Taisho Kuromontsuki-Living The Dream

Vibrant White And Red Plum Blossoms Intertwined With Golden Pine Sprigs On Black Silk.

It’s chilly for May, so it felt like a good day to show this one off. I’m kidding. I don’t have a good excuse to show this one off. I don’t need a good excuse to show this one off. In spite of my past insistence that, when it comes to my kimono collection, the word “favorite” is meaningless: THIS ONE IS MY FAVORITE. I’ve worn this one the most times. To events, to meet people, to hand out candy on Halloween (I was a Hanya–the kimono was part of the costume, not the costume), and in the middle of the night as I’ve mentioned, when I roll around in it like a piggy–oink oink motherfucker–like I do. When I die, this one comes with me.

I am of the opinion that this piece doesn’t have an interesting story about how I got it. But, since it’s my blog, I’m going to tell you anyway. A long time ago…wow, it’s been over ten years now…I was having a really bad day. I’m not going to get into why because that’s not what we’re here for. Shit was weird and complicated for me back then, and I was finding my way through an awkward collection of events called life. We all have really bad days. I almost typed “I think” next to that, but then I stopped because the very suggestion that there’s an adult human out there that hasn’t had a really bad day borders on lunacy.

And if there is one, it’s not an adult human it’s an alien reptile creature disguised as a human and we should consume their flesh to absorb their powers they’re lying.

Anyway, to cheer myself up I was looking at kimonos for sale on fucking eBay, like one does, and this one popped up. Fortunately, the one thing that hadn’t gone terribly wrong that day was that I had some money to burn, so I bought it. I do remember exactly how much I paid for it, and then messaging the seller to upgrade my shipping even. But I’m not going to share that here, because that’s not the point. You’re supposed to be giggling at my adventures in fill the void therapy. You better fucking believe I smashed that Buy It Now button so hard my keyboard exploded. It didn’t. But you should believe it anyway.

What drew me to this one is because ume (plum blossoms) is possibly my favorite theme. Okay that word is almost meaningless again; yes I make the rules and no you can’t speak to my manager. But screaming blood red ume on black silk just made my heart explode, and I had to have it. I had also never seen what I thought at the time was a kurotomesode (specific formal black kimono with five crests) with a pattern above the skirt other than the kamon (family crests).

At first, I had wondered if it had been a black furisode (kimono with super long sleeves for unmarried women) that had the sleeves shortened after marriage. But typically when that happens, you can kind of tell, because the pattern on the sleeves ends abruptly. Otherwise those furisode that are a good candidate for sleeve-snipping wouldn’t have any evidence remaining at all. But on this kimono, the pattern is complete and deliberate.

My next suspicion was perhaps a ko-furisode. This is a furisode with slightly shorter sleeves; but to be honest such kimono are pretty different looking. While not a sweeping rule, Taisho Era ko-furisode tend to have all over patterns to them, as they’re meant to be worn with hakama (pleated skirt/pants worn over kimono for specific purposes) and often by schoolchildren. This doesn’t really fit the bill there. Later on, with the help of my beloved kimono communities and the owners of the former Ichiroya, I learned that into the 1920’s and later kuromontsuki (non-specific black kimono with five crests) with a pattern that continued above the hem were fashionable in some areas because of the growing Western trend of sitting at tables rather than on the floor.

So, she’s not a fluke. She’s not an altered furisode. She’s a formal shining star, designed this way on purpose. And oh god, I love her so.

Back then, I didn’t think to save much in the way of seller photos or details. This wasn’t anything even approaching a restoration, so it’s not a huge loss. I remember that the original seller was knowledgeable about it and very kind to talk to me about it, too. They told me that it was a piece from the Taisho Era, but didn’t give me a specific date–or at least none that I can remember. I’m not feeling inclined to argue with them. The sleeve length, the amazing red lining, the beautiful gradient from red to pink to white in some of the ume (plum blossoms), the texture of the silk; these are all very classically Taisho style things.

Let’s talk about the details on this piece, because there’s a lot to talk about. With ume and matsu (pine), this is a seasonal piece meant for winter. But I wear it whenever I please because, as I like to say, fuck the police. The petals and pollens of the little plum blossoms are lined in kinsai (gold paint), and much of the pine sprigs are embellished with gold couching.

Many of the ume blooms are also embroidered in soft silk floss as well:

This is also a kimono that’s a colossal pain in the ass to photograph. Not that I have to do any color corrections or anything to it, it’s fine as far as that goes. It’s just that there’s just so goddamn much fine, exquisite, perfect detail that I feel like I could take a picture of every square inch of this thing and still miss something amazing. Every line of kinsai drawn, every shadow of branch, every soft floss of embroidery, and every accent stitch has been done so perfectly and so purposefully that it’s just incredibly difficult to pick a few pictures to represent it.

Suffice to say, I feel compelled to grab people by the back of their head and smash their faces into my kimono and scream “LOOK AT IT.” You know. Like a normal, well adjusted adult with average people skills.

There have been two alterations that I’ve made to this kimono. One, because I made the decision that I will literally never get rid of this and they can pry it from my cold dead fucking fingers, I changed the kamon. They were simple kiri (paulownia) crests before. I probably could do a better job of changing over crests now than I could back then, but I’m not particularly worried about it. I side-eye 24 year old Becky for lots of things, but this isn’t one of them. The second thing, which isn’t actually pictured, is that I installed a snap at the back of the collar. As you can see, this kimono has a nice wide collar. When worn, the collar is meant to be folded in half inwards and at an angle to make a nice V when it crosses over the chest. This was just to make it easier to wear. A lot of kimono have a preinstalled snap, or a little pull string that will hold the collar closed in this way for you. Work smart, not hard.

And now all the way down here at the bottom of this entry, I leave you with this:

Pictured: *Plane noises intensify*

It was the ass-end of July, 2011. I was almost 25, and at an anime convention in Baltimore, Maryland called Otakon. That night, I had met the lovely Nancy McDonough of Kyoto Kimono, who I just recently crossed paths with again when she gave me this beautiful uchikake to restore (which will be done in the next few days). I had received a million compliments on my outfit, even though I was wearing regular-ass shoes because the zori were hurting my feet by that time of night. It was hot as fuck, but we were in good spirits. I was with my husband (just behind me giggling), my sister (out of frame), and my brother in law (took the picture) as I raced up the street from the convention center making very loud airplane noises with my “wings” out. Because yes, I have always been like this. It was that or ORK ORK ORK like an awkward seal, and it was just too hot for that.

I didn’t know that night that in ten years, I’d be sitting here hunting for that picture. Because even though it was a great night, shit was hard for me in that time of my life. I wish I could tell her that everything was going to get so much better. I had no idea I’d be sitting here now surrounded by kimono that I’ve loved and restored, and some I’m working on, with coming up on 6000 views on my adventures in doing so. I didn’t know I’d feel so loved and supported like this.

Life is fucking weird. Now, where’s that lizard alien creature? I’m fucking starving.


2 thoughts on “Taisho Kuromontsuki-Living The Dream

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