Welcome back to the Meiji Kimono Restoration project! I’ve finally finished up all the mending – huzzah! When I sat down I thought “oh, there’s not much more to do,” but in reality it was another four hours or so of careful hand-stitching.
Honestly, I was pretty tired by the time I got to the final bit, which was securing the shredded hem section, and my somewhat ragged stitches bear this out. It’s an inside hem, though, so I decided that it was good enough for now – the important thing is keeping the silk from fraying further!
At last it was done! I was particularly happy with how the sleeves looked when I finally got everything right-side out. Not with how badly the silk needs to be steamed, but with the fact that it’s very difficult to tell at a glance which sleeve has the donor silk and which is all original.
As I was sewing and listening to the soothing tones of my favorite British gaming YouTuber, I couldn’t help wondering about the woman who originally owned this kimono. The Meiji Era was marked by tremendous societal changes in Japan; the largest of course was the (forced) opening of the country to the West after around 200 years of relative isolation, as well as changes in government and policy that created opportunities for movement along the social ladder that hadn’t existed for centuries. While men in the Meiji Era were pressured (and in some cases, required) to wear Western dress, women were encouraged to retain the kimono as a symbol of their role as “mothers and cultural protectors.” Did my kimono’s owner love the link with Japan’s history and culture, or did she wish she could wear Western styles instead? What did she think about the maelstrom of cultural exchange happening at the time? Was she a Tokugawa sympathizer or a Restoration supporter? With the rapid rate of change and effects of globaliztion today, I can’t help but feel that we might have understood each other a little – caught between tradition and novelty, in a world simultaneously too big and too small. I hope that by mending her kimono and giving it new life, I can honor her and all the women after her who wore it!
There’s really only one thing left to do to wrap up this project – metaphorically speaking…since literally it’s already wrapped in paper and put away – and that’s to wear it! As teased in the intro picture, I’ve already chosen an obi for it, and it’s also an antique. So here’s another peek at it:
Join me soon for the last part of this project, where I’ll discuss the obi and its provenance, as well as show off a photoshoot of the ensemble as a whole!