Taisho Kuromontsuki–Dancing Koi

Vibrant Carp Jumping In Wild Waves On Black Sheer Woven Silk.

Today is a little different, even though it’s really not because I don’t think I’ve actually had this blog long enough to have established any patterns. I’m working on a tutorial for resizing haori, and in the meantime I was posting pictures of my kimono jackets, because it’s goddamn mud season officially spring here in Chicagoland! But today, I’m breaking my string to post this one because I recently shared it with a new friend I’ve made amongst my fellow kimono enthusiasts, and it’s occupying my ikou (kimono rack). So, I figured fuck the police I might as well take pictures of it. This kimono is a bit of a show stopper. Every time I show it to someone, it gets a reaction, although I’ve never actually worn it beyond trying it on. I should. I think I will. Soon.

I’m not going to go into a great amount of detail on how I got this one, because that was a weird day for me. But when I found it, I jumped on it as hard as I could, because look at it. There are mild condition issues, as there tend to be with items this old bought here in the US, but she’s sturdy. I had some stain removal to do, and sadly it looks like someone had this pinned open with tape for a long time, and the adhesive gave me some trouble. Perfect wasn’t an option with this piece. But when I engage in a restoration of any kind, I actually don’t worry about perfection more than I worry about stability. Never compromise the integrity of your garment just to remove a stain–especially if that stain isn’t front and center. And the worst ones were not. There are a few pinholes here and there, but I think it’s because someone had made an alteration to this garment and then undid their alteration. This is hard to explain, but there were bits of thread sticking out of tiny holes that had no business being there on a traditionally sewn kimono. I simply stabilized those bits and let them go. They’re not terribly noticeable, and they’re not threatening to shatter.

The kamon (crests) were fuzzy, so that tells me it got wet at some point. Twenty-three year old Becky made the decision to cover and paint over these crests with her husband’s family crest. As I announce out loud on a near daily basis, Past Becky gives negative fucks about Future Becky’s feelings, time, or sensibilities. And so I’m side-eyeing the fuck out of twenty-three year old Becky for finding this to be a good idea rather than trying to recover the crests. -SIGH- Whatever, she didn’t do a terrible job, and back then I didn’t actually have any idea how I would go about recovering those crests, and now I do. It’s also not unheard of to change the mon on a kimono, so I’m not losing any sleep over it.

One oddball thing I’m just now noticing about this kimono as I hung it up to took pictures is that the uppermost layer of the collar is uneven. Like…one side is longer than the other, and I have no idea why. It looks properly and traditionally sewn on, so I don’t think anyone did that out of ignorance. Am I looking at a mistake? I’m wishy-washy about even trying to fix it. I probably could, but…it’s kind of goddamn hilarious, so why would I?

Pictured: Nani the fuck?

With those things out of the way, I’m going to tell you everything that’s amazing about this kimono now. Normally one would call a black women’s kimono with a pattern on the hem and five kamon (crests) a “kurotomesode.” In this case, you’ll notice I actually called it a “kuromontsuki.” That suggests “black kimono with five crests.” Because traditionally speaking, kurotomesode do not have a pattern above the skirt. And a black kimono with five kamon is to be considered highly formal. Now, you’ll notice that yes, I painted my kamon onto this kimono, but I painted over five damaged kamon that were already there. I’m gushing over this because while these kinds of kimono are not unheard of, they are somewhat rare. I own three of them.

Another amazing thing about this kuromontsuki is how sheer and perfect the weave is. You can see right through it if you’re close to it. Mind you, if you were wearing this on a hot summer’s day, that would be a goddamn godsend when a breeze kicks up. (You’d be wearing other things under it, so it doesn’t technically count as summer “hoe clothes” as the memes say, but I’m not here to tell you not to do that anyway.)

Pictured: Potential hoe clothes?

If you look closely at that picture on a bright enough screen, you can actually see what’s behind it. And what’s behind it? Why it’s this little guy!

Pictured: Maki says, “BRING ME SOULS, MORTAL.” Also that lamp is a restored by me antique, too.

There are koi woven into the fabric as well as painted on. Some of the koi are just rinzu (woven in), but some of them are made of urushi (lacquered threads) or even silver threads. Each painted koi has a highlighted lateral line and eyes and gills that are embroidered. I love the shit out of fish, so this makes me squeal like a rat having an aneurysm! There are swirls, which I imagine to be kasumi (haze) coming off of the raging nami (waves) below. This is a very picturesque kimono.

The paintings, resist dye, and embroidery is so precise that when the garment is inside out, it still looks right. Fucking look at this:

Pictured: Shit’s inside out, yo.

When I can confidently ship packages overseas again–fucking thanks, plague rats–this kimono will actually go on loan. In very special cases, I will loan out pieces when I can trust that the person receiving it knows to treat it correctly. When that happens, with their permission, I’ll share the photos they shoot with it. It should be fun!

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