Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Ikeda Collection

It’s been a long time since my last post. Life has streamed by in a blur of cherry blossoms, rainy days and mad sewing sessions as I prepared for my annual trip to the American Embroidery Conference in Marietta, Georgia. And then of course, the return from my travels was followed by the inevitable battle with jet lag, but when I saw the announcement that the Kyoto Museum would be hosting a kimono exhibition from the Ikeda collection, my little soul just perked right up.

Shigeko Ikeda has spent a lifetime collecting the most beautiful antique kimono and now portions of her collection are occasionally exhibited in museums throughout Japan. One of my goals is to visit her gallery in Tokyo someday, but until then I savor any opportunity to see any portion of the collection that finds its way down to Kyoto for an exhibit.
women's kimono
One of the things that sets an Ikeda exhibition apart from others is that the kimono are displayed not flattened out like beautiful wall hangings in isolation from their context, but on mannequins fully accessorized in every glorious detail as they would have been worn by the very stylish people who originally owned these garments.

women's kimono
Not only is it possible to observe the choice of color combinations and coordination of motifs, but also the exquisite attention to detailed craftsmanship that makes each component of the ensemble a work of art in itself.

little girl's kimono with inset showing close-up of her little bird purse
This child must have looked just darling on some special occasion when she was all dressed up in her little kimono, complete with a bird-shaped purse that complements the bird motif on her clothing. A close up of the purse is shown in the inset so that you can see it a bit more clearly.

Purses, in fact, were a special focus of this particular exhibit. With many many glass cabinets filled with numerous elegant examples on which to feast my eyes.
kimono purse

kimono purse
The two clutch purses shown above could so easily be evening bags with any western outfit. I especially love the butterfly embroidered across the front flap of the purse in the lower panel.

But my embroiderer’s heart was really stolen by the antique wallets shown below. If you look back at the pictures of the woman’s kimono above, you can see how she wears one of these wallets tucked into the front overlap of her kimono just above the obi. In other examples, smaller wallets were tucked downward into the obi itself.

kimono purse
Notice on each of these how the embroidery on the band closure matches the imagery on the flap. This particular bag also has metallic butterfly embellishments.

kimono purseAnd here on this orange wallet, there is even a tiny detail trailing off the left corner of the flap onto the body of the purse.

kimono purse
But this one, I thought, was the pièce de résistance. Though I couldn’t show it here, the tail feathers trail across the top and over to the reverse side. And of course, those multiple tassels in metal and knotted cording are just amazing. I will have to follow up with some friends to find out whether these serve some particular purpose or are purely decorative.

All in all, I dream of trying my hand at replicating some of these little bags. At least, I think it would be so much fun to try.