This black urushi haori was my first purchase when I decided to collect kimono.
This haori was my first purchase after deciding to start collecting kimono in 2005.
It is a silk haori from Yamatoku which I bought for both its beautiful lining, and its urushi outer layer.
Urushi is brocade weaving with lacquered threads and is my favourite technique in kimono. Sometimes the lacquered threads are coloured, but most often they are in shades of gold, copper and silver. In older kimono they are made of actual metal wrapped around a core thread of linen, but in this more modern garment, they are simply lame.
The black background silk is rinzu – a kind of silk damask used only for women’s kimono. Here it is woven with a background pattern of waves. The urushi appears in ‘karabana’ – Chinese flower-shaped rondels, which are further enhanced with landscape motifs in black, gold and copper lamé. These landscape motifs are called Chaya-Tsuji and date from Heian court literature or Japanese Noh plays.
The lining of this haori is particularly beautiful and when it was for sale, it was photographed mainly inside-out. It is a yellow print silk with applied gold paint, with a design of maple leaves in red and brown. I wanted a black haori and it was very nice to get such a beautiful example, especially as my first online purchase.
On arrival, the haori was quite different from what I was expecting. I had expected more texture in the urushi and a matter, crepe-like fabric, but this haori was very fine and silky, and the urushi was not very prominent. However once over the surprise, I began to appreciate that it was very beautiful. The rinzu silk is fine quality with a beautiful drape, and the flowers in the rondels are copper-coloured, not red, as I had thought.
Because I had never seen a haori before, I also didn’t expect the lower back of the garment to be lined, which haoris always are unless otherwise indicated – this gives the garment better weight and drape. Because it is rinzu, this haori is light weight and is very softly ‘tailored’, so it is very comfortable to wear – a great contrast with hitokoshi chirimen haoris, as I would later discover. The lining glimpsed through the sleeve openings is very enticing and when wearing a haori of this type, you feel that it is definitely the equivalent of the Western black evening jacket.
The first time I wore this haori was for Scrabble night at friends and I hardly knew I had it on – this is one of the characteristics of Japanese clothing – because it wraps, it is incredibly comfortable. One of my friends said I looked like I should be wearing a mortar board, but I remained undeterred. The second time I wore it was to a party at a restaurant and I felt equally comfortable and was more heartened by several people commenting how pretty it was.
Over the past few years I’ve worn this haori a lot for evening, mainly over black knitted pants, black silk pants or a long black velvet skirt. It remains one of my favourites.