We live in an era of mass-produced, off the shelf clothing. That which was novel a century ago is now commonplace. To make clothing by hand is no longer a necessity, but a novelty. That’s great for saving time, but where is the love?
In vintage, of course. Hand sewn garments of decades past can be difficult to date without a manufacturer’s tag, but therein lies the charm and the challenge. These days I often assume a hand-sewn yukata is on the older side of things, as so many are machine sewn now. You can still buy a tan (single garment bolt) of cotton in many shops, either to take home and sew or have tailored to fit, but who has time for that? Buy one off the rack and save yourself the trouble. I confess, I did buy an off-the-rack yukata while in the Ginza this spring. I still haven’t worn it, but it’s very pretty.
For those of us who aren’t squeamish about wearing second-hand goods, there are always treasures to be found. One of my lucky finds this year has been this indigo shibori yukata. Yellowed in places with age and wear but otherwise in gently used condition, it has substantial texture and ever so much character.
Light and dark interplay with undulating lines of pink and white dots opposite individually rendered leaves. The indigo is very dark, and by the smell, not a chemical dye but the real thing. Natural indigo is smelly stuff, and the smell does not dissipate without frequent washing and airing. This yukata had neither, from what I could tell. The texture from the shibori was too pronounced to have been washed and dried with regular use. My guess is it was used infrequently, then stored for a very long time. Regular yukata wear went out of fashion for most of the late 20th century, but a garment such as this would hardly have been tossed out. Originally it would have been far to expensive to waste.
So was it homemade or custom tailored? A clue to that was found inside the collar as I picked the seams apart. A blue and white tenugui revealed itself, cut in half lengthwise and sewn together to make a long, narrow inner lining for the collar and lapel. It is not uncommon to find tenugui inside of homemade yukata, as I found in another shibori yukata I examined a few years ago. I’m assuming this is not commonly done with commercially produced yukata, unless the tenugui is actually from the shop where it was made.
We will examine this yukata more closely in my next post. Summer is winding down and I’m settling back into writing more frequently, so I hope you will join me as I get back to posting about my discoveries, and share one of your own. Email me if you have an item you’d like to share.