January 29, 2012

Crazy tsukesage?

Tsukesage komon? Or a dance kimono? Whatever this is, I just had to have it! It just seemed too fabulous to pass up. So of course I bid on it (and won) despite the moratorium on new kimono for 2012! It hasn't arrived yet... maybe in about a week it will show up.
I love, love, love the funky pattern! It looks like a sky filled with confetti and ticker-tape with some majorly awesome Dr. Seuss-style trees and awning stripes thrown in for good measure. Definitely a party-worthy kimono. I'll try to figure out a way to wear it in the next few months and post some photos. Not sure what kind of obi to pair this one with...maybe I already have something that will work.

Speaking of wearing kimono, some Japanese and pan-Asian events are coming up very soon in my state: Phoenix Matsuri (February 25-26th) and the Taste of Asia Festival in Tucson. I think our festival is in April. When I know more, I will post times and dates.


January 16, 2012

Making your own koshihimo

I'm going to be teaching a very basic yukata kitsuke (dressing) workshop in a couple of weeks. I have eight yukata and about 12 hanhaba obi that I will be loaning people for the workshop. However, I only have eight koshihimo, not enough for everyone to have two.
For newbies, a koshihimo is an essential accessory in yukata and kimono kitsuke. It is the "string belt" that you use to fasten all of the the garments closed, including juban. They are not seen once the obi is tied. For yukata, woman require two and men's yukata need one in order to dress properly, not including the juban.

Since they can be pricey to buy a large quantity at once, I decided to make my own. I looked at my existing koshihimo and used them as a guide for a basic pattern. If you have a sewing machine, these are very easy to make and you can make several in an afternoon.

I bought three yards of unbleached, permanent-press cotton muslin, 45" wide at about $3.89 a yard. Muslin is inexpensive and has a slight texture to it and is easily washable. It doesn't have to be permanent press, but I though it would save some ironing time after washing. You can also easily dye muslin if you are feeling extra industrious. If you make them out of satin or other slick material, they won't grip very well, so I recommend a very lightweight fabric with a bit of texture.

Here is what I did: I cut each strip 3.75" wide and made most of them 84" inches long (The length of most of my koshihimo from Japan) and three of them 108" or three yards long. These will be used for larger people. I ended up with twelve total and they turned out well.

Mark the fabric with a pencil, cut, then tear
If you are a beginning sewer, here are the steps to make them and a few photos.
  • Mark fabric with a pencil in 3-3/4" intervals; marks should be parallel to the selvedges or finished edges of fabric length. Start cutting in a few inches and tear the rest. The strip will tear perfectly straight if you use muslin.
  • Sew a 5/8' seam
  • Fold over your strips and sew a straight seam 5/8" inch (average seam allowance) from the edge. No need to pin the strips so they stay closed. You now have a tube open on both ends. (Or sew one end closed on the machine. Either way will work). 
  • Turn your tubes inside-out. There are several ways to do this and no need to buy special tools; I just use a big safety pin. Here is how-to video.
  • Iron them flat.
  • Hand stitch the end closed, folding in about 1/4" of the fabric so you don't have those unraveling treads constantly coming out. Muslin unravels like crazy!
  • Finished seam
  • Voila: ready to use!
Finished koshihimo

January 8, 2012

For kimono newbies or cosplay: Odori Kimono

This one looks like a yukata
I come across odori or dance kimono all the time on ebay and Ichiroya. These dance kimono are not the same as the distinctive trailing kimono that geiko (geisha) and maiko wear for their performances. By dance, I mean for a stage or festival performance in a parade or similar situation.
Dancers wearing matching odori kimono

Odori kimono are wonderful for people starting out with kimono but will only wear one to a matsuri festival a couple of times a year or for cosplay. They are a nice alternative to yukata and used ones are often less expensive than yukata. Plus you can find both men's and woman's odori kimono. The advantages to odori kimono for  an ocassional wearer are:

Dyed to look like kasuri- a woven pattern
  1. Inexpensive
  2. Bold colors and designs
  3. Unlined, so they are not as heavy as lined kimono
  4. Washable polyester 
  5. A great choice if you do other Japanese art forms such as taiko and need kimono for special performances
The are some disadvantages I can see:
  1. Not appropriate to wear to a more formal Japanese cultural event such as tea ceremony
  2. Synthetic material: if you live in a hot climate, these might not be suitable; if it's really hot, try a cotton yukata
  3. Color and design range is limited
  4. Not as easy to find as yukata and regular kimono
Men's odori kimono

Here are some examples of odori kimono I found today on eBay- you can see blue is easy to find right now!
Detail of the blue kimono above

Some of these have wonderful, subtle details and designs, like the dark green kimono below and the deep turquoise kimono to the right.  These are more versatile since the less they look obviously like a dance kimono, the more places you can wear them.

Detail of the crane motif on the dark green kimono
The lovely dark green kimono has metallic gold and beautiful detailing on the stylized waves and cranes. This could probably be worn to a casual party. It doesn't scream "odori kimono".

This is essentially a komon kimono
Cute fans are repeated all over this kimono

This deep blue odori kimono with the multicolored folding fans kimono looks like a regular komon kimono! This would be a wonderful first kimono for a budding enthusiast. It could be worn with a variety of casual obi and would probably be OK to wear to a cultural event assuming the fabric is of high quality.
A classic striped odori obi

Of course where there are dance kimono, there are dance obi...the perfect accessory!

Odori or dance obi are usually of two types: hanhaba (half-width) or nagoya. Dance obi are always bright, metallic, and have a simple, high-contrast design like checks, stripes, fans, etc. Many have a different pattern on each side, sometimes with gold thread on one side and silver on the other. They are made of synthetic material and usually polyester but sometimes are seen in rayon. (Described as synthetic silk).
A modern dance obi with lots of color and bling

Here are a few examples of odori obi.

The green side features a design of yukiwa or snowcrystals

White with silver on one side, gold on the other

A men's kaku dance obi with an elaborate design

Of course, you could wear a regular obi in a simple design with a dance kimono. A hakata obi would be a good choice, or a hanhaba obi for yukata. Stay away from fukuro obi or formal nagoya obi, even if they have gold threads. They will usually look out of place. And make sure you wear a juban underneath- these kimono are not usually lined.

January 3, 2012

Book: The New Kimono

I received a couple of kimono books recently! I'll start with a review of the one I got on Amazon: The New Kimono: from vintage style to everyday chic; by the editors of Nanao Magazine. It's in English, and it's very affordable, only $16.47 right now, so it's a bargain!

If you are looking for a beginner's "how to wear a kimono" book, this is not it. (I recommend Norio Yamanaka's book for beginners). There are a few pages in the back with B&W photos of how to put on a yukata; tying a yukata obi, and tips on collar adjustment but mainly it's a book about fashion, style, and putting accessories together in a modern way.

It's definitely written especially for and features adult woman collectors of vintage komon and yukata, so you will not see any sweet bright pink sakura blossoms on these yukata nor will you see anything formal. This book features everyday kimono: silk textiles such as kasuri, tsumugi, and komon (Small, repeated, all-over design for casual wear) patterns in wool, cotton, linen, and silk. No houmongi, no furisode, no tsukesege, and no bling! And definitely no kurotomosode. What you do see is a wonderful sense of elegance, texture, and use of accessories, including obidome, western-style footwear, and even mentions making your own obi.

It also features a few stories and photos of real woman that love to wear kimono, what they wear, and where they wear kimono. There are sections on coordination, choosing an obi, and tips on zori and geta colors, styles, and fit. The photographs are gorgeous and inspire me to rethink some of my coordination color and pattern choices!

It's wonderful if you need some inspiration in your yukata or komon wardrobe and prefer a chic, understated look. My biggest complaint: it needs to be much bigger- a coffee table book!


January 2, 2012

New accessories

I received a few new items before the holidays, so it's time to share!
I bought a lot of two silk tsuke (pre-tied obi) obi that are both really nice. They arrived in perfect condition. Both are woven with metallic threads, so they are perfect for a party!
The bamboo motif obi is all metallic but not very shiny, more a soft golden color like old brass; the back of the fabric is plain burgundy and the weaving on the front seems to pick up the red. It has an understated feel to it and is very elegant.

The black  obi is really cute, with a bold pattern of golden tachibana. Sometimes this motif is translated as mandarin orange but they are really wild sour oranges, apparently inedible.  The red bits are a nice touch. I can see myself wearing this obi quite a bit. 
Next up is a fun pair of zori! These are a pretty caramel color and are covered with  karoko, or images of little chubby children, in cream, olive and deep blue green. The earthy colors keep this motif from looking too sweet.
These zori look like they are made of leather but I'm not quite sure. They have a casual, carefree feel to them and will probably work very well with a cute komon kimono in silk or wool for everyday wear. I can also see these with the right yukata worn "kimono style" with a casual nagoya obi.

These cute cotton kinchaku bags were a surprise! I didn't expect them to be so brightly colored plus they appear to be brand-new. Kinchaku are drawstring handbags. These cotton ones are so casual, they would work perfectly with yukata. They both have summer motifs on the fabric.  The navy blue one features morning glories and dragonflies (hidden inside!); the green and blue one has a ladybug and what looks like a bell-flower. The green one has a plain burgundy red lining.

Dragonfly lining

These cute bags look like they would be very easy to make. I might have to get out the sewing machine soon and make a few of my own. It's a great way to use fabric scraps, as many kinchaku are often pieced together, probably from worn kimono and other garments. Another example of recycling!
Enjoy and Happy New Year!