December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

A traditional Japanese motif seen during the end of December until the middle of January  is "Sho Chiku Bai", or plum, bamboo, and pine. This image above is from a lacquer tray available from Rakuten.  
Although there are many interpretations of the symbolism of these three plants, the pine tree is often used to symbolize constancy and steadfastness since it is evergreen even in winter; the plum is perseverance and renewal since it often blossoms while there is still snow on the ground in early spring; and bamboo for resilience and strength. Branches of these thee plants are often tied together in what is called a kadomatsu, something that looks a lot like an ikebana flower arrangement that is often seen in pairs outside the entrance to a house.
Kadomatsu featuring Cho shiku bai.

Sho Chiku Bai is also a popular brand of inexpensive sake. Sometimes this image is found on Japanese textiles, including obi and kimono. Unfortunately, I have neither with these motifs in my kimono collection. Maybe someday I will have the appropriate kimono to wear for the new year!
With this rather short entry, I wish all my readers a prosperous and very happy new year to all!

December 26, 2010

Kimono shoes: Geta and Zori

Happy Christmas everyone!
Actually it's Boxing Day, so I'm a little late with the holiday greetings. Since it's Sunday and I got my housecleaning done (Friends are visiting tomorrow!), I felt like I had to do another kimono post.
What kind of shoes do you wear with kimono anyway? Special shoes! There are two main types of footwear you will see on women wearing yukata or kimono: Geta and Zori. So what is the difference? First, here are some pictures form my geta collection, these are from Antique Trading Ryu Japan. I bought all three pair last year since they were having an awesome sale: each pair cost me about $5 plus shipping. (Some friends and I went in together and bought several pairs, so the total for each pair with shipping was about $14).

Navy and peach with peony

Brightly colored with spider mums

Black with bunnies and sakura
Geta are very informal and are for wearing with yukata for the most part. The base is wood and the fabric (hanao) part that goes between your toes is usually cotton or silk. You don't usually wear tabi sox or tabi with these, so think of them like western sandals you would wear in the summer with shorts or a sundress. If you are going to wear a summer kimono such as a sheer one (You wear a juban underneath of course!) of sha or ro silk, geta can also be worn if it's a casual style kimono such as a komon. 
 I have worn geta with fun patterned tabi sox on days when it's a bit chilly, such as when I wore the brightly colored geta with spider mums with my pink bunny tabi sox in October at a festival. The yukata has spider mums on it too!
Colorful zori with pink pattered tabi sox paired with a yukata

Zori are the dressier-type footwear of choice when wearing a kimono. They actually range from casual to very dressy. The main difference is that they are not made from wood and have a taller, wedge-shaped heel.  The foot bed is a bit narrower than geta and they are often a bit cushiony. The heel is always covered with fabric, leather, vinyl, etc. Gorgeous and expensive pairs of zori, often with a matching purse, are available to wear with furisode or other formal kimono and are made from embroidered silk or other equally beautiful silk fabric. I have seen zori-purse sets embellished with Swarovski crystals for over $200.00.
I own a few pair of zori and there is a nice range from casual to dressy. I even have a pair of silver zori with matching purse to wear with a kurotomosode or other formal kimono. That pair is on the bottom and they get progressively more casual as you go up. My favorite pair for wearing are the blue/pink gradation since they have decent padding and are comfortable. 

The pink pair is very small and short so I will either adjust the hanao or give them to one of my tiny-footed friends.  One thing you find out after you have a bought a few pairs of these is that you need to look at the length in centimeters, not the western shoe size if it's given. Measure the length of your foot and look for a pair that is close to the length of your foot, in centimeters. It's OK if they are a bit short and your heel comes off the end; the "my shoes are too small" look is actually the look you are striving for. Just don't go beyond 1/2" of heel overhang. The geta I bought from Ryu (Above) were "one size fits most" and they are fine for me, my foot hangs off a little over 1/4" and  I wear an American size 8-1/2 to 9 shoe. So when I shop for zori and geta online I usually look for 24-24.5cm but I can get away with 23.5 cm. There are larger sizes available and Ichiroya sometimes will have 25-25.5 cm zori for sale. You just have to keep looking around.

Black and red vinyl zori-purse set

Coral pink vinyl zori with cream inserts

Blue/pink gradation zori with a fabric hanao

Formal vermilion and gold zori-purse set
Formal silver zori and purse set
I have worn the silver zori-purse set once with my kurotomosode. Haven't worn the vermilion pair yet, but I do have the perfect ensemble to wear them with already, the green "Pierre Cardin" iromuji and cream/orange karabana nagoya obi. The red-black pair goes with most outfits but I'd like to get a casual pair that do not have any black. Maybe red and white or just red with a small pattern on them. I'm still looking for blue zori as well, but blue is not a color you see very often! 
Have a great's almost the New Year!

December 21, 2010

Black and Brown

I tried on my newer obi I featured already, the black bamboo nagoya obi. It had finally arrived and it is even more gorgeous than the pictures showed. The other is one I haven't shown yet, a new brown fukuro obi. I also discovered something interesting on both obi that was not shown in the eBay photos: each obi has a hanko or "seal".

I have seen pictures of these on obi that are created by different designers. I assume that is the case here for these obi. Here is the hanko on the edge of the black bamboo obi. It will be just visible when worn  in the traditional o-taiko musubi. Here is one more image of the obi's fantastic design. The patterns in the striped areas are very detailed and colorful. The fabric is fairly stiff and very smooth, matte black silk, so I'm not sure what type of silk it's woven from. I tried it on yesterday and discovered that the tesaki (short, narrow end) is longer than most of the other nagoya obi that I own, so it's challenging to tie so that you don't end up with too much fabric to tuck inside the drum section of the musubi. I'll keep playing around with it and get it perfect very soon! Or I will attempt a tsunodashi musubi, yet another way to tie a nagoya obi!

Next obi: a brown "fukuro" obi. At least that's how it was advertised. What arrived was what looks like a contemporary chuya obi (is there such a thing?) in virtually perfect condition!

The design is really interesting but I'm not sure what the flowers are; the leaves look like thistle, but it could be something like Queen Anne's Lace but I'm not sure if that's a traditional Japanese flower motif. I will probably post a picture of this motif on the Immortal Geisha forums to see if anyone can identify it.

The reverse side of the obi is solid black glossy (slippery!) silk with the hanko on on end along with kanji of some sort. So I can wear it with the black side out if I want. I tried this obi on last night and it seems short for a fukuro/chuya obi; I wasn't able to make a double drum bow, only a single.

Otherwise, it's a lovely design and has a casual and understated feel to it. The fabric is also fairly soft, much softer than the black bamboo obi. As far as what season to wear this obi, I'm not quite sure because of the flower, but the warm brown, purple, navy, cream, and reddish orange remind me of autumn.

This obi goes really well with my navy tsumugi iromuji and a cream rinzu obiage and either a cream or a blue-violet obijime. I don't think it goes with any other kimono, but that's ok! I have too many right now anyway!

The obi with gold hanko

December 5, 2010

Darari obi

I was trying to find out about how to tie the darari obi that maiko wear. "Maiko" is an apprentice geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha)  or geisha. The obi they wear is very long (6 to 7 meters!) and very heavy and tied in a special musubi (knot) that dangles in the back. I love the way this musubi looks, so I was think I could possibly do this if I had a maru obi!

A maiko
A darari obi is patterned on both sides, like a maru obi, only longer. One end has the mon or crest of the okiya where the maiko lives. After a rather circuitous journey through cyberspace, I finally found a wonderful tutorial by Mojuko (Round Table Productions) using a maru obi. It looks like I would need a helper in order to get it tight enough. Plus a larger obi ita and a large obi makura, but those could be made. But then again, I have no intention to actually dress like a maiko or geiko; however, learning the different musubi, their origins, and what type of obi is used to tie them is good for basic kimono kitsuke knowledge. Plus the musubi looks really never know, I may try to tie it one day!
Now I just need a maru obi...

December 2, 2010

Not so very basic black

I won this nagoya obi on eBay recently. I haven't received it yet, but I wanted to share. I'm very excited because it has a black background but the design is very vibrant. Plus it's not terribly formal with lots of the shiny embroidery. It's yuzen-dyed and features a bunch of different motifs. From the photos I can see bamboo, chrysanthemum, waves, tortoiseshell, and either plum or cherry blossom. Since it has so many different patterns, it's will be considered season-less, so I could wear it year-round.

That's perfect for Arizona, where in late February it is usually 80-85degrees (F) in Phoenix for Matsuri but once it was about 56 degrees (This year!) and raining. But generally spring comes very early and summer is when you either do not wear kimono at all (or even yukata) or you go somewhere that you can wear a kimono or yukata in the appropriate seasonal pattern, like California or Seattle. Even today in Tucson, it was a gorgeous day at right around 72 degrees, but at night it's cold: down to around 37F. So this time of year is a great time to wear kimono.

I think this obi will go with just about anything except the navy iromuji and the music komon, and my kurotomosode. Black on black or black on dark blue just doesn't have enough contrast. But paired with the red and white yabane & the green iromuji, this will be stunning. It may go with the atomic potsherd wool komon as well, but I'll have to see how it looks when it arrives. As far as pairing an obijime with this, maybe a turquoise blue, lavender, or light yellow. The obiage will depend on which kimono I wear it with.

When it arrives, I will share the particulars of this piece!

November 30, 2010

Taisho Chuya Obi

Ok, here it is, the coordination first. The Taisho chuya obi does go with one kimono that I own: a navy blue tsumugi iromuji with a single mon. I havent worn this obi yet, I was waiting for the perfect obiage and I think I'm getting closer. The kimono is almost like the  "little black dress" in my collection. It goes with virtually every obi I have.

I have paired the kimono and obi with a pale yellow rinzu obiage and a pale yellow/salmon colored obijime. I also have an ice blue obiage that will probably work as well.

The colors of this obi are so mellow, I'm assuming partially because of it's age. It's a chuya obi, which is about the same length as a fukuro obi, but it's reversible. This type of obi has a pattern on one side and usually plain dark silk on the other, hence the name, "day-night obi". It was worn informally in it's heyday and is pretty soft and apparently difficult to get a decent o-taiko musubi from one. I haven't tried tying it yet; for now I'm content with just looking it it's fantastic pattern.

 As you can see, it's yuzen-dyed (Rice-paste resist) and has all types of auspicious images on it: treasure ships, waves, sakura or plum blossoms (probably both), shippo patterns, and all kinds of cool stuff. I love the colors: soft eggplant, aqua, sage green, toffee brown, olive green, cream, teal, soft black. The colors are amazing, the design stunning; the colors are so soft and complex. Soft and complex works well with certain kinds of kimono....I don't have anything like that in my collection so far.  What this obi needs is a fabulous Taisho-era houmongi in soft, rich colors that will do it justice!

But in the meantime, my "little black" dress navy iromuji will do just fine. I'll wear it stay tuned for photos!

November 29, 2010

More kimono coordination

Now I'm down to the random bits or color coordination.

First one up is the pink and navy sensu (folding fan) pattern komon I got on eBay for a penny. I haven't worn it yet, mainly because I'm stumped as to what color obi will work with it. Well, it looks like the Hawk obi looks very good. I think it's the only obi I have that will work with it. I have paired it with a cream rinzu obiage and a pink, white and black yabane patterned obijime that I picked up in San Jose Japan town in July.

One possible color coordination clue is the lining is pink and a light yellow-tan color. So maybe a light yellow obi with a big bold pattern would be a good choice. That would give some contrast with the small sensu motif.

Next is my grey wool  "atomic potsherd" pattern komon. This is one of my favorite kimono and I have worn it with my pink Hakata obi. It also looks good with the gold hanhaba obi.  It's probably mid-Showa period and a bit small for me (as most of these older kimono are, especially if you are a tall-ish westerner), but with a tiny ohashori under the obi is fine with these vintage pieces. (More on wearing vintage kimono later.)

But surprise surprise! It looks amazing with the blue plaid cotton kasuri obi! I wouldn't have thought it would have coordinated so well, but I'm still honing my kimono skills. I have paired it with a pale yellow rinzu obiage and a round vermilion obijime.

For something that looks a little bit more modern, my Taisho chuya obi, black side out, with the cobalt blue orchid komon. This might be my favorite combination! I like the drama of black with different shades of blue and white. Way more fun than light blue, white, and grey! Although this blue kimono looks good with the gold hanhaba obi and the peach wool obi, I like this combination the best. I've worn this kimono several times, it's turned into a kind of a 'workhorse' of a dress. The obijime has a beautiful woven pattern that is unusual and wider than most and is in shades of blue and white, it reminds me of those "god's eyes" I  made as a kid out of yarn and Popsicle sticks.  If I ever see another one like it, I will definitely buy it! The obiage is icy blue with shibori maple leaves on it. 

More on the Taisho chuya obi in the next post-- 'cause it's special!

November 28, 2010

Green Pierre Cardin Iromuji

Pierre Cardin does kimono? I was surprised as well! The lining of this lovely spring green iromuji kimono has Pierre Cardin logo lining! Check out the image of the lining below! I noticed it after I bought it. I think this is an eBay purchased from a couple of years ago. It's in flawless condition and the silk is soft and buttery.
For kimono newbies, an iromuji is a solid color kimono. It has no pattern, not even a tiny print. The pattern you see above is woven in one color, like a jacquard fabric. This kimono fabric is called rinzu. Mine has water patterns on it of flowing  streams and waves. Iromuji often have a family crest on the back, called a mon or kamon, this one  has a single Paulownia mon on the center back of the kimono, this means it can be worn formally. This solid color makes it endlessly versatile and appropriate for any age woman. Every kimono enthusiast should have at least one iromuji!
+ my formal nagoya obi with a karabana
pattern, a black obiage, and
vermilion obijime. I have vermilion
and gold zori to wear with this fancy outfit!

Here are three different combinations of the obi and the green iromuji. I can also wear it with my pink hakata obi and formal gold and white fukuro obi, but I didn't get around to dragging them out of the drawers. Plus they are both basically solid-colored, and I needed to see some pattern with the solid green.

+ the black side of my Taisho chuya obi,
a fuchsia shibori obiage, and a bold hot pink obijime

+ the hot pink rose nagoya obi, cream obiage, and a cream/green striped obijime. I have a pink and green handbag made from woven ribbon that will look great with this!

Blue Music komon

More coordination pictures from yesterday's photo shoot! This is a synthetic komon kimono in soft shades of blue. I bought it at Kimono Lily in their "$45 and under" section. It's brand-new. It features lovely images of tsuzumi (A small drum) and fue (transverse flute), plum blossom, maple leaves, and some unknown petals and leaves. I like it because it's synthetic and washable, so it's great for some of the various festival-type events I go to. I like the soft colors in it and it seems to lend itself to many colors and styles of obi! That makes this kimono very versatile.
Blue music komon

As you can see in these photos, it has an all-over stripe pattern as well as a subtle grid in lighter blue. The drum/flower pattern is small and covers the whole kimono, this style print is called komon. The repeated pattern makes it casual but it can be dressed up for an outing with a more formal obi. Compared to western clothing, it's probably equivalent to a casual daytime dress. For kimono, it is the lowest in rank for formality.The subtle coloring tells me it's not for a young lady, but for a married woman.

Detail of the tsuzumi pattern

+ my olive green shippo obi, carmine pink
shibori obiage, and pale pink and silver obijime
Now you can see how many different colors can go with this kimono. That makes it fun to dress up or down and either subtle or bright.
Next: coordinating the green iromuji!
Arigato gozaimasu!

+ a peach wool hanhaba obi, cream, obi age, and turquoise blue obijime

+ Beige yabane hanhaba obi, carmine pink
shibori obiage, dark red obijime

+ Hawk nagoya obi, carmine pink obiage, and
(Not shown) red obijime

+ hot pink rose nagoya obi,
cream obijime and obiage.

November 27, 2010

Red yabane komon coordination

The red yabane komon from Yamatoku
I got out of taiko early today because of the holiday, so I started doing something I've been wanting to do for a while and usually do not have time for: taking photos of kimono coordinates. Its easier to just lay things out than to put them on, especially when you have to take the photos yourself in the mirror. I laid out a kimono + obi + obiage  + obijime on my ironing board and started playing with color and pattern combinations. I started with my new red and white yabane. Yabane is a pattern of arrow feathers or fletching, and since the pattern on this kimono is repeated all over, it's considered a komon. Komon kimono are the casual daytime dresses of the kimono world. I haven't worn it yet, but kimono-wearing events are coming soon, so I wanted to figure out what works as far as colors, patterns, and textures. Apparently, a red and white yabane pattern kimono is pretty easy to coordinate- it seems to go with everything.

+ black and cream wool "kawari"
hanhaba, magenta shibori obiage,
and black and magenta obijime

+ purple hakata obi, cream
obijime, and light purple obiage

+ blue-grey cotton daisy
nagoya obi, creamy yellow
obiage, and dark red obijime

+ dark blue cotton kasuri obi, creamy yellow obiage, and a cream obijime

+ gold hanhaba obi, cream obiage,
and cream with bronze and red stripe obijime

+ Navy daisy hanhaba obi, ice blue
obiage, and dark red obijime
Next up: the pretty Blue Music komon I bought from Kimono Lily several months ago.