Taisho Haori–Bamboo Explosion

Vibrant Bamboo Leaves On Beautiful Teal Silk With Woven Gold Threads.

Here’s another piece that qualifies as a restoration that I never bothered to keep any records on. It’s actually pretty safe to say that most of my older kimono qualify as that in one way or another. I usually have to clean something, remove a stain, odor, or resew something on the pieces I buy. That’s the nature of buying second hand, vintage, and especially vintage kimono domestically. For this one, when I first saw it, my heart jumped and I thought to myself immediately:

OW FUCK MY EYES, OH MY GOD, SOLD. -Whips money at screen-

This is the Hawaiian shirt of haori, and I’m here for it. Look at this majestic creature. And when your eyes refocus, look at it again! Can you hear that? It’s the sound of how fucking loud this thing is. And yet when you’re with it in person, it’s actually rather easy to observe. Light falls on this beast in a strange way, and I think that it’s probably true for most Taisho Era pieces. There’s a softness to them that you’ve probably seen me struggle to describe properly a few times now. It’s not just the near liquid milky smoothness of the silk; it’s the way that it fills a space. The way light falls over the woven fabric and makes the patterns so much bolder, and yet so gentle in their spaces. Look at this one–it’s unmistakably old, and yet the explosion of colours invites a young, dreamy sense. Or at least I think it does.

I can’t say that the damage to this one was any weirder than any other piece I’ve ever repaired, I do remember a few highlights, though. I took the sleeves and side panels off to resize it, but found that the seam allowance needed to be cleaned at the old sewing lines. It didn’t require any fluid detergents or agents–the detritus came up with a lint roller no problem. More often than not, an angry lint roller and a clean kneaded eraser (do not use poster putty) will pull up more filth than you might expect them to. I just don’t recommend using the lint roller around kinsai (gold leaf paint) or fragile couching. The kneaded eraser can be surprisingly useful to get in those spaces, though.

At the tips of the sleeves there were a few suspect stains, and because I purchased this one long before COVID O’Clock, I was still in the habit of touching certain stains to my tongue occasionally to see if I could tell what it was. This is your semi-regular blog entry warning that I am arguably insane and not to fucking do that, because 1) this isn’t the year to fuck around with that, and 2) yes I have put…fluids…in my mouth because of it. Do not. Do this. Anyway, there was what I was pretty sure was Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ on the sleeve. I hit it with vinegar as described in this post, and that got most of it out. There are still some faded areas where I could have been more aggressive, but I just didn’t feel the need to put that kind of stress on the silk, because you have to be like three inches away from them in order to see them. And let’s be real, if someone’s that close to me, that’s what the bear mace is for.

There is a very tiny burn hole at the very bottom of the left sleeve. I remedied that by simply taking in the seam allowance there on both sleeves by about 3mm. I didn’t bother to take picture of that damage at the time, and I am certainly not going to take that seam apart just to get a shot of it for my blog, so you’ll just have to use your imagination. Before taking in the seam allowance, I hit the hole with a product called Fray Check to keep it from getting any worse. I don’t typically use this on silk, but I have very limited experience dealing with direct burns. I’ve handled some smoke damage before, but actual burn damage…I whipped out the big guns. Fray Check will make your fabric very hard, so use this very sparingly. I was going to tuck it away out of sight forever, so that’s why I did it.

In a few places, the gold wire threads that have been woven into the body of the haori had been pulled and stressed. I used a pair of high precision tweezers to kind of pinch and pull them back into place. I managed to do it without damaging any other threads or fibers. I don’t remember much about doing that, except a few strings of hard R expletives. So probably typical Tuesday.

All clean, smells removed, and sewn back together, she is certainly strong and sturdy enough to wear, but I haven’t really yet. I try it on in my room sometimes, but this piece is so delightfully screaming LOUD and I, for whatever impression you might have gotten of me from this blog so far, am actually quite shy about such things. I really should, though. It would be an absolute crime for this one to live in a closet, and once I spend a lot of time repairing something, I get really attached to them. Now I have a mental image of wearing it somewhere, and someone saying something about it, and I would just absolutely shove the silk in their face and scream “THANKS I FIXED IT MYSELF” and then probably bear mace because they’re too close to me. That’s like 90% a joke. I don’t carry bear mace.

Anyway, what we have here is a Taisho Era women’s haori (kimono jacket). It bears no kamon (family crests), and would be considered quite informal, even though it has metallic threads. It’s adorned with an explosion of stylized sasa (bamboo leaves), and has a candy sweet lining with a rinzu (woven) pattern of kiku (chrysanthemums), and a dyed pattern of ume (plum blossoms), kiku, sasa, tsubaki (camellia), and poofy clouds of asanoha (hemp leaves) and seigaiha (seashell looking waves). I place this one in the Taisho Era because, and let me be very clear, fucking look at it. The sleeve length, the texture, the screaming colours. Having direct provenance on a kimono is often rare. Unless I’m buying from Japan or the original owner, I often don’t have it at all, and that’s true for this one, too. The person I bought it from said their uncle brought it back in the 40’s. (Eyeball twitch.) But I think anyone else who reads this and understands what I’m fixing up here probably also understands that sometimes, you just know.

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