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.

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