Taisho Houmongi–Nostalgic Rhythms

Festive Hand Drums On Black Woven Silk.

Today I get to talk about one of my favourite features of vintage kimono: rinzu. Rinzu is the term for woven patterns in the silk. Think of it as jacquard or damask. A soft shimmer of traditional patterns embellished all over the body of the kimono, oftentimes a continuation of the kimono’s motif. Rinzu is still fairly common, but I feel like there’s a certain luster to vintage and antique examples. Newer silk kimono–which I also love and adore and have several of in case we weren’t clear about that–have a stiffness to them that vintage silk does not. There’s a liquid flow; a softness to vintage and antique Japanese silks that’s difficult for me to explain without just putting it in your hands and saying “Feel this, dammit.

This is a beautiful example of Rinzu in a fairly formal garment called a Houmongi. This one is even adorned with three Tachibana (citrus) kamon (crests). This piece called out to me in that way things do when they remind you of something great that happened while things were hard. Ever remember a time in your life that was so fucking obnoxiously shit that even thinking about it costs you a significant amount of energy? Ever recall a softer, sweet moment from those times, and it pulls at your heart a little differently? Everything was on fire, but at least for a second, you weren’t burning, you were just warm. Something about this one made me feel that way. So…

Pictured: Literally me.

She is covered in little drums. I’m not an expert in Japanese musical instruments, but I do know a few of them. And I know enough about those few that I can effectively flop around squealing at search engines until they give me the name of what I want. Knowing how to ask a question is one of my three skills. These drums are a subset of taiko drums called “Tsuzumi.” Now, I know there are a lot of different kinds of drums in this subset with different names depending on where you go and how big they are. There’s not much on the dress for scale here, so I’m being general. We’ve got tassels and drums, and those drums are covered in flowers, and it’s goddamn gorgeous. What more could one ask for?

The tsuzumi are decorated with kiku (chrysanthemums) and sasa (bamboo leaves), surrounded by banners and cords. The red and white striping, I believe, has some Shinto significance, but I am not specifically sure on that. That’s kind of the thing with kimono–there are layers and layers of symbolism and significance. Even knowing what something is and what it represents academically, oftentimes you can only know the surface. Meanings have double meanings. Seasons have micro-seasons. Shit’s weird. I love it.

This kimono came to me in pretty good shape considering it was a domestic purchase. It was well cared for, and there’s very little to write home about aside from a small spot here, a little patina there. The only weird thing that sticks out to me is that it looks like someone resized it at some point, and that wasn’t the person it was originally tailored for. As you can see, there’s some black banding between the panels, were one part of the pattern abruptly ends and then continues a beat later. Like smashing the clone stamp tool in Photoshop, and being terribly irresponsible about it. Typically, these kimono are tailored for a specific individual, so the way the dyed pattern goes together between the panels is accounted for in those measurements. There’s more to it than that, but for the purposes of this blog entry, that’s fine. Well, this one was widened, and it shows. They did a fine job of it, the seams are neat and clean. I might pick it apart later and rejoin the pattern properly. I find it to be rather interesting, though.

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