Kuro tomesode (woman’s black formal wear)
Silk crepe, gilt thread
Yuzen paste resist, hand painting, embroidery

In the years following the Russo-Japanese War (1904 – 1905) and up until the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1926, Japan found itself suddenly very wealthy. The attention lavished on this kuro tomesode reflects that wealth, with excellent craftsmanship, fine detailing, luxury and exaggeration.

This formal kimono, which depicts the auspicious takarabune, or treasure ships, was likely worn at a wedding. The opening photo shows the kimono with its skirt flared, displaying its lavish detail. Notice how, in the photo below, when the skirt is shown closed, the kimono looks much more modest.

At the slightly open front, more lavish detailing is visible. The waves handpainted on the outer hem are continued on the inner hem. Little of the inner hem would ever be seen, so this amount of work, on the off-chance that someone might see it, is an indicator of the level of luxury involved. The bright red silk lining continues the theme of luxury. Since the left side of the kimono is worn over the right side, far more attention has been paid to decorating the side that will be consistently seen, but the right side is by no means ignored.

When the skirt is fully opened in the front, the full extent of the luxury treatment can be seen. A typical kimono has no inside detailing. When there is some small detailing at the corners of the inside hems, there is an element of flirtation, as the wearer is acknowledging that someone might be looking for a flash of leg or ankle. In this kimono, the lavish detailing along the inside edges goes almost halfway up the kimono, where it would never be seen in passing, but only in the act of dressing or undressing, so it is a completely private luxury.

In the photo below, one can get some idea of the level of craftsmanship in the very fine yuzen dyeing and the exceptional silk and gold couched embroidery.