Tomesode with stylised mist

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This tomesode was made in the 1970s and was my second purchase when I began collecting kimono.

Iro-tomesode with stylised mist

I thought I would post an update on this tomesode.

I bought it from Yamatoku in 2004. It was my second purchase and I had no idea what to expect.  As you can see from the original blog post below, I couldn’t find a way to wear it and ended up cutting it in half to make a skirt and a jacket (a decision that now makes me wince).

The problem was, I never wore the skirt or the jacket either, so this weekend, I disassembled both of them and pieced the kimono back together again. It went together well, with the only noticeable change being an extra seam at hip level, which – when worn – is tucked under the obi, so isn’t visible. It involved a LOT of hand stitching, which I very much enjoy, so no worries there.

Now that, in 2010, I am more in the habit of wearing kimono with an ohashori, I think this one will get a lot of wear, especially for evening. It will be nice to change out of my workaday meisen, tsumugi or wool kimono into something posher for evening, and this one is also very warm, which will be useful in winter – it weighs over 1.5kg.

I have come to the conclusion lately that tomesodes are actually one of the most practical and flattering garments to wear at home, despite their origins as occasionwear. In Japan, they would only be worn at weddings and other very formal occasions, but their dark background and busy patterns actually make them quite practical too, unlike furisode, houmongi, many tsukesage and – worst of all – iromuji kimono, which are very often in pale colours that you have to ‘mind’ constantly. I will probably buy more tomesode in the future, favouring the Taisho era.

However, even though it only dates from the 1970s, I feel very pleased to have resurrected this kimono – it is a really fine kimono in hitokoshi chirimen, with masses of surihaku, silk embroidery and urushi embroidery, and the pattern extends right through the inside.


This tomesode was ordered from Yamatoku and actually arrived in a batch with my black haori and another kimono I’ll detail later. It dates from the 1970s.

Tomesode are considered the most formal kimono for married women and usually have relatively short sleeves (ie: shorter than furisode) with quite a squared-off lower corner, which shows that the wearer is married and not a girl. Tomesode carry all their pattern at the hem, while the top of the garment is left completely unpatterned. The pattern continues inside the garment – a characteristic of high-end kimono, as only brief glimpses are seen when the wearer walks. The majority of tomesode are black (kuro-tomesode), though occasionally coloured ones known as iro-tomesode can be found.

This tomesode is the most formal type, with five crests, three of which you can see in the picture above. It’s the equivalent of the little black dress of the west – suitable for formal events such as weddings, and traditionally worn by the mother of the bride.

Close-up of lame embroidery and surihaku

On this kimono, the hem design is of stylised mist, with bamboo baskets with motifs of paulownia, ‘dramatic flower’ and Yusoku-Mon. Yosoku-Mon is one of the motifs reserved for the Emperor and nobility in the Heian era (794-1185). The baskets are also partly embroidered with lame yarn and the clouds are thickly painted with embossed gold and silver paint (surihaku). The lining is white habutai and although the pattern and the surihaku continue inside the garment, the embroidery does not, presumably to prevent it catching on the juban underneath. The pattern reaches almost to the collar, which shows it was worn by quite a young married woman – if the owner had been older, the pattern would have ended further down.

I bought this kimono mainly for its fine applied work, which includes outlines in gold couching and several types of lame embroidery in red threads, multicoloured irridescent threads and plain silvers and golds. There is also gold couched embroidery around the outlines of the flowers, which is held down by double stitches of red thread. The surihaku is quite worn, which is something I like – in my beadwork and sewing I am interested in decay, so this appealed to me also.

I had expected the embroidered sections to be beautiful, but what struck me on its arrival was the quality of the black background silk, from which the crests, white pick-stitching and white collar lining stand out beautifully. The next thing that struck me was the kimono’s enormous weight. This is because it’s made of what I now know to be hitokoshi-chirimen, a densely-woven dead matt crepe with a tiny wrinkle.The hem is also lightly padded and the metallic paints both inside and out also contribute to the weight. It has the feel of a suit or coat-dress – it’s not a garment for lounging in.

Inside of tomesode showing pattern

I quickly realised that I had made a mistake with this tomesode in not checking the length – it was simply enormous on me. A Japanese woman would gather the excess into a fold at the waist, called the ohashori, but even with this technique the garment dragged on the floor. So, since tomesode are not rare and this one was not expensive, I decided to take it apart. With some trepidation, I cut it straight across at hip level, detached the collars from the body and resewed them, and turned back the lapels to reveal their brilliant white lining. I then sewed white pearl fringing to the bottom of the jacket. What I’m left with is a Chanel-type jacket with a tie front, plus a beautiful wrap skirt for evening, both of which are very chic and comfortable to wear – though best not worn both at once or it looks like fancy dress

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