On Sunday, Tetsu and I visited his mother, and took her out to lunch. I was wearing the shirt I'd made from my neighbor's old kimono and Obaachan (Tetsu's mother) was very surprised and thought it was from one of her old kimonos but she was pretty sure hers were still in a box in her closet. When we got home we hauled out the box.
Obaachan had given me a couple of her old kimonos a few years ago and I passed them along to a friend who used them in patchwork. The ones she showed us Sunday were her valuable kimonos, hand woven things made of silk, some for formal wear, some for wearing only to funerals etc. Kimonos are expensive and it is a point of pride and maybe snobbishness to wear only the best kimonos and obis (belts) that have been hand painted or embroidered or woven. When I say expensive, I don't mean a couple hundred dollars. We're talking about thousands for just one kimono not to mention the brocade obi, the silk underclothing, the hand woven decorative ties etc. etc. Even on Sunday I could hear the pride in Obaachan's voice as she boasted about how much this or that kimono cost, how Tetsu's father bought it for her when he'd made a lot of money on some business deal. To me it seems somewhat vain to put so much worth into clothing but to Obaachan, it is proof of what high status she once belonged to.
As I oohed and aahed, she casually said,
"Take them. I don't have any used for them anymore. No one will ever wear them. They'll just get thrown away someday. Some recycle shop may sell them for a piddling. You take them and make something you like."
"But Obaachan, that would mean cutting them up. That would ruin them. I might not even be able to make something wearable. I'm not very good at sewing."
"It doesn't matter. They sit in a dark box for thirty years. If you can make something and wear it even once it is better for the kimono. I don't need them anymore."
So Tetsu and I repacked the box and I brought it home. On the way back Tetsu said,
"She didn't give you those kimonos the time before because they were so special to her. I wonder why she's decided they aren't special to her anymore. I guess she figures she really won't be around that many more years and she'd at least like to know that you appreciate them."
A sad thought, but maybe so...
I looked through the box again and admire how beautiful the patterns, the weaving, the tiny stitches are. But knowing that some of these kimonos run thousands of dollars can you see why I'm hesitant to cut into any of them? My scissors freeze before I even sit down at the box. It's true though. Not many people wear kimono anymore and certainly not anyone I know. Some of the hostesses at bars maybe, the girls at weddings. But these rich, dark kimonos of Obaachan's are things she wore after she was married, not something a young girl like Leiya would wear (maybe once!). And besides, to properly dress in a kimono you have to have a "dresser" someone who knows how to tuck and tie etc. One just doesn't throw a kimono on and go out to lunch. Nowadays (for funerals) women will go to a hair dresser who also has a license in kimono dressing. That reminds me, you have to have your hair put up a special way too.
What I'm trying to say is that no one I know will ever wear these kimonos. If I made a dress or a shirt at least they would be out of their box. But they are too valuable for me to start playing around with. So I finger them.
I'll take pictures in the next couple of days and show you a few. In the meantime, I did cut into two yesterday. They had tags on them so I knew they weren't that expensive. Probably store bought. My sewing is so bad, but sort of interesting. Maybe Obaachan will approve. Maybe I can work up the courage to use the others...