Uchikake-cuchi-coo.

Have you ever come across something that you knew you were never going to use or wear, but for one reason or another had to have anyways? Yeah, that’s how I ended up with Japanese wedding attire.

Uchikake are technically any sort of ceremonial decorated over-kimono (not to be confused with things like haori or michiyuki, which are everyday outerwear). They were commonplace with the upperclass as well as high-class courtesans up until the Edo era, and started losing popularity from then on. At this point, they are pretty much exclusively worn by a bride on her wedding day, over top of a full trailing furisode and obi ensemble. They can be white, as mine is, or brightly coloured with celebratory motifs. Their primary characteristics are the heavy, padded hem and long length (as they are meant to be worn trailing) and often a front decorated with knots or other ornamentation. They are worn over the kimono and obi, and so are not overlapped or folded at the waist. This allows for much more elaborate decorations.

I have no plans to get married any time in the remotely near future, and even if I did I would not wear this piece. I may consider wearing a dressy kimono for the reception, or part of it, but this is too ornate for my tastes, and too “thematic” for any sort of ceremony I’d feel comfortable with.

However, when I was working in the computer lab at a college several years back, one of the professors overheard me discussing my collection, and told me his wife had purchased a kimono as a decoration while they were vacationing there in the 80s, and had tired of it. It was currently living in a garbage bag in their closet, and would I be interested in seeing/buying it?

I said yes, expecting it to be some sort of tourist trappery with hideous embroidery. Imagine my shock when he pulled this poor baby out of the bag!

I offered him a price that to this day I still feel guilty for. If I’d purchased this online, the money I gave him would just about have covered the shipping costs, and nothing else.

This is a modern piece, I’d guess 1970s or later, but it’s still lovely.

The base is a pattern of peacocks and art-nouveau style flourishes, which is a refreshing departure from the typical crane motif.

The peacocks themselves are rather smug-looking, which always makes me chuckle.

It also has some beautiful knotwork at the wrists, and a lovely false-layered effect that evokes the twelve-layered Juunihitoe of Heian court outfits.

Maybe one day I’ll do a courtesan-inspired photoshoot or something and get a chance to drag this beast onto my shoulders again, but for now I am content to simply admire it.

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9 Comments

  1. If you’re having trouble finding something strong enough to display your uchikake – check out the hardwood hanging bars on my website. They are designed to hold the weight of an uchikake and have the torii gate look with the upswept ends. Very dramatic & strong.

  2. I got a similar deal on a beautiful shiromuku; I know I won’t be wearing it any time soon, but it was shoved in with a lot of 4 other kimono on eBay. I got 3 kimono and 2 haori for what I paid for shipping on just ONE kimono before without batting an eye. The seller even stuffed an extra haori and a susoyoke in the box, since it was Christmas. We both probably walked away from that sale thinking we’d robbed the other.

  3. Gorgeous! An uchikake is probably the most impractical piece of garment there is but still it’s always nice to have one – just because they are so beautiful. ^_^

  4. Pingback: kimono tsuki » Blog Archive » Uchikake-cuchi-coo. CXO

  5. Beautiful! I have a colored uchikake that was given to me as a gift from a Japanese friend. She had two in the family and donated the other to a museum. I still feel a little bit guilty that I have not yet found a way to mount and display it due to the weight.

    • Have you considered buying a frame for it? I hung mine on the wall for photographing, but it started bending the bar and tugging on the screws holding the brackets in place, so I’m definitely not comfortable leaving it there. I’ve considered getting a frame for it, they show up on eBay sometimes.

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