Monday, April 4, 2016

Motif: Chocho (Butterflies)

What could be more inspiring of summer than the vision of butterflies flitting from flower to flower? With their elegance and grace, it is no wonder that chocho are so commonly featured in kimono patterning.

Vintage yukata featuring butterflies. Purchased from Nichi Bei Busan in San Jose, CA.

Unidentified dancer at San Jose's Bon Odori, 2014.
The butterfly is a very popular spring/summer motif and can also be found as the primary theme for many mon, or family crests. Aside from it's grace and fleeting sense of beauty, the butterfly is also associated with themes of transience and death. This gives their appearance on yukata and even deeper meaning-- summertime is Obon season, the festival of remembrance for those who have died.

As with most botanical or animal-type motifs, it's best to pair it with a geometric or even plain pieces so that the patterns do not compete. If you look again at the first photo, you might notice that I throw this rule of thumb out the window and go for an obi featuring bunnies with a striking geometric on the reverse. In that case, the butterflies are not as central to the pattern as they are in the example from the Bon Odori, where she has paired a red obi with a lotus enclosed in a circle, mirroring the more subtle circular motifs that are also present in her yukata. With the vintage yukata, I was looking to liven up the very muted slate by pairing with an obi that brought out the lighter colors of the flowers. The darker lines on the obi also mirrored the vine-like lines of the pattern, giving the ensemble a cohesive air, even while not having a prominent geometric (except that tiny little bit showing in my obi musubi).

My philosophy is that as long as you know what rules you're bending and why, there's no harm in having a little fun with putting together ensembles. If my kind readers have any fashion 'rules' they like to bend (and I don't just mean wearing white after Labor Day), I would be most interested in seeing them in the comments!

Tomorrow, we're moving back to a geometric motif: Diamonds (Hishi)


  1. Now I have a new fabric love - your gray butterfly material *swoon.
    I so enjoy bending the fashion rules, mainly pairing vintage with currents. Stop by for a visit on my P, R and V posts with a fashion focus.

    1. I will be sure to do so! Thanks for the heads up ^_^