Were starting off the new year strong, my friends. I’ve made three recent purchases and all three of them have found a way to make my brain do somersaults. So buckle up, chucklefucks.
You know, sometimes my favorite thing to do is drive myself completely no-turning-back-insane by buying things just because they look weird to me, and I absolutely have to get a better look at them. And that’s the case here, a friend showed it to me, it was weird looking and had alterations done, and I had to see them. In a rare change in pace, we’re actually going to start with a screenshot of the seller photos. I need you to experience this the same way I did.
It is important to me, as I am about to rip this thing a fucking new one verbally, that my experience with the seller was top notch. They pointed out that they bought it from an estate sale, they didn’t know anything about it, and couldn’t guarantee what it had ever been around, and it was priced accordingly. The seller is clearly not responsible for this trainwreck, and I went into this knowing I was getting something batshit insane.
And with that out of the way, let’s begin.
The first thing I experienced when I pulled this one out of the box, other than the fact that it packaged well enough to withstand a goddamn hurricane –and that’s what I call service–was the STENCH.
Holy mother of Cthulhu, this thing smells like a Fabrezed motherfucking ashtray. Just fake flowers, chemicals, and all of our dads from the late 80s and early 90s just hotboxing the shit out of the living room while mom tries her best to keep it from seeping in to the carpet. So my first order of business was to lay it out and attack it with my odor treatment go-to: a spritzer bottle full of half distilled white vinegar and half distilled water. I really wish it was as violent as I felt it should be but it’s actually quite gentle.
Basically, mist the air above it and leave for like an hour. Then do it again. Then again. Rearrange the fabric and do it again. The idea is that the fine mist lands gently onto the kimono, and the vinegar does the deodorizing. You don’t want to soak the fabric, which is why you have to do it so many times. Usually 3-5 does the trick.
This one took 13. And that makes it tolerable.
Then I was able to start handling it. And the most obvious thing about it was that it’s crazy long, except for…uh…
Someone took the time to sew the corners of the hem up into the hakkake. Because…well, I have theories. This could either be the White People Surprise™ (one of the alterations definitely is), or I’ve seen things get hemmed funny when they come out of the internment camps, too.
This paragraph is here as a reminder: when I buy antiques domestically, there are a certain threshold of items and eras for which there is every chance it was stolen, sold in a rush, or reduced to a war prize. I’m not always playing with the same kinds of “what happened here” scenarios people who are restoring from Japan might be. I have to consider not just what someone of the culture who loved it dearly, but was confined against their will, and with limited resources might have done with it. I must also consider what someone with contempt for that culture might do to it. And the later is how we get the weird and really gross things.
I only typed that out as a reminder as to what lens I’m looking at this piece through. This kimono is pre-WWII, and it’s certainly been here in the states for a good long time.
I actually took the time to release the hem immediately because that awkward lump of geometry was threatening to come for me in my dreams.
So. Get a load of that length. She measures in from shoulder to hem at just shy of 70in, 175cm. With a solid 40in/101cm from the bottom of the collar to the hem. So this is now the second time I’ve stumbled into a hikizuri.
I want to say that the hem was thicc, but the long cotton strip that makes that effect is borked. There was once considerable padding in that hem, but it has migrated and been severely distorted from being in that weird upward position. I will address that.
On the left you can see that the hem still trying to have some, as my vet says to my bulldog, bonk in that donk. On the right, it’s pretty damn flat.
Ugh. It’s impossible to inspect this thing without getting drawn in to the artwork. I’m not kidding, fucking look:
There is no kinsai on this piece. All of the gold is embroidery. Contrary to popular belief, Geisha–and especially pre-WWII geisha–tend to be broke as fuck. A metric ton of antique hikizuri have artwork that I would call “okay from a few feet away.” This one, though? This was someone with money.
…well, money for a little while, because the hiyoku (partial second layer sewn in) was just parts strait up hacked off from another goddamn kimono. Have a look at this thrifty shit!
If you look at the whole body shot up there, you can see that I have actually removed this from the other side. This is because the stitches holding this together are not long for this world, and I am doing to have to remove them anyway.
There’s the two pieces of other kimono sleeve I removed. There’s also evidence on the hakkake (inside the skirt) that there was something installed there, too.
Take a look at these two pictures together. What do you see?
Do you see it?
It’s the alteration that’s most definitely The White People Surprise™. Basically, someone sewed the holes at the armpits completely shut. The only kind of person I’ve ever run into who would think to do this are people who do not understand how a kimono is meant to be constructed. It was like this on both sides, and you can see in the right side photo that I have released it there. After I took pictures, I released the other.
Now it’s time to start talking about defects. Let’s go have a look at that lining.
My dudes, that hakkake is near immaculate, but the lining is -violently dry heaving-… … …well, I can tell you that this is one set of stains that I vehemently refused to taste test. I’m fucking crazy, not goddamn stupid. (She said, with a straight face, knowing full well that she once stuffed a bloodstain in her mouth.)
Oh look! Stitch holes from where the lower part of a hiyoku was installed!
Ugh. It’s exactly as crusty as it looks. So I’ll have to deal with that. -M1 Garand reloading noises-
It’s about as crusty on the outside, too.
LOL look at my pasty-ass hand literally glowing under The God Light™.
I am extremely suspicious of these stains. But the good news is that crusty doesn’t tend to put up much of a fight when it’s time to remove them.
We have one spot of dye run. I might not do a damn thing about it:
The size of these kamon (crests) is pretty damn impressive though, isn’t it?
So my to-do list here is: replace the hiyoku, attempt to recover or otherwise replace the lining, stain removals with extreme prejudice, adjust the hem so she thicccc again, and then decide if I want to keep it.
I don’t dislike it. I rather enjoy the artistry. But geisha stuff isn’t really my thing, and I don’t really intend to collect them on purpose. I don’t sell kimono, but I can think of someone very specifically who is reading right now and literally frothing at the mouth because she knows that if I don’t fall desperately in love with it when I restore it, it’s going to her house.
And that’s about it on this piece. I’ll leave you with this glamour shot I took of her because I couldn’t fucking help myself. Even as a crusty, stank-ass mess, she’s a bit of a show stopper, isn’t she?
Join me next time when I’ll be covering a regular ass kurotomesode that has the wildest fucking artwork choice I could even imagine on it.