This blog entry is going to begin much the way the others do. I was creeping around on a shopping service, and I found a kimono I liked. In this case, I bought a beautiful antique green furisode (formal kimono for unmarried women with long swinging sleeves). Take a look:
Before I begin, I want to make a few things very very clear.
When I buy things domestically (inside of the USA), my expectations are vastly different than they would be if buying from Japan. Your average white-bread American (of which I am one, if we’re splitting hairs), has no earthly idea how to inspect a kimono, no idea that there are many different kinds of kimono, can’t tell age, and does not know what separates a good condition kimono from one in bad condition. And that’s something that gets weird when buying domestically so much so that I know a number of fellow US buyers that simply refuse to if they can’t inspect the kimono themselves.
Kimono like this are some of the reasons why. And that’s not a pot shot at the seller. My seller was kind, fun, responsive, and in my opinion also very honest. You might be wondering why I am saying I thought of them as very honest even though I’m about to go on a very long list of insanity with this piece. That answer is very simple: they are very far from experts. If we’re being genuine, I’m very far from what one would consider an expert in the subject. But your average non-expert is still shrouded by the magic of kimono like we all were when we first saw one: they tend to think every one of them is an ancient geisha wedding dress owned by a princess.
Okay, that was a touch sarcastic, but it’s actually kind of true. In my experience, those who are selling something they don’t know much about are wrong in one of two directions; they’re either convinced they have a bathrobe or they’re convinced they have the highest, best possible example of anything kimono. My seller was quite measured in their description, was honest about the damage that they could see and understand, and was very responsive.
I could not ask for a better experience.
If you’re a regular reader, then you’ve noticed I haven’t been sprinkling every other line with some hard R expletives. That ends right fucking now, because oh my fucking god is this going to be a goddamn project. This is going to fuck with me. This is going to whoop my lily white ass. Just.
Okay, let’s start at the top. How old is this? I’m going with early Taisho. Yes yes, I’m usually very fucking picky about what I label that way without provenance. Why am I saying this here? Because look at the size of these goddamn kamon (family crest). Applique of contemporary kamon taken from this piece for scale:
There’s something of an expiry date on kamon of this size. That fell out of fashion in the early Taisho Era. We’ve also got the texture of the silk, the style of the yuzen (resist dye), and I’m adding the fact that it’s very short but isn’t a child’s kimono.
So in my opinion, this is an early Taisho Era furisode. Okay, so that puts her over 100 years old. Is she in good shape for her age?
No she is not. She is in desperate need of help. If you can hear that weird sound creeping through your walls, I’m sorry. That’s me. I’m screaming into this pillow like a goddamn psychopath because at some point in the 100-whatever years she’s existed, between being made, her proper purposes, and however she got separated from her family: I’m near positive that someone stuck this kimono in a washing machine at some point.
If you’re here to learn–and once again I’m so sorry–then let me say this right the fuck now. Your washers delicate cycle is not gentle enough. Not even with a garment bag. Step away from the Whirlpool.
You wanna risk completely destroying an antique kimono? Put it in the washer. There’s no telling what condition it comes out in. Want it to get way worse? Put it in with something that has magnesium sulfate (fucking epsom salt) in it.
Because I’m an eternal optimist, and my favorite activity is torturing myself, I think I can save this one.
So the normal stuff! Some stains and discoloration. Check it out:
We’ve got fading and some darker marks. I’m gonna be honest. If someone did throw this in the washer, I have no idea how to handle those. Here’s hoping nobody put it in the dryer.
We also have just regular ass stains. Some blue shit and some actual stiff grime on the hem.
Next, we’ve got both couching damage and evidence of couching missing. The damaged threads are missing their metallic plate. And the hanging threads suggest there were other couched areas.
I haven’t made the decision to attempt to replace the couching yet. It’s going to depend on the integrity of the fabric because of this:
I have to play the why is this hole game. Ugh. There’s one spot, you know which one you have eyes, that is shattered. But it seems to be isolated. I tested (read: yanked on) the fabric around it and it doesn’t want to do the sad banana. That’s true for all of the holes. So what I’m planning on doing is mounting fabric behind them and recreating the missing portions of design on it.
Can I do that? Well…I have an actual fucking degree in illustration, so you bet your ass I can.
My best guess at some of the damage to the fabric has to do with kinsai. There was most certainly some kinsai (gold paint) on these black foliage bits. Have a look:
And it’s been washed the fuck off.
Speaking of washed. Look at the washout in the images. The bleed on the black areas.
I’m panting right now. I’m literally out of breath. But we’re not done. We can never be done. THERE IS NO REST. AAHHHH.
The lining has been replaced, semi accurately, with some 10/10 American Chinoiserie oRiEnTaL dWaGoN fabric. You can tell for sure it’s not Japanese because of how fucking wide it is. See the second picture below. Between my two fingers is the back seam–this should be present on the lining as well, and it is not here. And a hanging loop was added because of fucking course.
Ugh. At least nobody hacked off the hem and turned it into a belt.
Well! I have a long fucking list of shit to do, don’t I? You know, I was sitting here playing with a bit of shattered lining from that piece I linked to up there, and since it can be ground to dust, I wondered if I can snort it and gain the kimono’s powers. That’s a normal thought for an adult to have right?
LET’S RIP SOME HOT RAILS OF RED LIGHTNING. I know what I said.
Wish me luck.