Yūzen dyeing was a very popular technique used on kosode (kimonos with narrow sleeve openings) in the Jōkyō era (1684–1688). Folding fans designed by the artist Miyazaki Yūzensai, who worked in front of the gate of Chion-in Temple in Kyoto, were also popular in the early Edo period (1603–1868), and his designs (yūzen) were incorporated in kosode designs.
Although the yūzen design disappeared over time, its technique of dyeing came to be referred to as yūzen-zome. Yūzen-zome makes it possible to dye a colorful image onto the entire cloth, as if the kosode is one cohesive painting. Glue is placed along the outline of the image using a cylindrical tool in order to prevent the dye from escaping. Then, coloring is done using brushes. Until importation of chemical dyes began in the Meiji era (1868–1912), natural pigments, such as rouge red, indigo blue, gamboge yellow, and ink black were mixed and shaded to express various colors.
This is an excellent kimono from the mid-Edo period, when the technique of yūzen-zome was at its peak. This furisode (kimono with long sleeves), delicately and gorgeously dyed with a painting of majestic hawks on a partitioning screen, was probably worn by young men rather than a woman. The meticulously shaded color effects seen in the wood grain of the partitioning screen, the hemming, and the hawk wings are some of the finest. The red and twisted gold thread embroidery complements the yūzen-zome design for an even more gorgeous effect. If you follow the pattern of the plum tree branches dyed on the surface of the partitioning screen from the hem to the shoulder, you will see that it is one solitary plum tree extending throughout the entire body. The large purple shibori (tie-dye) patterns filling the space among the partitioning screen are called bakudan and are characteristic of yūzen-zome in the mid-Edo period. However, it has become a mysterious technique and the method of dyeing is unknown today.