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!