December 28, 2011

Its easy to wear men's Japanese Kimono 男着物(浴衣)を着る方法 v1.00

The music in this video is what makes it so fun! Enjoy.

December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Joyous Yule, and everything in-between! 
I'll be spending time with my lovely husband in Santa Fe over Christmas. When I get back next week I should have some posts about  new fun kitsuke items due to arrive over the holidays: a fabulous out-of-print book on obi tying, new zori, two new obi, and more! Can't wait to share!
Ciao and cheers!

December 15, 2011

Christmas Cocktail Party Kitsuke

My taiko group did a very small gig for a private holiday cocktail party put on by the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau. It was held at the new Casino del Sol south west of Tucson. There were only four of us: three drummers and myself dressed in kimono and greeting people with cookies. We were there to "set the stage" for the event as people arrived, so it wasn't a big production with lots of taiko, just a fun event to do.
I only got one photo (Sorry!) and it was at the end of an evening of standing around for two hours. As usual at these types of gigs, it seems I never have enough time to do perfect kitsuke and this time I dressed in a humongous hotel bathroom with relatively tiny stalls!

Being pressed for time, I dispensed with the red obiage and went with the glittery holiday "bling" I found at the local craft store the day before! As you can see, I decided on a red and green Christmas holiday look that would coordinate with my cohorts red and white happi coats rather than Japanese seasonal coordination.
My ohashori is wrinkled and could be a bit larger and my collar was creeping up but the new hakata obi looks good with the iromuji! It was slippery though....not what I expected with a hakata obi.
I did get a chance to wear two more new items: the multi-colored mihon juban and my new red, white, and black zori. The juban is wonderful... it's a perfect fit for the green kimono and the various patterns (many have red and green in them!) are a nice contrast with the solid green silk. The zori fit pretty well and are fairly comfortable to wear.  Overall, a decent outfit for a holiday event.

December 8, 2011

Holiday finds: red and white Hakata-Ori

I received a couple of new obi recently. Both are red and white, so they look like they are just waiting for a holiday party! Both are silk hakata weave hanhaba obi. I was pleasantly surprised when they arrived, as the seller indicated the condition on both was "good"; however, they are both gorgeous and in excellent condition. One is a two-sided obi; with a kokeshi and stripe design on one side and red on white classic hakata geometric pattern on the other side. The kokeshi side has thin green stripes in  the center that reminds me of Christmas wrapping paper! It still has the original label in it. The red shimmers against the white silk and looks very festive to me. It's really a fabulous obi and is so elegant, I think it might work with my green iromuji for a wonderful holiday ensemble.
That's one of the advantages of hakata-ori: versatility! Depending on the fiber content (I have a cotton hakata obi), and type of obi (hanhaba, nagoya, fukuro), it can be worn with most types of kimono. The pattern is considered season-less, also a plus for people with a limited kimono collection. Hakata are easy to tie and to wear and I have noticed that they are not as heavy as other obi as they are often hitoe. Though both of these are awase (Two layers of fabric), they are lightweight and crisp but not stiff.

The other hakata obi is white on red hakata weave. The red is a vibrant cherry red and is backed with plain solid red silk. It's also in near-perfect condition and has that wonderful feel and drape to it that only hakata has. This will work really well with most of my yukata and maybe even a couple of komon kimono.

Happy holidays!

November 19, 2011

What not to wear: the fakes

Some kimono kitsuke websites and blogs have  posted info on what is not a kimono but rarely do I see images, so I went out on a limb to find and post these.
I see these various "kimono" on eBay all the time and if you do an image search for "kimono", you can find this stuff easily. Ironically, if you do a search for "fake kimono", you won't find very much. So I thought I would offer a compendium of "kimono" so you can see how to spot a fake.

A couple of these dresses are actually labeled as a costumes or as kimono bathrobes, which better than calling them kimono; no fooling what they are. However, just because it says "Geisha Costume" or "Kimono robe" doesn't mean it's accurate and a real kimono.

Here I have gathered together 11 variations of  fake kimono. Let's go through them one by one. 

  1. This one is really a bathrobe and besides the shiny satin fabric, contrasting collar, and incorrect sleeves, it has pockets. Kimono do not have pockets. Never, ever, ever.
  2. I'm not sure what this is...a shirt? It's too short to be anything remotely kimono-like. It's shiny silk and has flared sleeves. Sorry. but this is not it. 
  3. This one could easily fool a's cotton and looks somewhat like a yukata. However, check out the contrasting white collar (Kimono are all of one material, no contrasting cuffs or collars) and the flared sleeves. Not a kimono or a yukata.
  4. Again, contrasting collar give it away, but the fabric should scream fake to those of you who know better: shiny satin.
  5. You've probably seen #5 at Frederick's of Hollywood- "kimono" lingerie! This one is just wrong ten times over. Sometimes called "Sexy costume geisha kimono dress". There is no cleavage when a kimono is worn properly.
  6. This was described as a kimono coat. Shiny silk brocade, flared bell-shaped sleeves, right over left (Fastening with invisible buttons!), and very short. Interesting but not a kimono.
  7. This is actually supposed to be a "deluxe geisha character costume". It's pretty awful all around:  satin fabric looks like Chinese brocade, the bell-shaped sleeves, the cinched-in waist and bunched up obi, contrasting trim, strange purple underskirt, and bizarre black cotton-candy wig! For the same price you could buy a real yukata, obi, and geta. But you wouldn't be nearly as scary.
  8. More shiny satin and contrasting trim; plus even some on the sleeves this time. Sleeves are wider on this version, the obi has a cute little bow in front! All this from a website supposedly selling "Japanese Fashion".
  9. More lingerie I believe. Maybe a short bathrobe? Too shiny, too short, too weird. Plus it's right over left...only seen on dead people in Japan. Don't become a kimono zombie!
  10. This is brilliant; it's reversible and unisex! All of this versatility is available in Thai silk in three different colorways! Hugh Hefner wold love this. 
  11. And lastly, the "Vintage Yukata Japanese Haori Kimono with Obi".  These are all over eBay unfortunately. Shiny polyester satin brocade, check. Contrasting collar and trim, check. Sewn-in obi of matching fabric, check. Weird "box" obi bow stuck on the back, check. I see this type at festivals all the time. Sadly, these are cheap, unattractive, slippery, and ridiculous if you are expecting to be taken seriously at a Japanese festival. Save it for lounging around the house.
From these examples you can probably figure out what's not a kimono, but here are a few more tips on the general characteristics of a kimono:
  • Kimono can be made from various silk fabrics, wool, linen, and even polyester. Yukata (Unlined summer dress) are made from cotton. Neither are made from Chinese brocade or satin.
  • A kimono is made from a single bolt of fabric. Every part except a lining (If it's lined) is made from the same fabric. All contrasting bits you may see are separate but essential pieces: obi, under kimono, and separate collar worn under the kimono.
  • Men's and woman's kimono have differences, they are not unisex garments.
  • Kimono are worn in a way to accentuate a straight, almost boyish figure. The waist is not cinched, the bust is not prominent, and there is never cleavage.
  • The basic shape of the dress is like the letter "T"; the shape doesn't vary. What changes the way it looks is the fabric, sleeve length and most of all, the wearer's personality.
  • Kimono are not one size fits all. Originally they were custom made for the wearer.
And finally, clarification: I don't totally dislike the robes and costumes, including cosplay; I just don't like false advertising and feel sad when people buy them and expect it to be the real thing. At a recent event a young girl asked me to dress her in her "kimono yukata". It was a cute satin bathrobe with pockets. Good enough to wear as a costume but not a real kimono. The store she bought it from had signs on the display "Japanese kimono", so of course she thought it was real.


November 18, 2011

First image from the performance at LACE- bridging kimono design and art

LACE, a.k.a. Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions had a recent performance by Denise Uyehara and James Luna. Here is a description of their performance from the LACE website:

Denise Uyehara and James Luna
Transitions: Survival Skills in a Suburban Landscape. James Luna and Denise Uyehara will revisit Transitions, one of Luna's performances from the 70's in which he unpacked a burlap bag full of “Indian” objects and created new rituals with them.  The two artists, both born and raised in Orange County, will conduct a series of rituals that recount surviving life behind the “Orange Curtain,” incorporating a call-and-response, video, music, and hundreds of bones.

I received one of the still images from Denise a couple of days ago. More images are on the way and hopefully I will be able to see some video. 

You may have seen the previous blog entries mentioning costumes such as the Tyvek kimono and sleeveless haori/happi made from 1970's vintage fabric? This image is from the most recent performance and shows the sleeveless "haori" I created.
The Tyvek kimono is hanging up behind her. I'll post updates on this performance soon!

November 8, 2011

All Souls' Procession- Purple riot

Angela getting made-up
I finally had a chance to post some of the photos from the All Soul's Procession! You can read about it on the website, but the reasoning behind what our group does at this event is that there is no Obon in Tucson for two reasons: we have no Japanese Buddhist temple and it's way too hot in the summer for an outdoor festival. So we do our obon dance at the All Soul's Procession, which is loosely based on Day of the Dead. And if you know anything about Obon, it's pretty similar idea in regards to revering those that have passed on before us in the past year.

Sunday was quite a wonderful day, with friends coming down from Phoenix in the morning, scarfing pizza, and sandwiches before we met everyone at 1:30. We had some snacks at the salon, but once we met at the procession at 5pm, no chance for food (Or bathrooms!) until much later, at the finale site or after the event.

Dressing people in yukata and being silly.
The "Obon" dancers all met at a local salon so everyone could  have help with hair, make-up, and dressing in various types of yukata, hakama, kimono, haori, happi, and all permutations of Japanese and Japanese-inspired clothing.

This time, there was one stylist doing hair (I had spiky purple feathers!), two people doing make-up, and three of us tying obi and hakama. It was awesome! We all arrived at the procession start behind the urn cart in plenty of time. I think there were about 16-18 of us dancing, with three of our best taiko players taking turns keeping a beat for the dancers. It was an amazing sight. 

Tish turning Karen's hair in to a work of art.

We have our own obon dance; it was invented by one of the founding members of Odaiko Sonora and inspired by our desert locale. In the dance, we depict surrounding mountains, sun, wind, rain, hoeing weeds, cleaning up and clapping to awaken the spirits. Odaiko Sonora conducts dance workshops before the procession each year so anyone that learns the dance can join our group in the line up. It's a beautiful sight to see all of these people doing the same dance over and over during the duration of the procession at this deeply inspiring event.

Nicole showing off some purple hair bling!!
My friend Yuko took the procession images and I took the salon images photos, so if you wish to borrow them, let me know!
Please enjoy,

One of our dancers daringly wore tengu!
Our cart for the taiko covered with strings of paper cranes.

All in a line with our tenugui (Towels) that we use as dance props. (I'm the far left in the arare kimono).

Check out the matching purple gloves! It got chilly Sunday night, so they were a great thing to have.

Typical of Japanese folk dance depicting people working, we are going through the motion of using a hula hoe to pull weeds!

The urn of offerings was in front of us. The people in costumes around it are urn attendants and have bird headdresses and wings that unfold like giant fans.

You can see some of the other costumes behind us, classic "day of the Dead" skull make-up is always popular at this event.

November 4, 2011

Yummy Yukata

A real find online- I think the design is really special, if not unusual. It's indigo blue and white even though it looks black in the photos.
It's will be interesting to figure out what kind of obi to pair this with!

November 3, 2011

October 30, 2011

Danse Macabre...

I found this fabulous dance obi to wear with the purple hail kimono in the All Soul's Procession. It's coming up next Sunday, so photos of the ensembles of all involved will be posted soon. Our dance group will probably be doing some kind of classic Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) skull make-up, hence the "danse macabre" reference!

If you are starting out in the world of kimono, dance obi came be a great choice and fun to wear to a costume party, or festival. They are often inexpensive and synthetic (just like dance kimono), so most are easily washable. This one is heavy jinken (rayon). They always seem to have some kind of metallic bling to varying degrees. This one is pretty tame as a dance obi and it's a nagoya, so it might end up being worn with a komon kimono one of these days. It definitely has a festive feel to it!

Dance obi have very bold, high contrast patterns and colors, usually reversible. Stripes and checks are common motifs and sometimes you will see silver on one side and gold on the other. Most of the ones I have seen for sale are hanhaba or fukuro style. They are definitely worth looking into if you are looking for obi for costumes. Some can even work with a yukata. Be careful though...the really bright and flashy metallic ones can be really difficult to pair with a regular kimono, so remember TPO: Time, Place, Occasion!

October 27, 2011

Kitsuke kit from Kyoto Antiques

Kyoto Antiques always has really nice items, I've had great luck with their Meisen peices...all have been gorgeous and excellent quality. They are also a nice vendor to deal with and don't seem to over charge for shipping.

One item they seem to always carry is their "Kimono Kits". If you are just starting out with yukata and kimono, or have been wearing yukata for a while and are ready to take the leap into kimono, this new kimono kitsuke set from Kyoto Antiques is a very good deal.
The $34.99 price includes free shipping from Japan. It's a much better deal to buy this set than trying to accumulate these items separately and some of them, like the korin belt, are hard to find on eBay.

This set is nice since it includes a korin belt and the obi makura is the larger type. The obi ita is very lightly quilted and has clips, which are really nice since you can put it on before you add the obi. Sounds simple enough but it's very handy when you are fighting with 12 meters of  heavy silk fukuro or maru obi! The other items include 3 koshihimo (pink ties) and 2 eri shin or collar stays. The items are of good quality!

You can also buy another set just like this but with an added kimono hanger. A bit more money ($44.99, free shipping) but if you need the hanger, probably worth it.

October 21, 2011

Mo' betta Mihon

I picked up another mihon or sample pattern juban. I think these are really, really cool because of all the different patterns. Once you go "mihon", you will find regular pastel-colored, plain juban very boring! This one has wonderful fabric variety- which is what caught my eye.
It's got it all: patterns in red, pink, green, white, black, and turquoise! It looks unlined (Hooray for hitoe!) and appears to have a decent-looking han eri sewn to it. These are the seller's photos.
More on this little gem when it arrives!

October 17, 2011

Archipelago: the costumes

Woohoo! I have photos!
Here are images of the costume and headdress I created in May for Denise Uyehara from the magical high-tech material and the shiromoku. For those of you that missed earlier posts, this is for a performance art piece called Archipelago and was performed in LA in June. It will be performed again in Tucson, AZ early in 2012.
The whole costume is an homage to the very colorful Okinawan dance kimono and headdress called  "hanagasa". My white version of the hanagasa is similar in shape but a bit over-sized. Everything is white for a reason: during the performance, video images are projected upon both the kimono and headdress.

These photos were taken outside before the performance. The objects in her hands are kachi-kachi, traditional bamboo percussion instruments similar to castanets and are used in Japanese and Okinawan dance.
Kevin Mapp is the photographer.

If you would like to borrow these photos for your own use, please contact me. They are copyrighted.

October 16, 2011

Otsukimi photos

I'm looking at different photographer.....

Myself, Emma, Murray
We had a great time at Otsukimi in Phoenix last night! It was a great turn out; the event is really getting popular. Since it starts in the evening, we only took a few photos before it got dark. My friends manage to get some nice photos of Emma and I before the sun disappeared.
I dressed Emma in her gorgeous new tea green yukata and purple and hot pink obi. She added a matching pale green open-weave obijime to dress it up and I added an  improvised a pink flower pin as an obidome! Emma has made up eri collars for our yukata; they look really cute. I'm wearing my new indigo and white yukata with a design of pine and hawk (taka) feather mon (Family crest) on a striped background. The obi is a simple woven ocher-colored hanhaba. I've added a navy and white striped obijime for a extra festive touch! Murray wore his own wonderful ensemble he got in Japan. He plays taiko with Fushicho Daiko, so we got to see him play later. Nice chappa solo Murray!

We needed those was about 98 degrees F that day (Now you know why I did not wear the usual kimono!) but cooled off nicely once the sun when down. Good thing we arrived fashionably late!

October 11, 2011

Otsukimi at Ro Ho En this weekend in Phoenix, AZ

The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix is holding their annual Otsukimi, or Moon Viewing Festival this weekend! It's a wonderful event and the perfect time of year to visit the garden. Plus Fushicho Daiko is playing!

October 10, 2011

Yamato concert at Centennial Hall

 First kimono event of the fall season: Yamato concert of the University of Arizona campus. I got to wear two recent purchases- a vintage tsuzumi Nagoya obi with the turquoise chirimen obiage. It was a gorgeous day, really perfect kimono weather.

The tsuzumi (small hand drum similar to an okedo) obi is very soft silk, almost floppy, so it's doesn't make the best-looking obi musubi. However, the design and colors are really wonderful and look very elegant with the solid navy kimono; the perfect obi for a taiko concert. I also wore my first date eri! I found a tutorial online and managed to make it look pretty decent! And it stayed in place even though I'm not wearing a korin belt. It was not that difficult to attach; I will definitely try this accessory again soon!  I found a few on eBay recently for a song.
Enjoy, more photos soon: Otsukimi next weekend!

PS: I'm also "debuting" the blue mihon (Sample pattern) juban. The sodetake was a little short for the iromuji, but I wore it anyway....I was itching to wear the new juban! It's so fabulous.

The rest of the ensemble:

September 27, 2011

Maru kiku maru!

I've been looking for just the right maru obi for a couple of years: not a garish obi with wedding motifs, and not an older one in deep olive green and brown. And nothing super fancy and precious. I wanted wearable and versatile. Nothing wrong with those types of obi, they were just not something I wanted to wear with  my current  kimono collection. Plus also didn't want to spend too much! Maru obi can be frightfully expensive, especially the Taisho era and some of the newer designs. So I think I found one I can use for many years with many different kimono, including my kurotomosode and the iromuji in my collection.

I just love this one.
The chrysanthemum (kiku) pattern is woven and despite quite a bit of gold and some silvery-white threads, it has a subtlety to it it that doesn't shout. I especially love the bits of blue and green; the cool colors add some freshness to the feeling of this obi. The background color is a medium beige, which seems to make it more elegant rather than bland. If the background was black it would still be lovely but it would also have more contrast and be more bold. It's not shiny like some of the modern fukuro obi you sometimes see; it has the soft sheen of a well-loved obi that someone really cherished since it's in such great condition. I'm very glad to have found it!

September 26, 2011

Rebecca's Art Blog: Sewing on the sleeves

Rebecca's Art Blog: Sewing on the sleeves: I managed to cut and sew on the sleeves on the Tyvek kimono this evening. They are rolled up, otherwise not only would they get in the way, ...

September 21, 2011

Birch trees houmongi

I was going post this much earlier, but I had to wait until I had time to add this to the blog. It's a vintage houmongi with a fabulous birch tree motif on the rich tones of salmon pink and red. I have not seen a similar design before featuring birch trees. It's appears to be for the late fall or winter season since there are few leaves left on the trees and they are grey and black.  There are also some cloud-like shapes in red and yellow. What looks like greenish color or shading on the clouds is actually silver metallic paint or dyestuff. There is also some metallic silver on a few of the leaves.

The doura is bright red, indicative of a WWII-era kimono and the hakakke is a dusty salmon-rose color, slightly deeper than the peachy-pink of the kimono. I think it's a really striking design and am looking forward to wearing it one of these days!

Initially, I was thinking of a green-gold obi for this to go with the clouds; but now I think it needs a black and white hakata obi. So I will have to acquire one sometime in the near future. In the meantime, I have a lovely olive green hakata obi as well as a chuya  obi that is plain black on one side that might look really nice.

I will have to just play with the kimono sometime in the next month or so and post some pictures! The perfect obi for this kimono is out there somewhere!

These are all the seller's photos.