Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Children's kimono Part 2 - Semamori

 As I suggested in my last post I have less interest in formal kimono than in everyday wear, but one aspect of children's formal kimono that I do find fascinating is semamori.  I'm always curious about the ways in which stitching has been given meanings that go beyond simply functional and decorative. Semamori  背守り literally means 'back protection' and is a stitched amulet on the back of children's kimonos.  The original style found on formal, ceremonial kimono is a simple line of stitching  (mamori-nui) up the centre back of the kimono which then goes off to the right on girls' kimonos and to the left on boys'. It apparently originated in the Momoyama period (1568-1615) from a belief in the protective power of seams.  Because children's kimono  had less seams than an adult and specifically lacked a centre back seam they were seen as being left vulnerable to evil spirits in that area.  The  semamori acted as a protective false seam. You can see this stitching on  this boy's ceremonial kimono which probably dates from the Meiji period (1868-1912):
This girl's kimono is from the Taisho period (1912-1926) and is made from silk chirimen. I've put in a close-up because it's a bit hard to see the stitching - you can click on the photos to enlarge them as well.



On less formal kimono a tradition began of stitching more decorative good luck designs (kishyo) as semamori. Padded applique 'oshie' motifs were also sometimes attached.  These auspicious designs were also used to attach the belt to the kimono and were given the same protective meaning as the semamori:


I have a small collection of semamori stitched samples. They come in little books or on re-used pieces of card. I'm guessing that these were done as part of kimono sewing classes either at high school or in private sewing schools. Here are some examples:






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