In “Embellishments: Rescued embroidery” from Threads #201 (Feb./March 2019), kimono aficionado June Colburn describes how to repurpose the stunning embroideries found on vintage formal kimono. Because these garments are typically rented, either for weddings or other special occasions, the fabric foundation is often damaged or stained, but the uchikake embroidery can be salvaged and reused as appliqué on other garments.
June lived in Japan for several years and developed an appreciation for Japanese culture and fashion. It may feel disrespectful to take vintage garments apart, but repurposing kimonos has a long history. Japanese couture designer Hanae Mori began her career by using old kimonos in her collections. Think of it less as taking something apart, and more that you are giving new life to a garment that may otherwise have sat unused in storage.
Below is June’s suggested reading list for more information about kimono and Japanese culture:
- The Book of Kimono: The Complete Guide to Style and Wear by Norio Yamanaka (Kodansha, 1985) explores the differences between types of traditional Japanese garments, from formal kimono to summer robes, called yukata, and more.
- Japanese Costume and Textile Arts by Seiroku Noma (Weatherhill/Heibonsha, 1977) is an overview of the history and evolution of Japanese textiles and clothing, including kimono and traditional Noh theater costumes.
- Kimono Fashioning Culture by Liza Crihfield Dalby (Yale University Press, 1993) is an in-depth look at kimono through the years. This book delves into Japanese history and culture as far back as 2,000 years ago. Part II of the book, “Kimono in the modern world,” will be particularly interesting to modern readers.
- Kimono, Vanishing Tradition: Japanese Textiles of the 20th Century by Cheryl Imperatore and Paul MacLardy (second edition, Schiffer, 2016) contains more than 525 color photographs. The book examines the current state of kimono in Japanese wardrobes. Chapter 10, “Uchikake and Furisode,” is helpful for giving context to some of the information in June’s article.
- Textile Art of Japan by Sunny Yang and Rochelle M. Narasin (Shufinotomo, 1989) focuses on the technical aspects of creating Japanese textiles, from weaving to needlework and decoration. Chapter 5, “Needlework and applied decoration,” describes how embroideries such as the ones used in the article, were created.
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