Wednesday, 17 November 2010

New v second hand kimono

A textile collector friend asked this question yesterday via e mail -

In conversation today someone told me that the Japanese won't wear secondhand kimono, which is why there is always a lot of fabric on the market. Is that correct ? I thought they revered and recylced the fabric, and suppose I presumed they passed it down through families?

I thought my (quick) reply might be of interest here (I've added a bit extra in brackets)-

Yes and no! Some people won't. I saw a lot of hand me down kimono accessories worn when I lived there - 'my mother's obi', that kind of thing (of course, you don't know this unless someone tells you!) Because kimono aren't one size fits all, it isn't always possible to wear kimono without some alteration to it.

The first time I saw a lot of people buying second hand kimono to wear was
in 2002, in Tokyo. (That was quite shocking at the time).

Kimono like Oshima tsumugi are so expensive new, there's a big second hand
market for them - and they are still several hundred pounds second hand! Check out the Japan Now and Then blog link from my blog to read about stuff like Oshima. From my experience, people won't mention if they are wearing second hand kimono or if their kimono are second hand, unless they are textile collectors like us - but how many people here tell you they're wearing something second hand? Also, there's the big difference between second hand and the obviously retro/vintage. Kimono date quite quickly IMHO.

People don't want to wear kimono with bad stains on them. That's more of a
problem. A lot of the kimono sold on places like eBay have stains that are too prominent to be worn properly, or else have bad 'patina' markings where the silk has yellowed with age or has been affected by mould (even when cleaned off, it leaves marks). Some kimono fabric embroidery/dyeing just won't clean. The 'spot cleaning' method used by Japanese dry cleaners using a benzine spray spreads out and loosens some marks and small stains, but they still often won't clean out. I've got quite a few items in my collection where it is obvious that a cleaning attempt has failed.

The reason there's usually a lot of recycled kimono fabric on the market is
because kimono are an incredibly easy item to take to pieces and yield a lot of useful pieces, without annoying darts, shaping etc. which is easy to make into something else. There's a big tradition of recycling kimono into other kimono or accessories, and now 'kimono reforumu' into arty clothes. It's a way of repurposing the fabric while not using any really badly marked pieces.

When members of Peaceful Heart Quilt Group came to the first Festival of Quilts in 2003, they wore kimono to both the gala dinner and the international evening (the photo below is at the gala dinner). Chie Ikeda wore a beautiful 1950s furisode - too old to have been her own, probably slightly too new to have been her mother's.

It was gorgeous. I tracked down a furisode which reminded me of it a little - the kimono on the right in this photo from my exhibition in January 2008 -

There is too much patina and marks on the silk for mine to be wearable. The marks don't show up easily in photos, but the silk is quite yellowed in real life.

Perhaps another point worth mentioning is that a lot of furisode and formal kimono being sold via eBay and other online shops is they include quite a lot of ex rental wedding kimono, furisode and tomesode too - kimono that haven't been owned personally. These are often in very good condition, just out of fashion or with minor damage, but can only be worn for weddings in Japan.

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