Welcome back to Tips and Tricks Tuesday, where you can expect to find a wide range of tips and curios that might not otherwise have a forum in my regular crafting or kitsuke posts.
I missed posting this last week as I was recovering from an absolutely amazing experience at Clockwork Alchemy. To anyone who has found this blog after attending my panel, 'Don't be That Gaijin,' welcome!
As I mentioned in my last installment, I've been a long-time fan of thift-store shopping, for day-to-day wearables as well as more unique treasures. I've had a lot of luck in finding kimono and accessories in thrift stores, but I know that not everyone has time or luck, so I thought that I would spend a little more time this week talking about finding kimono in online venues.
You won't be able to handle the garments as you would if you found them in person, so you have to rely on the information the seller provides to determine if the garment will fit. For this to be a successful venture, you need a little information beforehand, specifically, your own measurements.
To get the best, most accurate measurements, have a friend help you figure out the following: Height, 'Wingspan' (the distance from wrist to wrist across back with arms outspread), and Hip Circumference. Make note of these measurements in both inches and centimetres, as not all sellers will list measurements in both systems. Once you have these, you're ready to venture deeper into the web to find your own kimono.
A quick google search will show you that you can buy kimono (or garments calling themselves kimono) from a multitude of places. Amazon has listings for kimono, for instance, but many of these will likely be of synthetic material and more appropriate for use as a dressing robe than wearing out in public. If you are looking for more authentic garments but are not ready to go down the etsy/ebay rabbit hole, I recommend starting your search at Kimono Flea Market Ichiroya.
Ichiroya has 15 years of experience in selling kimono on line. They are very thorough with their documentation of any stains or flaws in their pieces and the information is always clear. New items are added almost daily, so there is always something different to see. They are based in Japan, so shipping might be a little pricey, depending on where you are, but there is no doubt that you can buy from them with confidence.
Another kimono-exclusive vendor from whom I have received excellent service is Ai no Kimono. This is run by a kimono enthusiast living in South Korea. Updates are not as frequent as Ichiroya, but the quality is always well documented, and the vendor is very easy to communicate with. I have made purchases from her in the past (this is where I found my bat komon hitoe), and I was absolutely delighted with the service.
If you are feeling adventurous, then ebay or etsy might be the place for you. I would still recommend having a good look at Ichiroya, though, because their listings can be an education in kimono vocabulary and will give you a better idea of terms you might want to use to refine your searches. They are also the best example of the sort of information you want to find from a trustworthy kimono vendor.
I would like to stress this last point because your success with ebay or etsy is going to rely on the fact that you can not only refine what you're searching for, but be able to recognize authentic kimono from 'silk robe.' Sellers will tag or title items with a myriad or descriptors that might not have anything to do with what you're looking for-- they're just trying to get as much visibility as possible. Even if you are searching for specific terms like 'yukata' you may come up with things that sellers have mis-identified, or accessories that go WITH yukata, like han-haba obi.
Beyond what I mentioned above, both ebay and etsy have pros and cons when it comes to kimono shopping, even once you have found some items of interest. With ebay, you have the chance of finding quality garments for a lower price, whether the listing be auction style or 'buy it now.' It's more likely that in this venue, you will then be contending with shipping from overseas which can sometimes cost as much, if not more than what you paid for the garment itself-- and can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to arrive.
On etsy, I have found that the price is likely to be a little higher to start,but your only option is to buy, rather than bid, so you don't have to worry about being out-bid. You will still be contending with shipping, but that shipping may be from within your home country, so you won't have to wait nearly as long for your item to arrive.
I have had a great deal of success in acquiring garments and accessories from both ebay and etsy at what I consider to be bargain prices (remember, if you buy several items, the seller will often reduce the shipping cost!). My success has a lot to do with patience, diligent searching, saving sellers whose offerings I like and service I trust, and waiting for items to be on sale. With the pointers I've offered, I'm sure that you, too, can expand your own kimono collection to suit your tastes, and not hurt your wallet (too much).