Deep Purple Textured Silk 100 Years Old
I actually very recently finished this old girl, considering how long I’ve had her. It came to me with a lot of damage–as a lot of kimonos that I buy domestically do. In fact, I bought it as an “oriental bathrobe.” What she is, though, is a deep, luscious purple Meiji era susogara furisode. The five massive Tsuta kamon, the cotton padding throughout but thick in the hem, the textured weave, the faded but still glittering gold wires in the flowers–no mistaking it. This is nobody’s bathrobe. This is a part of a bridal ensemble.
It took so long to figure out what to do with this even, because I’d never quite encountered the problem it had. You see, I think someone either threw this thing in a clothes dryer or otherwise got on one of those spinning puke rides at the fair with it on, because the cotton padding had started to come through the silk shell and ball up on the surface. Basically, there were white strands and balls of fluff just sticking out EVERYWHERE. Every. Goddamn. Inch of it was utterly matted with the stuff. You can see where I circled it.
For my first attempt at remedying this situation, I had popped a seam and tried to just pull the cotton back through. But it became apparent to me pretty quickly that wasn’t going to work. Some of the matted fibers were so knotted and bound up with other kinds of lint on the outside, that it was completely connected to other fibers across the surface. It left me hesitant to try very much, because I’m kind of a weenie when it comes to anything that could be considered a “destructive” restoration. It sat in my “project” box, folded neatly in tatoushi paper for quite some time. Recently I pulled it out, and this time I have a crap ton of overblown confidence of many way weirder repairs under my belt.
So what did I do? I took a straight razor to it.
I slowly and painstakingly shaved off every strand, every fiber, every matted ball of crap that wasn’t supposed to be there. It took a stupid amount of time to do this. Even after all of that, some stain removals, and some reinforced seams, she’s in shockingly good shape under all of that gunk! But that said? I don’t think that I would risk wearing this piece. As you can see in the pictures, there’s a hole in the lining. That’s not just a hole. The silk is shattering. And there’s some thinning near a few of the seams, so I think that there is risk of that on the whole body of this item. I even decided against removing the basting stitches from the sleeves or the collar.
Even so, this piece has a glow to it that’s difficult to capture on camera. I say that with a straight face as though I’m not an abysmal photographer. The deep purple textured silk is inviting to the touch, and the resist dye technique on the flowers is calming. We see mizu (water), kiku (chrysanthemums), and ayame (iris), making this a formal spring piece.
So! How old is it, exactly? Well, it certainly isn’t my oldest piece. It’s hard to say–it’s not signed anywhere, so I can’t match that with anything, but it doesn’t, how shall I say, FEEL older than two of my other Meiji Era pieces. But I’m very confident that it IS Meiji. That puts it no younger than 1911. So what you’re looking at here is a 100 year old wedding kimono, sold in the USA by someone who thought it was an “oriental bathrobe,” to someone who was willing to put a lot of effort into making her feel whole again. I fucking love my work. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.