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!