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.