Meiji Era Kimono Restoration: The Reveal

Project 1, part 5 – Revealing the Finished Kimono and Sharing Final Thoughts (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 here)

I’ll make you wait just a bit for the head-to-toe shot!

Welcome back to the Meiji Kimono Restoration project! Today I’d like to share with you a bit about the obi I chose for the ensemble, along with my final thoughts on the project and the big reveal! Let’s start with the obi, or belt, since that’s how the kimono is held closed around the body. (Well…that and a lot of himo, or ties, underneath it all. But the obi is important!)

I’m going to say this a lot…but isn’t it beautiful!?

I have a few vintage obi in my collection, but this is the only antique. I bought it from Shinei for a whole $9 due it being listed as “for fabric only.” In other words, its delicate state meant the auction site didn’t want potential buyers to be disappointed if it became damaged from the process of tying it on. However, I mostly use obi clips for my kitsuke (kimono wearing), which allow for the wearing of more fragile obi – perfect for my needs!

I can’t be certain of the exact age of this obi (Shinei listed it only as “antique”), but the wave pattern like this was extremely popular in the Meiji period as you can see from this obi in the collection at The Met:

Public domain image courtesy of The Met

Thematically it seems like an odd choice…until you look at the hem of my kimono and realize that it also features waves!

The stains on the hem came free with the kimono. 😉

My obi is a bit of an oddity; it’s a sha weave – a light, airy summer weave that is stiffer than ro gauze, but not particularly formal.

You can see right through it in the light!

At the same time, the metallic embroidery marks it as a more formal obi. Is it suitable for the extreme formality of my irotomesode? Ehhhhhhh…maybe? The blue color and wave themes are considered “cooling,” perfect for summer. I think this ensemble could possibly be worn by a guest at a summer wedding – still formal and appropriate for the occasion (formal, crested kimono with auspicious iconography), but taking into account the heat and humidity of Japanese summers with a lighter obi that evokes the nostalgia of playing by the seaside.

My otaiko (drum bow) on my obi is pretty crooked…but just look at those crashing waves!

Given that scenario, I went for more formal zori and a white obiage (the sash peeking out of the obi), and formal white tabi socks to complete the outfit! I do want to take a moment to acknoweledge that I haven’t had a lot of practice wearing kimono, and those of you who are experienced at kitsuke may spot a few issues. There’s no ohashori (the fold in the kimono at the bottom of the obi), for example, as this antique kimono is almost 20cm too short for me and I don’t have quite enough experience to finesse it. It took me nearly an hour to dress for these photos – wearing a real kimono is nothing like putting on a Western-style robe that might carry the same name! So I appreciate your kindness in overlooking any technical difficulties in favor of appreciating the beauty of the kimono in all its glory. 🙂

Wearing a piece of history put such a huge smile on my face!

This project was a lot of fun. In the course of my research I learned a lot about kimono and obi of the Meiji era, and about the lives of the women who lived in (and just prior to) the era. I developed some new hand-sewing techniques, and got very lucky on matching my donor fabric to the lining. Plus, I learned camera and photo-editing skills! Thank you for following this project to its conclusion, and I look forward to sharing all the upcoming fun in my pipeline!

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8 thoughts on “Meiji Era Kimono Restoration: The Reveal

  1. Rae this turned out so beautiful. I used to have the socks and wooden shoes. My grandmother lived in Japan for six years and grandpa for eight.
    The obi is extremely beautiful.
    I can only imagine how delicate the fabric was to work on.
    I look forward to your up coming events in your pipeline. ❤


  2. That is a beautiful ensemble. Do you think you will endeavor to wear it in some form at some future gathering?


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