Antique Haori–Summer Music

Warm Hued Black Silk Gauze Internally Painted With Drums And Weeping Willow.

Did you see it? The sun! The goddamn sun was out today! And we edge ever closer to springtime here in the US Midwest. It’s currently the proper mud season, but it’s trying to be warm and so here I am, continuing my showcase of kimono jackets because I have dreams and stuff. Today, I have this delightful muso haori from, I was told, the later Taisho Era to early Showa Era–so mid 1920’s. You’ll notice that there are a lot of pictures on this one, and this is also one of the few haori that I don’t stare angrily at the screen when I see it described as “reversible.” If we’re following rules, muso haori are meant to have the design shimmer through the layers of sha or ro (gauze) silk. But I’m not going to sit here and lie to you, and pretend I’ve never worn this literally both ways. Remember, everything’s legal when there’s no cops around.

I did do some work and minor repairs to this piece, but I don’t think I can call it a restoration in all fairness. The majority of sewing was an alteration: I let out the seam allowance on the side panels to fit my -looks down- large tracks of land, and I also noticed that there was a good 10cm of fabric stuffed up into the sleeves. I will literally always go for more sleeve hang if it’s an option, so I let that out, too. This is actually pretty common for haori of this age.

Long sleeves like this started to fall out of fashion into the 1940’s and further into the Showa Era. You’ll see that the standard sleeve lengths on even very casual items goes from two-goddamn-feet (60cm) to 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm). People didn’t just toss their daily wear kimono just because life moved forward. Pieces were altered to suit the fashion of the day, and very often it was done in a way that wasn’t destructive.

Of course, if I’m rearranging the sleeve length, this means it became necessary to redo some of the seams along the edges of the sleeves. And then I went hunting for weak spots in the overall construction, because that’s a thing I do with every new (to me) kimono that I get anyway.

There was nothing out of the ordinary to report. Or at least I don’t remember anything.

There was a smudge here and there, and I had zero trouble removing them. I utilized the vinegar method as described in this post for a few of them, and the others could be scratched away. I often utilize a kneaded eraser for removing bits of dirt from sensitive fabrics–just a General’s brand or a Prismacolor. They’re sticky and they don’t leave a residue. It’s very handy when removing something that dries relatively clean like actual dirt or starchy items. Protip: do not create mud by getting shit wet if you don’t have to. If you don’t have to wet the fabric to remove a stain, then don’t. Scratch, vacuum, sticky tape, or kneaded eraser pull that mud right off if you can.

It’s just my vague memory to rely on for what I did to fix this piece up. I didn’t keep track of any of the repairs or stain removal methods I used on this, because I’ve had this haori for a good six years now, and I did these repairs when I first got it. It didn’t really occur to me back then to keep track of such things, but here I am now.

An oddity that appears in the photos but not in person are some spots where it seems like the grid that is the gauze is wide. That’s actually just my light shining through the silk and reflecting off of the mirror in the background. That’s an artifact that shows up in a few of my photos. I’m not a great photographer, and my intimate familiarity with lighting is limited to observation rather than staging. I’m an illustrator. I can draw the light, or fake it really well if I have to imagine something. But it is possible that I spend a lot of time calling my camera a “dirty lying whore” because the shot I took doesn’t look like what I see with my goddamn eyes. (It’s all user error–and I am learning more about it.)


The silk is decorated with yuzen dyed tsuzumi(little hand drum) and what I’m actually convinced is a bachi (pick used to play a stringed instrument such as a shamisen) stylized to look like sensu (fan), surrounded by yanagi (weeping willow). The tsuzumi is decorated with seigaiha (small waves) and nadeshiko (dianthus flower). The bachi has an adorable little boat on it. If you get really close to it, which you can’t because you’re in internet land and I’m here, you can see that the “right side” of the design is actually facing inward, between the layers of silk gauze. And in there, the different outlines of the designs are lined with silver. It actually glitters just slightly in the sunlight.

Although it has long sleeves, both down the arms and down the body, wearing this item in the summertime is not stifling. You’d think, looking at the double layer of black silk, that you’d fucking roast on a hot day in this. Stick yourself with some pineapples, you might as well be delicious, right? Actually not! I mean–realistically, there’s a temperature where you’re going to roast no matter what you’re wearing, so let’s not be dramatic. But a breeze passes through the fine silk gauze on this item like there’s nothing there. If anything, it’s kind of nice to have the constant shade on your arms. It’ll provide a little bit of protection against a stiff, cool breeze, but not much. So it’s not quite US Midwest Mud Season™ appropriate attire–still a bit chilly for that.

As I finish this post, I can’t help but glance down at the clock in the corner of my computer screen. Blah blah blah past midnight normal people sleeping hours whatever yes–but more the date. It’s 2021. This haori dates from the mid-1920’s. Only a few short years away, she’ll be 100 years old. I often take a moment to think about that, because there are several pieces in my collection that are this old and older, and yet I have them. I fix them up, or clean them. I wear them out and love them. They’re 100 years old, and still bright and vibrant as the day they were finished. All they ask from me is to keep them clean, stitch them back up sometimes, or not freak the fuck out if they move some shit around on me. I think that’s a pretty fair trade.

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