Every so often, I get a question or nine hundred about what certain terms that I use mean. Usually they’re questions about the Japanese words, motifs, formalities, eras…you know, the hard stuff. But most recently, I’ve received a few emails and messages about what I mean when I comment on the condition of a kimono, and I say “no signs of shattering.”
Ah, shattering. The sad banana rip. The geometric death. When you get a good look at it in its severity, it actually does kind of resemble glass that’s been dropped. Pieces in blocks, even. I have a haori that’s sitting over there somewhere that I’m refusing to look at because while I was working on it, I moved and heard its first sad banana rip. I’d just finished so much couching repairs on it, that I literally whipped it across the room, called it an unfair whore, and I haven’t been over there to pick it back up yet.
It has definitely not been over there since February, because that would be weird, and I’m a normal well-adjusted adult.
Anyway. I’m not going to give a massive history in silk production, because there are already a lot of really great sources out there on that.
What is shattering? What does it look like? How did it happen? How do we prevent it? Can we fix it?
Starting from the top, shattering refers to the fibers of the silk beginning to disintegrate.
It looks like this:
What you’re looking at here is the lining of a Taisho Era gasane furisode (an in between layer). The actual kimono is in fantastic shape, but the lining is fucking toast. It’s suffering from severe shattering.
There can be a couple of reasons for why this happens, but most often it can have very little to do with how the silk was stored, and everything to do with how it was produced and dyed in the first place. Antique and vintage silks were often dyed with metal salts. These bits of metal remained in the silk, because metal does not dissolve in water and therefore it was not rinsed away, and over time have literally sliced the everloving shit out of the fibers.
It can’t really be prevented. But you can slow it down by taking good care of the silk.
It can’t really be fixed, either. If the shattering is limited to one area, you can get behind it with a backing–adhesive ones work best–to reinforce the fabric and stop the sad banana rip. To be frank, however, this could be borrowed time and I don’t recommend trying to wear the garment after reinforcing it.
If you have chosen to reinforce it for preservation purposes, keep it out of sunlight. Artificial light isn’t great, either. Don’t fold it, although you can get away with rolling it. Storing it in a shadow box or in a drawer in acid-free paper is really your best bet. Take pictures and frame that.
Bonus round: What the hell is the sad banana rip?
I’d like to make it clear that I wasn’t putting much in the way of effort to do any of that. I simply opened my hand slowly, and the sad banana made sad banana noises.
This kimono was purchased to part out. I knew the lining was a lost cause when I bought it, but I need the amazing red silk that it’s otherwise made of to repair this Meiji Era uchikake (wedding kimono) that I’m on the final steps of restoring.
If you see a piece that has little blocks of missing bits, or lots of lines forming in it, then that sad banana rip is in your near future, and there’s not very much that you can do about it. So, hopefully this little demonstration saves some heartache for some of you.
And that’s basically it about shattering.