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