Orizuru - Paper Crane
This is a lovely hikizuri that I snagged off of YJA some time ago. It seemed to go unloved because it was lengthened and partly discoloured, but I felt it to be valuable for its historical significance. The kamon on this hikizuri is still in use in the karyukai today and I believe this hikizuri has its origins in the very late Taisho Period, or very early Showa Period. I believe this piece illustrates a key change in a geiko's wardrobe that I have suspected for some time. You see, Taisho Period hikizuri are generally shorter and more lightly padded than modern pieces, while suddenly, in the early Showa Period hikizuri increased by as much as 20 to 30cm in length, and their padding became much thicker. I believe this is to accomodate for lower collars at the back of the neck and longer trains. Since geisha were originally fashionistas, I believe this represents one of the last changes in their wardrobe that could be considered a taste of fashion before they became guardians of Japan's cultural past.
All construction of this hikizuri points to it once being similar in size and proportion to a Taisho Period hikizuri. It even has its original red lining. With the addition of the extension around the waist and thicker padding, it suddenly takes on the shape and size of a Showa Period hikizuri. I believe these alterations may represent a frugal okiya's attempt to modernize an older hikizuri to suit the current fashion in the hanamachi. It may have also been altered for a specific odori performance as the added white hiyoku may be synthetic. However, this may have been added at an even later date, for yet another repurposement. Odori or not, the kamon and the fact that the entire kimono (aside from the hiyoku) is silk firmly indicates that this kimono began its life as a geiko's. Even the yuzen work is typical of a geiko's kimono.
This wonderful piece features paper cranes, bamboo and kikkou (hexagonal symbols of longevity abstracted from the appearance of tortoise shells). These symbols of longevity are quite fitting if my suspicions about the origins and transformations of this kimono are true.