Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Collection: Baskets and Bags

Before I started dressing in kimono with any sort of frequency, I didn't give much consideration to the bag I used to carry all of the little day-to-day things from which I can't bear to be parted. My requirements were simple: can I wear it slung over my shoulder and does it have a place for my wallet, keys, and cell-phone?

For my casual life, these are still my requirements, but when I am dressing in kimono, it's a different story. If I am in kimono, I want something that will hold the essentials (money, phone, keys) but I also want it to look like it is part of the outfit. The ideal is for something that transcends utilitarian and becomes its own accessory.

I've made note of my baskets and bags in previous entries, but I'm taking this time to introduce these items individually, as well as to bring out some that I have yet to pair with an ensemble.

Takekago kinchaku or 'basket-bag.' A bamboo basket is lined and used as the base for a drawstring bag. Ann picked up this yabane (arrow-fletching) patterned one in a little store in Shizuoka when she had a chance to visit in 2005.

Another takekago kinchaku. This one came from the same store as the one above. It's decorative fabric is dyed using the technique of shibori.

This basket has a hinged lid and is unlined, though I usually toss a furoshiki or handkerchief in to keep things from rattling about too much.

I like to do a lot of my own crafting for the ensembles that I put together and to that end I look for interesting and serviceable baskets with an eye to turning them into purses. Most of my finds come from thrift stores so it's a relatively inexpensive way to add a finishing touch to an ensemble. By adding the final touches myself, it also means that I have something that is entirely unique.

This basket came from one of our local thrift stores and I had the fabrics to make the lining in my collection. This basket is fully lined, similar to the more traditional Japanese basket-bags seen above.

This basket was also a thrift store find, but I have not yet made a lining or closure for it. It's fairly spacious, so I usually only use a furoshiki to keep the contents concealed.

 I also have an appreciation for vintage pieces and have had a good deal of luck at finding things that I feel are suitable to my look in antique and thrift stores as well as rummage sales and other events.

All three of these are vintage pieces, if not actually antique at this point.

The cream-colored clutch is one that I found in an antique mall and is embroidered with a design reminiscent of rose-buds.  The black brocade bag was found at a sale benefiting San Jose's Yu Ai Kai; the photo does not do it justice as it is quite ingeniously constructed. The orange and white clutch has a delightful texture created, as near as I can tell, by a weaving technique, though the texture itself is reminiscent of shibori. While the traditional Japanese wave-type motif shows up quite well in the photo, in person it can be quite subtle and would not be out of place with most of my ensembles.

The more that I dress in kimono, the more I find out how valuable these accessories are in completing the look. I give as much consideration to what I'll use to carry my things as I do to selecting the items that I'll be wearing. Merely utilitarian no longer, these little gems have their own place to shine in the composition of the ensemble.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pushing the Season

It finally feels like autumn here in California. In the Valley of the Heart's Delight (so much more poetic than 'Silicon Valley') we do see changes in the seasons. The leaves are turning from green to vivid red, and in the coming months we may even see frost or spy snow on the distant mountaintops. This has always been one of my favorite times of year; there is an ephemeral charge to the air, a sense that there is something new on the horizon.

I took advantage of the lovely weather we've been having to take the snow bunny hitoe kimono out for its first wearing. Even though we are still in autumn, and the motif of the garment is more reminiscent of winter, it is not uncommon to 'push the season' when dressing in kimono. To do this means that one must pull together the ensemble, mindful of the impression the choice of color and motif will leave with the viewer. When 'pushing the season,' the garments would be selected not because they coordinate with the current season, but are suggestive of the season to come (dressing with winter themes in autumn or spring themes towards the end of winter).

The ensemble that I put together incorporating the snow bunnies illustrates this concept very well.

Haori, kimono, obi and obijme selected for the most recent outing. the fabric in the upper right hand corner is the juban, included to show off the han-eri, as it doesn't always show up well when I'm wearing it.
To accentuate the 'wintry' feel of the snow bunnies, I paired it with a cool blue obi that also compliments the snowflake motif in the kimono. I chose the golden colors for the han-eri, my kanzashi, yellow toned obi-jime and even the lighter wood of the geta that I selected not just to bring the whole of the ensemble together but because the warm colors are suggestive of the warmth we seek in the colder months. The haori is a chic stripe in blues and neutral tones which are also cooling, and the drape of that garment is suggestive of being padded (even though it is only lined), another hint of cooler temperatures to come.

The darker-colored tabi also hint at cooler weather.
A view from the back, where you also get a flash of my juban at the sleeve openings.

In Japanese culture there are seasonally appropriate motifs for every season that are not always obvious to the western viewer. With motifs like snowflakes, there is no mystery, but there are many floral motifs that are specific to certain seasons that I am only just beginning to learn about.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crafting: Kimono in the Making

I could go into great detail as to why I haven't written anything for a couple of weeks. I could say that I haven't had time to properly dress, but that wouldn't be true. I simply haven't had a chance to photograph any of my more recent outings, and it's very difficult to talk about style and ensemble without visual reference.

Even when I'm not in kimono, I still find myself thinking of wearing them, and deporting myself with the same calm and grace as I hope that I manage when dressed. It is a gentle reminder for more stressful or aggravating times. I sat down earlier this week to try to write on this theme but found myself distracted. More to the point, I had a sewing project that I wanted to be working on that was far more relevant to this blog than my idle musings and I realized that I wasn't going to be able to write anything worth sharing until I'd done something about it.

Snow Bunnies, uncut
This is a roll or tan of yukata fabric. It is a fairly lightweight cotton and has a wonderful feel. The pattern, is quite charming and will be a wonderful, cooling reminder when worn in summer. I took this photograph a couple of weeks ago, after I finished ironing it.

Snow bunnies, cut. The sleeves are at the bottom left of the frame and you can see that I gave them a girlishly young, rounded corner. For my age, I should have perhaps gone with something a little more squared off, but the pattern is so fun and whimsical that I couldn't resist.

The cut yukata from another angle. This is the wrong side of the fabric.
I took these photos after finally cutting the pieces for the yukata. I use the Folkwear Japanese Kimono Pattern (#113) and I plan to do a more in-depth photo essay in the future as I make another kimono. I can't recommend this pattern highly enough as the instructions are quite clear and straightforward and Folkwear is very good about adding cultural details and information along with the pattern instructions. I did not get any more photos of my assembly process this time around, but I can assure you that this yukata is now complete and that I will be sharing photos of it as I go out in the near future.

This particular length of fabric has been waiting a very long time to be made into a garment. It was originally purchased for my roommate, Ann, and she had hoped to make a yukata for herself. To that end, she had purchased some additional burgundy cotton that she felt she might need to augment the original fabric so that she could have a garment that fit. (I used this fabric to face the sleeve openings at wrist and near the body.)

Through one thing and another, the fabric was never cut and eventually she handed it off to me as I was more likely to actually make a yukata. Even then, it sat in my fabric stash for quite some time until the kimono bug really took hold on me and we decided that not only was this a color that I could wear, but that such an adorable print really needed to be made so it could be worn and shared.

Part of my delay was also concern for not showing proper respect for the fabric. I was afraid that I would miscut something and render it unusable  After all, this was a unique tan-- it wasn't like I could go out to our nearest fabric store and buy more. It was also fabric that had been given to me, and I wanted very much to show my respect and appreciation for that. Of course, the best way to show that was to actually use the fabric for its intended purpose and with that in mind, I continued with care, laying out my pattern several times to ensure I could get all of the pieces I needed before finally cutting.

Because of the nature of the pattern, I feel more comfortable treating this garment as a hitoe (unlined) cotton kimono rather than a yukata, and plan on wearing it for the upcoming holiday season, as well as for Obon next summer. It really is the pattern that makes it so versatile-- I simply can't bring myself to wear my other yukata at this time of year; their patterning is simply too 'summery.'

I have other fabrics waiting to become lovely garments, and now that I have had some success with this one, I feel that I can move with more confidence onto these other treasures that are simply waiting to be brought into the light.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review: Okimono Kimono

Like any fashion, there will be different ways to approach assembling looks and ensembles. Where "The New Kimono" presents a classic, chic approach, Mokona's "Okimono Kimono" offers a whimsical, playful take on bringing the wearing of kimono into everyday life.

Mokona is an manga-ka (a Japanese illustrative/"comic" artist) who is perhaps better known as a member of the all-female studio CLAMP. "Okimono Kimono" is her first solo work, stemming from her own interest in the art of kimono.

The book is divided into several sections, the first being "Okimono Art." This section is dedicated to several pieces that Mokona designed herself.  The designs are quite modern and the models in kimono are depicted against CG backgrounds that another CLAMP artist created. While the creations didn't particularly suit my personal style, Mokona's explanations of the designs and her process were undeniably interesting.

Throughout the whole of the book, Mokona brings her own artistic flair to the wearing of kimono. In the second and third sections, dedicated to ensembles, many of her selections are quite bold. In some cases, it can be difficult at first glance to see just why the outfit as a whole works, but her commentary provides clues to her process.

She has a distinct fondness for accessories, both traditional and western, and isn't at all afraid of mixing and matching to get the best effect. The fourth section of the book is dedicated entirely to these little touches that bring together the whole of the look. There is very little commentary but the pictures are quite inspirational (especially for someone such as myself, who crafts some of their own accessories).

The fifth section is a digital-camera photo diary that Mokona kept in 2005-2006. With each photo she explains just a little bit about the kimono and the event for which she chose to wear it. For me, this was very refreshing as it is clear that she is wearing these garments out and about, not just for posing for pictures. Also, it's a little reassuring to see that even Mokona's obi isn't always picture-book perfect.

Though this is not the first book that I consult when I'm trying to figure out how I want an outfit to come together, it is the one I turn to for creative ideas. The hand of its writer is present in every page, but the artistic flairs do not come across as ostentatious or overbearing. Instead, there is a sense of play, though not of irresponsibility. After all, these garments are meant to be cherished and admired, and there is no doubt that Mokona loves her kimono so much that she hopes others will join her in the wearing of this classic garment. I was a fan of her work with CLAMP before, but this sentiment has left me admiring her all the more.

"Okimono Kimono" is available through Amazon if you can not find it in your local bookstore.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Adding Some Color

When I decided to go out yesterday, I knew that it was going to be warm. In fact, we've been having several days of unseasonably warm weather, and I'm sure that no one would have faulted me if I wore one of my yukata to go to Nihonmachi- San Jose's Japantown. Unseasonably warm though it may be, I am something of a traditionalist, and I simply couldn't bring myself to break out the yukata, the quintescential summer garment, in the first week of October.

Fortunately, I do have some hitoe (unlined) cotton kimono and just finished making a very light-weight juban so that I could go out without feeling that I was doing some disservice to the calendar, even if the weather was paying no mind to the date.

The kimono that I decided to wear is the lighter-weight cotton kimono of the two that I currently have, and it's patterning is very subtle, so picking an obi to go with it was something of a challenge. For such a demure kimono, I needed something that would be very striking. My roommate Ann (who is responsible for many of the photographs that appear here, as well as tying my obi and keeping my collars straight) has a stunning nagoya obi that fit the bill perfectly.

Front view. With so much of the obi-age showing, I'm presenting a very youthful look.

Back view. You can tell I had help-- my taiko is perfectly level. Also, note the little tassels peaking out from under the bottom fold; this is not a usual feature of this musubi style.

I don't usually reach for so much red in my wardrobe, but there were several things I did with this look to keep the vibrant color from being overbearing. My han-eri is a cream color and breaks up the space between my skin and the kimono collar and keeps the red of the kimono from becoming unflattering to my complexion. My kanzashi has a very long fall of flowers, so the extra white and cream helps to soften and frame the look. For contrast, my fan is black, with hints of a yellow-gold tone, bringing the hints of black in the obi a little father up into the whole ensemble.

The nagoya obi is a very formal sort of obi, especially with all of the gold embroidery, and so pairing it with such a casual kimono might be considered a bit of a faux pas if the whole look didn't come together as well as it does. I decided to use two obi-jime for this look; both are in yellow tones and complementary to the obi. Normally, one obi-jime would be sufficient, but I like the look of the two tones (and have used it in other ensembles). While Ann was getting my bow tied, it occurred to her to let two of the little tassel ends of the obi-jime hang down, just peeking out from the bottom of the bow. Normally these would be tucked up and out of sight, but I liked the little touch of whimsy that they added to my bow. This also helps the look of the obi feel a little less formal.

Now dressed, we headed off to my favorite place in San Jose's Japantown: Nichi Bei Bussan.

Nichi Bei Bussan is located at 140 E. Jackson St. in San Jose. The San Jose location has a history that dates back to its opening in 1947, though the original store opened in San Francisco in the 1890's. Today, Nichi Bei Bussan's focus is on traditional Japanese goods ranging from ceramics to kimono, fabrics and futon. They also carry a select range of books in English regarding many aspects of Japanese life, culture and craft, as well as martial arts books and equipment. Many of their items are heirloom consignment pieces, with some of the proceeds going to the Yu Ai Kai, a local senior center.

This display greets visitors as they come in through the front doors.

The display to the right of the photo is set up to look like a traditional room with tatami floor. Behind me there is a large selection of women's kimono.

This is where many of the obi on consignment can be found, and one of my favorite places to browse.

Several displays are dedicated to housewares and ceramics. Here you can find tea pots and sake sets, as well as traditional lacquer-ware and heirloom pieces.

These photos represent only about half of the store-- we didn't browse the books or fabric on this day, both of which are in the back-half of the store, along with a display of traditional futon and tatami sets.

Arlene, the proprietress of the store, came out to chat for a few moments and even took some photographs for the store's Facebook page. In our conversation, she asked if I would be walking about, adding a little color to Japantown. I answered that I would be-- after all, that was part of the reason I had dressed for the day.

The wearing of kimono is all about "adding some color." Where to add color is a question that I always consider as I dress, though the question doesn't apply simply to the ensemble. Where I will be going in that ensemble? Will it be too much color or too little? I'm still learning the best way to answer these questions and I am sure that I shall find more questions in the process. I think, though, that this day's venture was a success and for now, I will save the color that is the rest of our Nihonmachi for another day.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Crafting: Eri-shin

In my last post, I introduced to you some of the items that make the wearing of kimono a little easier. One of those items was the eri-shin, or collar stay. These can be bought online or in a store if you happen to be in an area that would have such a store. They can also be made, and the purpose of this post is to show you how I go about doing just such a thing.

The pattern piece. 
I traced my pattern from my store-bought eri-shin. This is that pattern piece folded in half to give you a sense of how long and wide it should be. Note the slight curve that happens at the left-hand side of the pattern (at the fold) and the very slight dip in the middle: this shaping helps preserve a natural roundness to the collar when worn.

The materials. 
Most eri-shin are made from a fine mesh so that the fabric will breathe. What I'm using here is a needlepoint mesh that I felt had the appropriate weight and structure (the ideal is something sturdy but with a little flex). The material on the card is single fold bias binding. You'll see where that comes into play later.

Pinning the pattern. 
The pattern doesn't need much pinning as it's fairly narrow, and it can be difficult to get the pins into the mesh neatly. Here, though, you can see the pattern unfolded.

Pattern piece on top, new eri-shin on the bottom.
 It's not laying flat, but you can get some sense of where the subtle curves of the pattern are.

Beginning sewing. 
This is where we bring in the bias binding. Because it is cut on the bias, it makes going around curves very easy. The pre-folded areas also mean that you can get a neater finish (even if no one is EVER going to see this but you). Rather than pre-cutting the bias binding, I simply worked with it off the card. This way I wouldn't have to worry about cutting it too short and having to add pieces in later. When I started sewing, I started  at a relatively straight stretch of the eri-shin and about half an inch down from the edge. You'll see why in a moment.

Continued sewing. 
Here, I am almost at the end of my bias binding. So that I can have a neater finish and hid the raw ends, I have taken my 'active' end (the one at the top, now cut free from the card) and folded it back slightly. I will lay then 'inactive' end over this and finish my sewing.

Sewing finished. 
At this point, I have one full edge of the bias binding sewn down to the eri-shin. At this point, you may want to trim away any excess mesh. This will make turning the bias binding easier.

Sewing, again. 
Here I am folding the edge of the bias binding around to the opposite side of the mesh eri-shin. All of the raw edges will be hidden under these folds. Just where my thumb is, you can see where the two edges join and how both raw edges are hidden.

Sewing continued. 
If I didn't use bias binding, this curve would be quite messy and full of little tucks and folds. This way, we get a nice rounded edge.

The finished product.
This is the second eri-shin that I have made for myself. When I did the cutting for the piece that I use in this walk-through, I went ahead and cut about eight more that I will be working on finishing in my free time. I don't need that many eri-shin, of course, but I think it would be nice to not have to move the one eri-shin that I had from one juban to the next, depending on what kimono I want to wear.

This is a little more utilitarian than some of my previous ventures, but the wearing of clothes, at its most basic, is a utilitarian thing. It's how we arrange those clothes that elevates the basic covering of ourselves to an art.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Things Not Seen

There is a lot that goes into the wearing of kimono beyond simply putting on clothes. Where am I going? What's the weather going to be like? Who might I be meeting? How much do I need to carry? All of these questions influence my decision but I haven't yet talked much about the actual wearing of kimono.

I don't mean the donning and arranging of the garments; there are many books (including the one I just reviewed) that can cover that in great detail and accuracy. Instead, I'm going to take a moment to introduce some of the unseen players in the wearing of kimono. These are items that are indispensable for creating the right look, but if you were to look at someone fully dressed, chances are good that you would never even know that they're there.

Starting from the top, we have the eri-shin:

This is a store-bought eri-shin but it is quite possible to make your own, too.

The eri-shin is a collar stay. It gets slipped between the collar and then han-eri (the detachable, decorative half-collar that goes over the collar of the juuban) and works to give the collars a little more structure and support. Without one, the collars can slouch and crumple, and do not give a crisp, fresh presentation. Most eri-shin that I have encountered are made of some sort of mesh material, so that the fabric might still breathe when worn.

Next, we have the koshi-himo:

From left to right, we have a homemade himo in black silk, a purchased vintage silk himo, a shorter cotton himo (that had originally been attached to a yukata I found in a thrift store) and finally a home-made cotton himo from patterned fabric.

These are both purchased himo. The bright colors and shibori will not be seen if these are worn.

Koshi-himo are simply sashes, usually silk, used to keep juban and kimono closed and in place.  Once they are in place, they would be covered by the obi. They can be anywhere from 70" to 90" long, but if you are making some for yourself (and this is really very easy to do) then the ideal length is one that will circle your waist twice, leaving enough to easily tie a bow.

Now, we  move on to the tools that help the obi do its job. First, there is the obi-ita:

Front view. This is the side that would face away from the body.

Back view. This would face the body. The little pocket is quite thin, and given placement, I don't recommend trying to  keep anything thicker than a credit card or a few dollar bills.
When putting on most styles of obi, the fabric of the obi is folded in half with the fold down and the open ends up. On the second wrap around the body, the obi-ita is slipped into the fold of the fabric at the front of the body. It helps the obi maintain a smooth and crisp appearance and keeps it from crumpling.

Finally, we have the obi-makura:

The one on the left is slightly larger than the one on the right, which has had additional sashing added for it to reach around.
While there are many ways to tie an obi, I like to use the taiko musubi for most of mine. It's relatively simple to arrange and shows off the brocades of the obi to their best advantage. It is this little item that helps to make it so easy to arrange. The obi-makura, or obi pillow is tied at the back, under the wide portion of the obi which is held back from being wrapped around the body. It gives the taiko musubi volume and a nice crest; I like to use the larger one which is generally appropriate for younger women. The smaller one is more appropriate for older or married women

These are the four unseen players that I make the most use out of when I'm dressing to go out. Without them, I would not be able to present the refined, crisp appearance that I like to present in kimono.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: The New Kimono

While much of my commentary here has been on what I personally wear and how I style myself for going out, I cannot deny that at least some of my tastes and sensibilities have been inspired by this book. "The New Kimono; From Vintage Style to Everyday Chic" from the Editors of Nanao Magazine is wonderfully written, elegantly illustrated, and far, far too short!

For a Westerner such as myself, interested in kimono but seriously hindered by an inability to read Japanese, this book provides a fresh, approachable format, as well as insights into the wearing of kimono by the modern person in modern Japan.

This book is actually composed of several articles taken from Nanao Magazine, a kimono fashion magazine published quarterly in Japan since 2004. While there are several books on the making and wearing of kimono (and I do plan on reviewing some of those as well), this one is the one I find myself referencing most for ideas in styling. It is a thoroughly modern take on wearing kimono (and, indeed, having fun with kimono) but it does not suggest modern refashioning of the garment. Instead, it is a reaffirmation of kimonos' traditions in today's settings.

In particular, I have found the book very useful for the articles on accessorizing. The kimono is not treated as a blank canvas from which you build up your look, but is the centerpiece around which everything else falls into place. There are several photo spreads with "Styling Points" for different seasons, and articles for how to dress to best reflect the season while remaining comfortable.

I think that one of the best features of the book is that, throughout all of the articles, one never gets the sense that there is a "right" or "wrong" way to style an outfit. Suggestions and rules of thumb are offered, but the focus is really on enjoying the garments and presenting a fresh look so that others might share in that enjoyment.

You can find the book for yourself at Amazon if you can't find it at your local book store.

Monday, September 17, 2012


When I have a day off from work, I like to think a little more about what to wear if/when I go out. Since I was planning on just doing a little bit of shopping, I wanted to wear one of my more simple kimono and obi, but first, it needed a little repair.
Kuma is always so very helpful.
All that it really needed was a bit of reinforcement where the sleeves meet the body at the shoulders, and even with our cat being helpful, the repairs didn't take me very long at all. This was last night, and this morning, I picked out the rest of what I wanted to wear:

The obi is a relatively new acquisition from Nichi Bei Bussan, as is the purple obijime. The hair-sticks were a find through Fire Mountain Gems.
Given that we're on the cusp of the seasons, I wanted something light and refreshing, with hints of cooler weather to come. I was really quite happy with how everything looked together. That is, I was until I put it on and was not happy with how little overlap I had at the front. I could have made it work, but if you're not happy with what you're wearing, it can show.

With my roommate's help, I decided on a different kimono. I consider it a little more formal, but it is one that I enjoy wearing.

Same obi and obijime. The only new addition to the ensemble was the kanzashi chrysanthemum. The only reason the original hair-sticks aren't in the picture is because they were still in my hair.
I was certainly able to keep the same color scheme and feel of the ensemble, and the addition of the floral kanzashi helped to further the motif. The soft obi helped to keep the ensemble from being too stiff and formal and I was set to go out.

Front view... the basket was a Goodwill find!

Back view. The tail on the taiko bow is a little long, but that falls into the realm of "Who's really going to notice?"
Today's shopping adventure was at Nichi Bei Bussan, a store in San Jose's Japantown. I'm very fond of the store, and I plan on writing more about it in the future. Even though I had my room mate with me for today's excursion, we didn't really get any pictures there, nor at the coffee-shop where I work when we stopped by there afterwards to get some tea.

Looking around Nichi Bei is always a pleasant experience, and though I did not get the michiyuki (This is a sort of overcoat that closes in front with snaps or buttons. It has a squared-off collar that shows off the crossed collars of the kimono underneath quite nicely.) that had caught my eye the last time I was in, I did come away with a very smart looking haori (this is also a sort of overcoat, but it does not close or overlap in the front; instead, the collar falls straight down the body and it is usually held closed with decorative ties that span the distance) that will be a much more versatile addition to my wardrobe.

The next stop on the day's agenda was stopping by my work-place, as I'd promised another co-worker that I would stop in 'dressed up' while she was there. Of course, my timing was impeccable and I got there while she was out to lunch. While in the store, though, I did have the opportunity to talk about what I was wearing with two of our regular patrons and in that conversation received one of the most flattering comments I think that anyone who wears kimono could receive:

"Just seeing you makes me feel so refreshed."

How can one not be flattered by such a comment, especially after spending time and effort in putting together the day's ensemble? It simply isn't a comment that western fashion inspires, though when I dress in kimono, it is the effect that I strive for. There is undeniable pleasure in being assured that one has succeeded.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Please Don't Say "Sayonara"

First, let me offer an explanation of the title. I was once told that when saying sayonara to someone, there was an implication that one would never see them again (probably because they were going off to war and did not expect to return). Why is this appropriate today? Well, today was the last day of work at my location for one of my coworkers and I promised her that I would dress up to come in and say goodbye. That she is leaving us is a happy thing, because she's transferring to a location in Portland while she pursues her education. 

To that end, I wanted to dress in a manner that would be appropriate for the occasion, hence a somewhat subdued kimono paired with an auspicious obi. You can see the ensemble below:

Obi with cranes and chrysanthemum motifs, komon (?) kimono,  kanzashi (hairstick), and  obi jime (cords)
For wearing under this kimono, I took the time this morning to temporarily tack down a haneri (half-collar) onto one of my juban (kimono-shaped undergarment) so that the color would coordinate a little better where it showed at the neckline.

All told, I think it took me a little over an hour to get dressed, and that was not without some frustration. I don't have any trouble getting into kimono anymore, and I feel that I've gotten quite good at getting the ohashori (the extra fabric that is taken up when getting kimono to fall to the proper length for wearing) in place. What gave me the most consternation was the obi. Usually, I have someone around to help and all I really need to do is stand and hold things in place. This morning, however, I had no one around and had to dress myself entirely.

Maru obi are heavy! All that brocade! It really took a great deal of perseverance in getting everything in place. Even when I had everything on, I wasn't really happy with the overall effect. The ensemble itself was quite lovely, but all I saw were the little details that kept it from being a really clean presentation. I wanted to look nice for my friend, and slightly skewed collars are not nice. As I was fussing in the mirror, I remembered that the only person who was going to see all of these 'mistakes' was me. Anyone else who was looking would simply see a lovely ensemble.

This is a lesson that I need to remember for myself more often, and one that I would like to remind anyone who considers going out in kimono, whether for special occasions or because they want to bring kimono into their every-day life. People will appreciate your efforts, especially when you dress with respect for your garments and for the occasion.

This is the front view. I didn't get these until after I got home from seeing my coworker off, so everything is definitely not as neat as I would like!

This is the taiko musubi, or drum bow that is appropriate for this kind of obi. Under ideal conditions, it would not look skewed as it does here, but would hang with the folds parallel to the ground. My roommate kindly pointed out that geisha's obi do this too, and that I shouldn't feel too bad about it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


For some years now, I've found myself attracted, not only to kimono, but to the culture that comes with it. As a consequence, I've found myself asked the same few questions repeatedly when I admit to my fascination, so I'm going to go ahead and clear those out of the way now.

Q: Are you Japanese?
A: No. Not even a little bit. Not even a chance, as far as I can tell. I'm originally from Pennsylvania, and come from very solid German and Irish stock.

Q: Have you been to Japan?
A: Not yet. I have a dream of visiting Kyoto. And Tokyo. And anywhere else I could manage to get, really, including visiting Okinawa, the home of some of the martial arts I have had the pleasure of studying.

Q: Well... why ARE you so interested in kimono?
A: I really wish that I had a decent and well-thought-out answer for this one. That kimono are artistic and stylish, there is no doubt. I have never considered myself to be particularly stylish OR fashionable where western fashions are concerned, but with kimono, I feel that there is a lot for me to work with. And have fun with. After all, what's the point of wearing something if you don't enjoy it?

Q: You made that? Really?!
A: Yes, I did. I take a great deal of pride in wearing the kimono that I have sewn myself. Most of my handmade wardrobe at present consists of cotton hakamashita-- foreshortened kimono that I make specifically for wearing with hakama, the pleated skirt-like pants often seen sported by samurai or kendo players. Most of my kimono (the full-length silk or synthetic robes that most people associate with traditional Japanese garb) are wonderful vintage pieces that have been given to me or I have rescued from swap meets or other unlikely origins. I do have fabric in my stash (some of which was brought over from Japan by friends) to make "proper kimono" of my own. I also make a lot of my own hair accessories to wear with my ensembles.

Q: That's great, but... where do you wear this stuff?
A: Some of my hair accessories I'll wear to work. They're fun, they get lots of compliments (and let's face it, who doesn't like compliments!) and they keep my hair out of the way, so they're quite practical too. My wafuku used to only come out when I was going to a festival in San Jose's Japantown. Then I started to dress in my hakama and hakamashita if I was going out to one of the little walk-able shopping areas around San Jose (I still find those much more practical than dressing in "proper kimono" because I don't need any help to get dressed in those-- I still fumble quite a bit in tying my obi). Now, I want to make an effort to wear kimono out more for every day things. I'm not likely to wear this at work, as work is a coffee shop, but that doesn't mean I can't wear them on my weekends!

Q:What do you mean by "wafuku" and "proper kimono?"
A: I'll be honest, I've never actually gotten this question before, but I realize that there are people out there who don't live with me, and aren't necessarily students of Japanese or Japanese fashion, but might still stumble across this blog. Technically speaking, wafuku and kimono mean essentially the same thing: things to wear.

When I talk about wafuku, I'm usually referring to my hakama and hakamashita; clothes that I consider to be easy to wear and quite informal. In my personal wardrobe, these are also all styled as men's clothes (though I am not male myself) because I find them easier to wear. While hakama are unisex, all of my hakamashita are sewn together in the men's style.

When I talk about kimono, on the other hand, I am talking about what most people think of as kimono-- the long, robe-like garment that is worn with an obi-- an elaborate sash. In my personal wardrobe, all of the kimono that I own are styled for women (this mostly means that the patterns and colors are more feminine and that the sleeves attach to the body in a different manner from men's kimono). Until quite recently, I found it very difficult to dress myself in these because of all of the little steps involved but since being inspired to wear more kimono (and realizing that I can craft all kinds of accessories that would be appropriate for wearing women's kimono), I have been learning how to dress myself. Sometimes, I still need help with the obi, but I am getting better!

I'm sure that this is quite enough of an introduction, and I look forward to meeting more like-minded, kimono-loving people as I continue this adventure!

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu! Please regard me kindly!