Light green floral houmongi

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My third kimono purchase was this light green houmongi decorated in the Yuzen technique.

Pale green houmongi with Yuzen mums

Houmongi – literally ‘visiting dress’ – are the most flamboyant kimono permitted for a married woman. They can also be worn by unmarried women, though most prefer to carry on wearing the longer-sleeved furisode while they still can. However, this houmongi has more rounded sleeves than the tomesode above, and the sleeves are quite long at 24 inches, which may mean it was indeed worn by an unmarried woman.

Houmongi are considered suitable for almost every occasion – visiting friends, going about town, and performing traditional arts such as ikebana. On this houmongi, the pale mint-green silk ground is woven with a design of streams, then multicoloured flowers are painted on top using the Yuzen technique. I was attracted to this kimono mainly for its lovely colours, especially the the background green, but also because of its distinctively Japanese appearance.

Fukuro-ori silk with yuzen flowers

On arrival, to be honest, I was slightly disappointed in it. Although the silk was beautiful and very textured – it may in fact be fukuro-ori – it was as stiff as a board with size and the synthetic lining stiffened it further. Because it was also lightweight, the garment didn’t hang nicely. The colour that I had thought was red turned out to be a dull rust and the pattern that had appeared so pretty at a distance was coarser in close-up – in fact I took it to be a print. Once again, the garment was enormously long (though very narrow), so I was learning that I needed to pay more attention to this aspect of kimono.

After humming and hawing for a while, I decided to take the garment apart completely and use the fabric. I checked it carefully before washing, by sponging it and using an iron and a white cloth. Nothing came off, so I was able to wash the silk, after which it was much softer and more pleasant on the skin. From it, I made a loose jacket about 30 inches long, with short sleeves like a happi coat and a narrow collar, which gave me several pieces left over for scarves.

It was, in fact, only when I dissassembled this kimono that I realised it was Yuzen. The technique hadn’t been described by the vendor Yamatoku and I hadn’t realised the background silk was actually cream and only painted green where it was visible. The colour runs out at the fold lines, which makes sections of the silk impossible to use. However, I’ve now got a lovely summer jacket out of it, so I’m happy.

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