Meiji Era Kimono Restoration: The Materials

Project 1, part 2 – the Materials and Plan (part 1 here)

Seriously, just look at this. Gorgeous!

Welcome back to the Meiji Era kimono restoration project! Today in part 2 I wanted to share the materials I’ve obtained to complete the restoration.

Well, material, singular, I guess.

I already have plenty of thread; I have some vintage green and red cotton threads in the right colors. I’ve heard that one should mend with a weaker thread than the base material (to allow the mended seam to break at the thread, rather than ripping more of the material), but I’ve also heard that one should match the thread to the material, or always use silk thread so it’s less visible… I’m going to be honest, I have a lot of thread, and since I had it in the right shade I’m going with what I have. Japanese silk didn’t tend to be weighted like Victorian-era silks from the US or Europe, so there’s a much lower risk of shatter or other damage due to using modern materials here.

I did, however, need replacement silk. So I headed to Shinei, one of my favorite sources for vintage and antique kimono and related accessories, and searched for red kimono silk. Lucky me! Only 500 yen (approximately $5 USD) for a small bolt of antique scarlet silk. I fired up Zen Market, my trusty shopping service, and they were able to acquire it for me in short order.

(Not familiar with shopping services? They allow you to purchase things from another country that don’t ship outside that country. I give Zen Market the link to the item I want, and they purchase it on my behalf and have it shipped to their warehouse. I pay them for the item, domestic shipping, a small service fee, and then the international shipping, and they send it to me – usually by DHL these days, since EMS is currently not operating due to COVID-19 limiting international flights. I use Zen Market for commercial transactions, and TenshiShop for person-to-person or in-store transactions!)

Not a bad match – it’s actually better in person!

The silk is a really close match. It’s even a little closer in person, but I’m still getting the hang of using Lightroom and my husband’s camera so the picture doesn’t quite do it justice. More importantly than the color, actually, is the weight – it’s an almost perfect match for the weight and drape of the extant silk lining in my kimono. This means it won’t feel weird when I wear it, and the sleeve will drape correctly rather than being weighed down by something that’s too heavy or stiff.

The next step will be to patch the sleeve, and perform all the other outstanding mending needs, so look forward to the next stage of this project!

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Meiji Era Kimono Restoration: The Beginning

Project 1, part 1 – Origin Story and Starting Point

Detail of the pine and red-crowned crane motif

My first project to share with you all is the restoration of this beautiful green Meiji Era irotomesode kimono.

Isn’t she lovely?

Restoration means different things to different people, and honestly means different things to me depending on the item in question. In this case, my aim is to repair all the ripped seams, replace the missing/shredded sleeve lining in one sleeve, and mend as many of the small holes/tears in the collar and hems as possible, with the aim of being able to (carefully) wear this beautiful piece of history. I believe clothes are meant to be worn if at all possible, and I love dressing up!

I acquired this kimono in 2020 from Kyoto Art & Antiques in Seattle. It’s a silk irotomesode (colored tomesode), with a length of 144cm and a wingspan of 130cm. It has 5 mon, or crests, which are the Omodaka, or three-leaf arrowhead design.

Information about this crest can be found here and here.

This is quite a formal kimono – one that nowadays would likely only be worn by a guest at a wedding. Tomesode are considered suitable for married women – and this is a women’s kimono, not a men’s. It is from the Meiji Era (~1868 to 1912) in Japan. How do I know this, one might ask? Actually, that’s a really good question. Kimono, unlike Western clothes, don’t change their cut or styling very quickly, so dating them can be quite difficult. Naturally, I do trust the auction house I purchased it from, however, there are a couple of other indicators.

Interior of the kimono.

The red silk lining generally marks it as a pre-war artifact. Additionally, I’ve been able to find some other auctions such as this one that are similar in appearance to mine that are also dated to the Meiji Era. Based on the relatively good condition and some similar kimono, my guess is that mine is likely from somewhere between 1890-1910.

So, what’s wrong with it?

Well, this to start…

True story: I sat down with this not long after I purchased it to pin up all the ripped seams in anticipation of some light mending duties. When I got to one of the sleeves I got very confused – none of the seams matched up! Finally I turned the whole thing inside out, and realized that part of the red silk lining had been cut away from the sleeve at some point during its life. They had left part along the edge, so I’m uncertain why it was done – did they need the fabric for some other reason? Did it get badly damaged somehow? It’s one of the many things I adore about antique clothes – the mystery!

Additionally, there are some small moth holes on the collar, and some frayed areas on the hem.


Tune in next time, when I’ll share my adventures in getting matching silk, and how I’ll be approaching the project!

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Welcome to Mukashi no Sewing

Stay a while, and listen…

Welcome to Mukashi no Sewing! I’m Rae (which you probably already know if I invited you here – but if not, welcome!), and this blog is where I’ll be sharing my adventures in historical sewing, crafting, and restoration.

Mukashi literally means “olden days” or “past/former” in Japanese, but it’s also what storytellers start their fairy tales with – so you might say that this blog is really called “Once Upon a Time Sewing.” There’s a series of Japanese sewing/craft books called 乙女のソーイング – Otome no Sewing, or “Sewing for Maidens,” so perhaps you could also read this as “Sewing for the Olden Days.”

What kind of things might you look forward to? How about cooking a medieval feast, restoring a delicate Meiji-era kimono, and sewing a 50s-inspired sheath dress? I’ll be focusing on sewing and clothing restoration, but I love to cook and bake, so you’ll see those from time to time as well.

I have been interested in historical dress (and to a certain extent, recreation) since I was a teenager, and I’ve begun this blog as a way to keep my family and friends all over the world up to date on the fun things I’m doing. When I’m not sewing or cooking I’m at the dojo, playing video games, or spending time with my husband and two rescue greyhounds. I hope that everyone who joins me here will have fun and learn with me – as I am by no means an expert! Thank you so much for stopping by, and I look forward to creating beautiful things for you to enjoy.

Subscribe so you never miss a post! New adventures in history and sewing every Tuesday.