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A Boro Hemp Edo Komon Kimono: Pattern upon Pattern, Patches and Holes

Written on February 25, 2011

This boro kimono, as it is, with its great distress, its heavy wear and its large, missing pieces of cloth, is evocative of a life of poverty in old Japan.

The original kimono, before the damage from heavy use, was a fine one: it is a 19th century hemp Edo komon kimono, or a kimono that has been stencil resist dyed with a very tiny, all-over pattern, like this one here.The inside of the kimono, glimpsed here, is rich in patches and mending: the use of the word “rich” carrying with it a profound irony as the owner of this heavily worn coat of recycled cloth was anything but rich.On the sleeve, below, we can see the original kimono’s komon pattern–and we can see that it was patched with other komon cloth of different patterns.

A closer view onto the pattern-on-pattern komon layering can be seen in these two photos, above and below.The photographs, below, show the kimono inside-out, for a better view onto the patches which are attached to the interior.  The patches are of hand spun cotton and hand plied hemp fragments.

Some boro garments and textiles can take a visual detour from being something wonderful to look to being something that gives one pause.  This kimono, which is such a stark reminder of poverty in old Japan, carries with it a feeling of the burden of an indigent life, and from this, we can think much more broadly about the human condition.

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2 Comments

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  1. Comment by k:

    what an amazing piece with deep meaning. thank you for sharing.

    February 26, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

  2. Comment by barbara davis:

    i love boro. can you tell me about old textiles rotten and tearing. how and why it occurs and how to ascertain damage without tearing /testing it. also india*s black dyed fabric is very bad. there is a certain particular smell to it.

    February 27, 2011 @ 8:18 pm