Antique Kimono–Dusky Skies & Bright Blossoms

Sunset Orange Peony In Full Bloom On Smooth Patterned Lavender Silk.

I had actually been stalking this one for awhile. I’m going to stick with the word stalking because anything gentler might not make me come off as slightly unhinged, and I wouldn’t want to lie to you about what kind of person I am. Now I’ve had it for a few weeks, and I thought I would show it off. This is another one of those moments where shopping for kimono domestically (meaning I’m buying them in the USA), becomes something of a hazard. It had a lot of those little things wrong with it that someone who isn’t very familiar with kimono in general or someone who simply didn’t take a very close look would miss. The hem was quite dirty, there were water stains on the design, and there were three little pin holes at the very top of the right sleeve. There’s also a weird kind of fold in the center of the whole piece that makes me wonder if someone didn’t wear this as a bathrobe for a long time. The fact that there were more little blotches on the right panel than the left kind of makes me go with that.

I’m going to qualify that last statement for anyone who is coming here to learn (once again, I’m so sorry), if that sentence didn’t make sense. You see, you should wear a kimono with your left panel wrapped over your right. This is of astronomical importance. To do it the other way would suggest that you are a dead motherfucker and ready for cremation. And that’s kind of a big fucking deal, and depending on where you go, can be really offensive. But it’s also one of the wearing mistakes that the Western audience tends to make the most; especially when we’re talking about traditionally women’s clothes. Of course, this is because in Western attire, women’s clothes often wrap right-over-left, including robes and even button up items. This, as I was told once but have made zero effort as of writing this to confirm, is a really goddamn old hold over from upper class women being “dressed” as opposed to dressing themselves. You’ll find that most men’s attire is worn left-over-right.

As a somewhat related aside, sometimes I’ll see pictures of people wearing kimono right-over-left, and it’ll be one with an all over pattern, so that’d be something easy to miss. But other times I can’t help but tilt my head so far my neck threatens to fucking snap because the most popular and decorative kimono tend to have the focal point of the pattern on the left skirt panel, and wearing it right-over-left will cover it. And I’m over here like –Ye Olde AOL dial-up failure noises-

Anyway, most of the problems with this kimono were water stains. Water stains come out with vinegar. I didn’t bother to take pictures of the process because it just wasn’t that interesting. It’s a lot of getting something wet, fucking off for a bit, then getting it wet again, then aggressively drying it. I’m sure that sounds like a real party, but I assure you it is not. I’m usually working like five different things at the same time when it comes to this kind of stain removal because there’s really just not much to do actively. You don’t want to really “scrub” silk in any meaningful way–let the solvent do the work. So yeah, most stain removal, unless that stain becomes fugitive when wet, is just waiting.

I’m not especially talented. I’m just terrifyingly patient. I will get what I want, and I’ve got aaaaall fucking night, hotshot.

Anyway, I know I harp on this a lot, but I’m gonna strum that goddamn harp even harder one more time: I am basically never upset with domestic sellers when I get a kimono like this, even if they described it as being “never used” (they did), unless they straight up lie about some massive fucking holes, or if it’s covered in literal shit. (That. Has. Happened.) The person I bought this from gave no indication in their description that they had any earthly idea what it was beyond a “kimono,” and that’s it. To even see most of this staining, I had to shine my good lights (every artist/embroiderer/painter/photographer reading this just went “oh”) on it after hanging it on the iko (kimono stand) for inspection. It simply does not occur to most people to inspect these items that hard. That is my reality. And so anything I buy under these conditions comes with that reality.

But if I don’t fix them, who will?

This kimono was described as being from the 1960’s. -Stares at that red lining.- They’re wrong.

But since that is now the earliest provenance I have on when it was received by anyone, I’m slapping that handy-dandy Antique label on it. As a reminder, red linings are pretty much a Pre-WWII thing. Yes, there’s more to it than that, but for the purposes of this blog entry where I scream hard-R expletives at things, that will suffice. It was during and after WWII that red linings in kimono fell out of fashion. Some were tucked away, with that red lining intact. Some had their linings replaced with white fabric. But this one remains, and that dates it at least to the Early Showa Era, so late 1920’s to early 30’s.

It has a single tsuta (ivy) kamon (family crest) embroidered on the back. All over is a delightful rinzu (woven) pattern, which I believe to be a variant of kikko (tortoiseshell pattern, often with a flower in the center of each block), in discontinuous blocks all over the body of the kimono. The skirt is decorated with a bright himo (cord) and blooming botan (peony). It’s that vibrant orange on lavender that got me. That’s why I stalked this one like a tiger on that grew thumbs and found a machete.


The center of the main blossom has beautiful gold couching stitches. I love them so much because they are fully intact and I didn’t have to do shit to fix them. Lately it feels like my whole life is couching repairs. Between these two kimono, and this motherfucker beautiful piece I’m working on now:

Pictured: –Ugly sobbing-

…suffice to say, I spend a lot of goddamn time with couching repairs. Fun story about that kimono above, that chirimen (crepe silk) is so dummy thicc that three times now the super fine and sharp needle that I’m using to tack the gold threads back down has punched backward into my finger. The eye of the needle punctures my skin. Did you cringe really hard reading that? GOOD. SUFFER WITH ME.

Anyway, back to the kimono at hand. Err…blog post. Sometimes I take a few minutes to decide if I want to leave the label at “antique kimono” or if I want to try to get more specific. Sometimes it’s easy to get really specific, especially on particularly formal items. I can be wishy-washy about trying to label certain things, because I have seen several instances where some communities I’m a part of very politely drive themselves bonkers trying to smash antique kimono into contemporary categories. Sometimes you really can’t, though.

I would say this probably, by today’s standard, qualifies as something as formal as a houmongi (semi-formal kimono with continuous pattern). But if you slapped a few more kamon on it, it would technically qualify as an irotomesode (formal kimono with five crests and pattern on the skirt, not black). The fact of the matter is that this was a kimono made when kimono was what it literally means: a thing to wear. Someone said “I want this, with this, and one crest like this, I’ll pick it up on fucking Thursday.” Yes, in my head they dropped the F-bomb.

Not gonna lie, as an art history nerd, I absolutely adore things that make people rip their hair out trying to classify them. Brain happy chemical production go brrrrrrr.


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