How to Buy Vintage Kimono

The Kimono, surely perfect enough - Ichiroya.com

The Kimono, surely perfect enough - Ichiroya.com

Blossom and I are now so into the whole idea of buying vintage. There’s just something nice about the old elegance and the idea of the history you’re wearing on your back. Plus, something about the old designs do tend to appeal to us. Not only are vintage kimonos appealing, we realize that these are the kimonos most readily available to the gaijin buyer because of their relatively cheap prices (compared to brand new kimonos), and also the most accessible to those who cannot peruse websites in Japanese to buy brand new ones.

However, when Blossom and I researched on the internet, there is so little information about how one should go about buying a vintage kimono. What does one look for to make sure you don’t get cheated? OMG Stains! When it comes, what does one do? Here’s some advice from us two budding shoppers who have learned a thing or two over the course of our last purchases and several hundred dollars.

To begin with, buy from reputable sources. One of the most reputable on the net being Ichiroya.com, who offers amazing homely (though sometimes slow) service. They also happen to have a good command of English, which I appreciate being an English Teacher :/ Perhaps seeing competence in the language brings a sense of trust and security, since I feel as if they can understand what I’m trying to communicate. Reputable sellers will usually mark out stains, tears, patinas and what not on the kimono. They will be honest. Yes, I know ebay has cheaper, but I always worry because I don’t know these people nor do I trust their photos. Ichiroya so far has served me the best with the widest selection available.

Defect Report - Ichiroya.com

Stains - Ichiroya.com

Stains - Ichiroya.com

When buying, look carefully at the defect report. Most vintage kimonos should come listed with a report of defects. I don’t mind stains if they’re not huge and noticeable, and trust me, most kimono will come with stains sprinkled on by the Shoya Goblin. Expect defects. They’re vintage and were sold by their original owners for a reason. However, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so I’m not complaining.¬† If you see a defect that wasn’t in the defect report, chill out. Unless it’s major or hugely noticable, no one will notice it either when you wear it.

Some of the most common defects are wear marks on the collars, soy sauce stains, discolouration, patina, frays and unravelling seams. Seams can be repaired, but there’s nothing much you can do about the rest besides trying to hide them. Try to steer clear of kimono with holes or repaired holes. You are not Oshin.

Typical Patina on Inner Lining - Ichiroya.com

Typical Patina on Inner Lining - Ichiroya.com

Several aspects of a kimono you must acknowledge when buying a kimono. This is where it pays to be cynical.

  • Expect it to be worse than it seems, as cynical as this sounds. While on the photos, stains might look small, consider that your computer monitor and photo editing for contrast might have affected that. If the stain is in a nondescript place, I tend not to mind since it is easily hidden.
  • There will be stains not listed on the defect report. I don’t think this is so much duplicity on the trader’s part, though some might think of it that way. Lets face it, they need to make a living, and all salesmanship is about the presenting varying degrees of truth. If the tiny defects can be hidden, I don’t mind. If it’s major, by all means, join me in kicking up a fuss and returning the kimono.
  • Research how to care for kimono! Tiny stains are not as bad as a ruined patch of silk because you rubbed too hard to get rid of tiny stains! Learn from my heart-wrenching experience ;-;
  • Check that the sizing fits you, especially if you’re not built like the average Japanese waif. Check that the arm lengths, waist and kimono lengths will accomodate your dimensions, these are usually made known by the trader.

Now that you have your kimono chosen, it’s time to go through the transaction. I realize this takes time, over the course of a few days. Doesn’t matter to me as long as it comes quick, so when it comes to shipping, I care. I usually use EMS because I’m impatient – there, I admit it – and because it’s insured and traceable. When you get it, expect it to smell. It’s old and been in storage for a long time. I had to air out my furisode for a week before the smell stopped being noticeable. Air it out, check for defects, admire it, and then post it on your blog and show it off to the world.

All in all, when buying a vintage kimono, it’s all about what you can live with. If you’re not that picky or demanding of perfection, than a vintage kimono is an economical buy for you. Besides, like men and puppies, every kimono is perfect if you love it enough.

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