Textile Art To Die For – Or Wed For

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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My latest uchikake kimono

I know I must not buy more kimonos, I can’t move for the things and my home is now a warehouse with them crowding me out of every room but I could not resist the exquisite uchikake kimono you see below. It was expensive, as was the shipping from Japan, since it weighs about 6 kilos, so I can’t keep it and it will end up for sale on my website but I get to own it briefly, at least, and that will do. I have nowhere to display it anyway and it does not deserve to be hidden away in a box. It hasn’t arrived from Japan yet but I am quite excited about seeing it up close.

An uchikake is worn by a bride in Japan, part of one of many outfits she wears on her wedding day. They are not worn with an obi, they are worn open, rather like a coat, over her kimono and obi.

Uchikake are worn trailing on the ground, the bride stands with the hem laid out around her and the padded hem makes the bottom lie beautifully

It has magnificent aranami (wild waves), flying tsuru (cranes) and kumo (clouds). Cranes are a popular motif on wedding kimonos, as they are symbols of longevity, fidelity and loyalty. The Japanese believed cranes live for one thousand years. They mate for life.

On the front and on the back of one sleeve are red botan (peonies), symbolising happiness, wealth, and honour.

This uchikake is pure silk and has yuzen textile art, which means it was hand painted on the bolt of fabric used to make it. It will have cost ten to twenty thousand pounds, easily. In Japan, brides usually hire the uchikake for the wedding day, which will still cost a couple of thousand for the day’s hire. This makes buying a vintage one, for wear or display, a real bargain, as it will only cost a few hundred pounds and you get to keep it.


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4 comments

    1. Ooh, it’s a beauty. I like the look of what I can see of the tomesode underneath too. It looks to be a ryozuma one (mirror image design on the fronts), like pre WW2 ones, which I am particularly fond of. The ensemble looks great. Not all we non Asian people seem to be able to carry it off but you certainly do. Your bouquet has a Japanese look to it too and is perfect.
      Silk is lovely but the synthetic ones are just as beautiful, so I like them just as much.
      When my daughter, who models for me, tried on one of my uchikakes, so I could take photos to show my sister, she couldn’t bear the weight for long and could only hold her arms up for very short spells to show the sleeves. Some are heavier than others and it was a particularly heavy one she had on, with very thick embroidery weighing it down. The one the opera company bought recently was a fair bit lighter, having a woven design rather than couched embroidery, so hopefully the singer being Cio Cio will cope ok.

  1. I took the uchikake to the florist and he choose the flowers to match.

    I brought the tomesode because I was going for a ‘red and black’ themed wedding. I think I remember it being around 1920/30’s according to the seller.

    1. The kimono does look like a Taisho one (1912-1926), ryozuma designs were popular then. Those often have a lovely red lining. Your florist did well, he took the colours and Japanese look on board, they were the perfect choice. The wrong flowers or style of arrangement could have completely spoiled the effect.

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