seen in historical materials from the middle of the Muromachi period (Kumoino Minori (The Rites)), kogoshi of mo became clothes that hang over the shoulders and are not tied at the waist (koshi or goshi), however, the name kogoshi continued unchanged.
Regarding the material used for kogoshi, there are few records from olden times. So far as the expression of historical materials shown in pictures, the depicted item suggests that kogoshi in the Heian to Kamakura period were usually kumihimo (twined cord). According to the record when Kitayamain (the wife of Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA and the Emperor Gokomatsu's mother equivalent) was sent to court to marry the emperor, many lady servants wore kogoshi with the same color as karaginu, and it implied that kogoshi attracted attention and at the same time, color matching with kogoshi and karaginu was establishing then.
In addition, among the dress clothes of zoshi (low class maid) of the late Heian period is a 懸帯 (kakeobi), however, it seems this is different from 掛帯 (kakeobi, literally the same meaning, and same pronunciation as the 懸帯) of mo. Other than this, the red lucky charm code the ladies visiting temples and shrines wear around their necks are also called 'kakeobi' but it is of course different from 掛帯 of mo.
Mo and 'Shibiradatsumono'
We often watch women of commonalty appear in the periodical drama situated in the medieval ages wear costumes that looks like pleated skirts on a kimono, it is called 'Shibiradatsumono' or 'Mobakama' and it is said that its origin is the same as for mo.
Full dress of the women of commonalty during that time was this 'Shibiradatsumono.'