Bebe Taian

March 23, 2018

Psi Beta Induction

Psi Beta is an honours' society for college students with a 3.25+ GPA, 12+ credits, and at least a B in a college-level psychology class. I had an A and a ... 3.8? GPA? I don't know. :P It crashed after I cut back on alcohol and the chronic pain and such re-surged, but whatever. New meds, so wish me luck!

I actually made it to this induction, so I'm quite pleased. The requirement was formalwear for inductees, but actually, everyone just kind of showed up in nice street clothes. Had I thought of that, I'd have worn something less complicated and showy!

But this outfit was put together quickly from a kimono my mother in law bought for me. It's actually very long for an early Taisho pieces. The inside of the bottom is also completely patterned with yuzen and thin gold. The sleeves are shorter than "younger women's" kimono of the era but the pattern is decadent and lively. Typically, kurotomesode like this should only be worn with gold or silver shoes, and a muted gold or silver obi, with white, gold, or silver obijime and white obiage, but these bright patterns? How could I do that? Also, I'm not quiiiite so old yet, right? So I kept the traditional white/gold obiage, using an antique chirimen obiage with golden cranes painted onto it, and a white/yellow gradient obijime.

The shoes are white with flecks of silver and palest sakura pink, perfect for March! They match the pale blossoms hidden in the bold patterns at the bottom of the hem. I had to sew the tabi a bit before leaving- oops! I somehow had torn a seam. I should take apart the ones I can't get white again and make a few pairs for myself. I have lots of fabric...

I have a bekko comb in my hair and an early-mid 1900s gold/silver fan. The silver side is cranes in flight. The gold side features two farmers under a bamboo tree, matsu style (the "clumpy" kind of bamboo, not the long straight kind).

Makeup was some complicated process between 'natural' makeup with lots of colour-correction for the rosacea, mixed with a natural golden foundation with added white for a more formal look. Pale ume pink around the eyes and upper cheeks similar in pattern to maiko, subtle with a hint of highlight and superfine sparkle. I used Destiny's Princess for both; The Truth was used for whitening and lightening. Because of the super-subtle shimmer, it helps in getting a pale glow without a pasty effect. Sadly, The Truth is being discontinued, but any white that is very pure and not shifting to another colour will work. I used a Nyx lipliner and a small pat of The Blood of My Enemies gloss. To set it, I used Dmitri, which is discontinued. It's a bold deep red with a slight brown-gold tint. I use eyeshadow also for brow powder. It's softer than the trend look of heavy waxes, liners, etc.

January 19, 2018

小寒 Shoukan: Minor Cold

In this week of January, it is Shoukan, "minor cold". It is said that one freezes in Shoukan, but melts in Daikan. Of course, halfway through January, the plum blossom season of February is coming, and it is always a little fashionable to be ahead of the natural season!

Of course, we have little to no snow in Florida, but recently we have had very unseasonable deep cold, as low as the 20s F. And of course, who gets a bad case of the flu for nearly two weeks? Me. I did. And a nice hospital bill to prove it (lol). Now that I'm starting to feel better, I just had to go out and do something fun! This time, I went to see Yoko at her restaurant. She adores kimono, and I missed her the last two or three times I was there, so of course I also had to dress up.

In this case, it was a very cold night, and I wanted to bring the feeling of the snow that will never come. It was certainly cold enough, but not wet enough. Sadly I lack a black or deep purple umbrella, but since there is no snow, I guess I don't need one. What I do have is a white figured silk kimono with an allover pattern of plum branches in pale blues and rosy pinks, a silk obiage that is in the same tone as the pale blue-grey of the branches, and a red shigoki obi that I somehow picked up in an American thrift store! The obijime is pale gold with one thread running from deep cold blue to pale white-blue, same as the obiage. The other thread in it is a warm brown, like living wood. I hope it is a tiny detail which brings a hint of life to a frozen landscape. There are very tiny hints of browns in the komon, but they are more grey-toned browns.

The obi was the most difficult decision. Red? Black? No, wait... silver? I had originally wanted to pair this obi with its' bright grass green pine needle side, with another kimono but I didn't have anything that I quite liked as much for the night atmosphere. Instead, I wore the silver side, with just tiny hints of the bright lime green showing at the edges. Inside the pattern of the obi are even smaller patterns of shippo. I tied a very easy fancy musubi in the back, being bored with han-darari and otaiko. Sorry for the blurriness- it's so hard to get a photo of it by myself.

The juban is possibly the juban of an older child's kimono. It was sold as a Taisho-era juban, but the cut of the collar isn't quite right for that, and even for Taisho juban it is a little short. It reminds me quite a bit of a child's juban. But since it somewhat fits, except for length, I wore that as is. It has an auspicious woven sayagata pattern, appropriate for January, with clouds dyed over it in pale blue on red. The sleeves are a little long for the modern komon, but all of my modern juban's sleeves are too short! Ara ma...

Over it, I wore my silk Taisho haori with the bright red lining in the sleeves. The haori also has a shippo pattern- what a cute coincidence! I look at small details like this when building an outfit. I adore it when I can wear something or see something multiple times and always find a new coordinating detail.

There isn't much I can do with my hair these days, unfortunately, or I would have worn some of my antique kanzashi. But I do have my plum blossom bobby pin from AtelierKanawa, so I wore that! I should buy more bobby pins or clip kanzashi. Such lack of traditional style, but... I have such short hair... ::sighs:: Also, I need a coordinating fan for the early Spring season. I have so much for Autumn and a few things for Summer, but I've neglected half the year. So I guess this is the year I need to learn to focus on komono, accessories that really make an outfit superior!

September 17, 2017

Slight Buying Spree

I didn't really have the money to do it yet, but I saw some pieces that I really couldn't pass up. I'm a little tired of my 'plain, conservative' style. I feel so old. But... I'm young still, and I need to remember that before I DO get too old to do much for myself. I can't see myself as ever having been young, but I think I wasted my youth on depression and misery. I've always been the "responsible one", an adult from childhood. And not even 30 yet, I feel like a grandparent waiting to die, an old wolf lumbering along until I fall one more time.

I think I can change that. They say "fake it 'til you make it", right? So maybe if I change my life, I can change my attitude. Sometimes it doesn't work the 'right way' around, changing attitude and then changing life. So maybe if I put a little effort into reminding myself, it'll help?

When I was very young, in my teens, I was in love with ofurisode. I adored them. The bright colours and gorgeous patterns, the over-the-top obi, I felt like the models in the photos looked like royalty- I'd never had the money for even used pieces. I had one furisode when I was young, by 17. Ivory, gold, and navy blue, with royal carts and clouds all over. It was beautiful! And yet, I was so self-conscious. I felt like an older woman trying on her wedding dress after years of marriage. Whimsical, but also ridiculous. Trying to be more than I am: plain, unpretty, wary, fundamentally broken.

I bought a beautiful ofurisode in vibrant orange, black, and gold. It was so beautiful- and I'd forgotten what a pain those ankle-length sleeves can be! I sold it off with a matching obi threaded with gold. The gold ofurisode of my childhood was also sold, many years ago, for a few hundred dollars. I adore the designs and yet, I feel so encumbered wearing them. Still... occasionally I fall in love again.

Maybe that's why I adore antique kimono so much: the vibrant patterns, even on middle-aged women's kimono, the longer sleeves still romantic and flirtatious, but not so long and heavy that they weigh me down. What happened to kimono since then? Wartime shortened sleeves to save fabric, but in an era where fabric is still relatively cheap, shouldn't sleeves lengthen a little again? Maybe there aren't enough buyers to matter. Or women today prefer the very short sleeves since you don't have to think so much about sleeve etiquette when they don't get in the way so much.

So I went on a slight buying spree. The whole 'change my life' thing. Maybe I bought a little too much, but I have some student loans coming in soon, and the job I'm going for will more than pay them off. I'm taking as many classes as possible at once, despite everything. I'm in five now. I think three is considered full-time. So I rationalise deserving some beautiful things in return for my hard work...

I bought this peridot beauty. I'm not sure if I'll have the courage to wear it. I sold my furisode juban already, so I don't really have the accessories for it... I have matching obi and obiage, but not an appropriate obijime or the juban.

Even so, maybe I'll wear it once or twice to see how I feel. Then, I'll sell it off. Beauty should be shared with the world! There isn't enough of it sometimes. I was offered a potential spot at the school I attend for a kimono exhibit, possibly a year off. So I should probably think of a variety to show. But I'd prefer to exhibit antiques and related articles... katagami, old books about kimono, maybe I could get a copy of Shufu no Tomo! But I have to find out how much space I have first, and then I can figure out what to bring.

I'll post a collection of photos when I get the other items! Lots of obijime, obiage, a few haori, and a kosode.

July 16, 2017

One outfit, two styles.

It's amazing how much an outfit can change just by changing a haircut. Really, it transforms everything!

This is a deep grey, nearly black silk kimono with grass pattern, paired with a shibori red obiage and a Taisho-era dragon pattern ro obi in pale tans, off-whites, and gold. The obijime is a deadleaf oak green, the collar too heavy for the season. Plain white tabi, with straw-bottomed wooden zori with black/white straps.

All in all, a relatively plain outfit. What made it more impressive, I think, were finer details to imitate Eisen works and other ukiyo-e artists. While makeup was fairly neutral, a tiny bit of deep pink around the eyes, black mascara, and deep red lips with a dusting of lime green powder in the centre mimicked the ultra-luxe kyoubeni, without needing to apply 30+ layers to get the lacquered shiny effect.

Plus, I was in luck! Papaya has a long green banner in the shop window, a little darker than the lime green powder I used from Shiro Cosmetics to use as a backdrop. I took advantage, of course.

The only disadvantage to this method is that you must absolutely not rub your lips or eat/drink anything- a difficult task when there's a Teavana in the same mall. The goal is to have an almost matcha-coloured centre to the lips, with the outer parts in safflower red. The trick is that if you put on the red liner (I used Nyx in Poppy red) and fill in the whole lip, then apply the green powder, you'll turn it brown. If you outline where the red should be and fill it in like a paint-by-numbers, you'll leave a blank space for the green to stay true to colour. I use a lime green that shines yellow (duochrome) so that it looks closest to the real kyoubeni appearance. Use beeswax or another clear lipgloss to keep the lips moisturized underneath the makeup, or it'll flake. 

This is a similar outfit a year later with some minor changes: I now have summer obijime and obiage. I picked the same red colour in a ro obiage, much more appropriate than shibori, with a similarly-muted colour obijime with thin streaks of silvery-blue to match the grass and tiny portions of the obi embroidery. The shoes are the same as before.

The makeup is the same as before, the collar a bit lower. And I somehow *still* haven't bought any new haneri. Ugh! How am I so picky about a piece of cloth you barely see?! But it's true... or, I see one I like, but I get distracted by another piece I can't pass up, and plain haneri are so common... yet I don't own more than two or three. Gah! 

And what on earth do people do with such short sleeves? How does anyone make 19" sleeves look stylish or delicate? So frustrating!

But a haircut like this somehow makes this outfit look much more modern, and somehow more... aggressive? "Fierce." Before, it was one thing to wear dragons, which aren't common on female clothing, but the overall feminine-coded appearance was 'tough, but sweet'. With a short bob cut, it's suddenly all claws! The lime green lips now look much more bold! What do you think?

June 28, 2017

Kimono, Revisited.

Some months ago, during the Spring semester, I was somewhat re-inspired to try wearing kimono again. Depression is one of those things that robs all joy from things you kind of vaguely remember liking once, and I don't remember being any other way really... but the only way to stop is to stop, right? So... I'll try.

I met a Japanese Okinawan woman who adores kimono fashion and started trying to visit her every week on slow nights. She runs a restaurant. Since I downloaded an app called 72 Seasons which tells me a little of seasonal foods, words, and other tidbits, I've combined this with kimono seasonal knowledge to build weekly outfits with the goal of 72 total. Naturally I never got that far! But at least I've worn my bright green summer kimono twice in the past month...

I wish I had dated some of these photos. Some of them were from the beginning of March- Tay-tay was alive then. She loved kimono. She was the Takehisa cat. <3

These are the breakdowns of some of these outfits from then:

The haori is a silk with an arabesque pattern on a speckled grey/gold fabric. It's absolutely beautiful, one of my art deco favourites.

The kimono is a 1930s or 1940s silk komon-hybrid with gold and silver threads on an all-over woven pattern in dusky purple with red lining. It has an embroidered mon on the back, setting it at an elevated formality from komon; perhaps this was an early 1900s iromuji-komon hybrid? That would make sense. The kimono is quite short though, so little or no ohashori.

The juban is pale pink with a woven chrysanthemum haneri in white chirimen. For all the kimono I own, I have very few eri. I need to fix that!

The obi is my gold one which reminds me of an illuminated manuscript somehow, like something out of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (and what I'd give for THAT obi! It was made some time ago for furisode!) The deep orange in the obi is highlighted by the more intense orange-red obiage, and the purple in the obi and kimono was echoed in the narrow but decorative obijime, tied in such a way that still hints at a little youth, rather than an old women out of another age.

White tabi, of course, for a traditional-style outfit, with straw-bottomed zori with black straps with white pinstripes. I do need to get a few more pairs of shoes to match up to my kimono. My brocade ones need new soles before they become irreparable. The leather has cracked. Aaaugh. So straw-bottoms, it is. At least the hanao somewhat match the collar and deeper aspects of the haori. <3

Gah, sorry about the lighting in the apartment. We leave the LED lights up year-round; cheaper than most lighting, and cats can't knock it over! Plus, it's dark enough to leave on overnight, especially for kitties who are aging and can't see so well anymore. Bonus perks: foxfire eyes??

Judging by the last vestiges of purple and red, this was maybe late February, during "Mist Starts to Linger"/"Earth Becomes Damp" season. I'll post another set soon!

Edit: This set was taken 3/2/17, "Grass Begins to Sprout, Trees Bud".

June 12, 2017

Getting a Stylish Look, pt. 4

The next project I'm doing is to pull together a winter outfit for a climate that only has two seasons; hot and hotter. I want to *feel* like winter, even just for a couple days! If we're fortunate, we might get a cold snap for a few weeks this December or January. Can you tell I'm in the Northern Hemisphere? heh.

I know it's only June, but that is the perfect time to buy off-season kimono and to give myself time to have the money to get together anything I might want or need for an outfit. I can also make a backup plan for anything I might not be able to find in time. I want to embody a feeling that doesn't easily translate in my climate: there is no snow in Florida.

Wintertime means dark, 'cold' colours: indigo, shades of brown, muted greens, purple, black. Light wood combs, coral hairpins, shawls and padded kimono. Lacquered or dark wood shoes with tea green, black, or dark blue hanao straps. Of course, these days, padded kimono don't really exist unless they are antique or are custom orders, but lined kimono will do just fine. I plan on sticking to basic patterns, subdued and barren, like winter itself. Why are these people barefoot in such weather?! Who knows, but one person has the right idea: tall geta to keep out of the snow drifts. I think it was fashionable to wear so much and to reveal a bare foot in the winter, a sort of devil-may-care image.

Snow is portrayed as these large clumps of ice in ukiyo-e. I have two snow pattern kimono; one which is royal purple with snow, and the shadows of snow in lighter purple; the other, almost black, with snow pattern. I like them both for different reasons. Purple, again, is a colour of deep winter- but it can also look like night in a city, where there is a lot of light pollution so snow looks different, too. Black can be worn both in winter and in April, when an unseasonal cold snap comes through sometimes, causing brief snowfall. In one case, you can pair it with reds or gold with coral colours; in the other, try pale sakura pinks, or something more suited to the Spring season. I have an obi with a pattern of Buddhist magatama beads which is gold, purple, and peach, which I will likely wear for Shiwasu this year! With black, I may go for a flower pattern.

If I am lucky, I may find a red juban of modern sleeve length which I love and can afford to give that tiny hint of warmth beneath all those black, brown, and blue layers. Of course, in this painting, the kimono may be indigo with either a black kosode or black haori over it, the hint of red at the sleeve slipping out, with a tan woolen shawl piled over the top. These are handy for when icy winds threaten to destroy your skin and hair- just wrap up!

I can likely find a nice shawl like this at a thrift store and launder it, and while I do have a black Taisho haori, without actual snow to give this feeling, I'll have to show coldness via motif.

Since Florida is so hot, even in the winter, it only drops to maybe 60F. I can possibly do a dark blue layer if I use hitoe kimono and maybe fake a juban. Going without tabi in this weather will not pose any threat of injury to me, and might even help me stay cool! But... I suppose if I can withstand 95F weather in three layers and walk over a mile in them... probably, I can find a way to stay cool in the same layers during better weather. <3

May 27, 2017

Getting a Stylish Look, pt. 3

Oda, 1920s - Beauty
Resting, Summer Evening
Whether a person is more or less experienced, you can always remember that fashionable women in the 'water business' were always considered stylish and sexy, whereas a 'proper wife' was demure, almost asexual. Whether you look to modern geisha or to ukiyo-e, you can get a historical sense of what kinds of style has lasted the test of time, and therefore is 'classic'- like the ever-present Western "little black dress".

I prefer the older styles, but it is important to recognise what is modern and what belonged in Edo period so that what I wear is appropriate to the modern era and does not look like an odd costume. For example, obijime did not exist until the mid-1800s, so copying exactly how something from before then looked today would appear strange or only partially done. Black silk contrasting collars were more frequent many years ago when clothing was washed much less often, so they can still be appropriate with certain outfits (such as machiko, "town girls"), but for the most part, you do not see these now. Wearing tabi is a matter of style; sex workers would sometimes not wear tabi, either because they are so lowly that it isn't worth the fabric expense, or because they are so high-ranking that a few toes peeking out of volumes of fabric, a sign of extreme wealth, was considered highly erotic. But for "normal women", generally, tabi should be worn except with geta. Geta are summer shoes, so it's often too hot to wear tabi. Today, many people choose lace tabi to prevent blisters from their shoes in the heat and humidity, so that gives more options that did not exist historically.

Hakuhou, 1930s -
Summer Clothing
Figuring out what works for you is a matter of experience. Figuring out what components keep cropping up in popular fashion takes work and can help provide experience. Figuring out what is routinely expected according to modern-day rules takes effort.

Sometimes, I just want to wear an outfit without needing to research it like I'm writing a capstone thesis.

Planning an outfit sounds so involved and tedious when I write out my thought process. But... now that I've done it so long, it's natural to me. Sometimes I don't even notice little connections until after I have the whole outfit on... You will get there, too.

In this case, the serenity of these two early Showa ukiyo-e show so much serenity despite the early stages of rising fascism and war in Japan, and have such excellent technical details for their medium that they are amongst my favourites during summertime. Taking cues from these, pairing black summer kimono (either sha or ro) with hakata obi and invoking the blues of water is essential to the height of fashion. Note the pale blue collar in Hakuhou, or the blue geta and matching obiage/obijime combo in Oda. The splash of deep royal purple in Oda's work is a colour associated with deep cold- a refreshing nod of hope on what must have been an oppressively hot, humid day, not unlike the ones we have in Florida. Bare feet are exposed, being far too hot for tabi in this weather. Jade hairpins are the norm, putting away the warm coral pieces for the chilly Autumn season. I paid close attention here- tiny hints of red are frequent, and it was a matter of pride to expertly pair a juban with the transparent kimono, the pattern of the lower layer being sighted through the upper layer, much as in the Cult of Beauty days of the Heian era. In Hakuhou, the juban colour is matched with the obiage colour, and a tea-green obijime is paired to literally and visually tie the disparate-looking elements together for an overall image of beauty. In Oda, she dresses more conservatively, matching komono (accessories) together for a cohesive feeling of total coolness.

I have a few black and deep blue summer kimono now, and bought a hakata obi some years ago. a knot that Tokyo geisha are known for. I own a red summer obiage and a narrow green obijime already- now I only need more appropriately-coloured geta! Although with a red obiage, my red hanao are quite nice. Appropriately, my favourite black summer kimono is a Taisho antique, made just before these two paintings! But it is also exceedingly fragile, so I have to be very careful when wearing it.

White base with blue or deep blue are most popular and fetch a higher price. Today, you mostly see hakata weave in men's kaku obi, on hanhaba obi, or on dancers. I have a special love for hakata weaves; they are tight, repeating patterns which make the fabric quite strong despite it's thinness, and every pattern has a story. The one I purchased is 'komochi Yoshiwara', a chainlink pattern which symbolizes enduring relationships which cannot break. Yoshiwara is also the former pleasure district of Tokyo, and the women there relied entirely on repeat patrons for their livelihoods. Unpopular courtesans did not fare well. I keep this in mind when I tie it in yanagi-musubi,

These paintings show exactly what I should buy by example, and how to put the outfit together- and you know what? This combination still looks as fantastic today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

May 11, 2017

Getting a Stylish Look, pt. 2

To get a stylish look, you have to know some basic rules and terminologies. This is because if you do not know these rules and attempt to mix something improperly, it shows inexperience, not fashion-forwardness. In order to artfully break rules, you have to know how to properly wear kimono first!

- Lined kimono are awase (quilted kimono are long gone these days, but once, there were two types of awase: quilted deep winters, and lined for regular cool days). These are worn most of the year.
- Unlined kimono are hitoe. These can be a few types: 'plain' unlined with a heavier fabric, transparent sha fabric, and transparent ro fabric. These are worn in increasingly hot summer days, and outside of Japan, maybe throughout the year in tropical climates.

Formalities (Note: there are shades of formality in each category; we won't delve into that now):
- Yukata: Literally, a bathrobe. Not normally worn outside unless for festivals during hot months, but today are sometimes worn with juban to 'elevate' formality. Certain types cannot be elevated; they stay in the sauna or onsen.
- Komon: Small-patterned or all-over-patterned informal kimono. These are the jeans of kimono formality.
- Iromuji: A fallback kimono for beginners, these can have 0-3 crests. They are single-coloured and plain, making them popular for people with few to no kimono, who want to dress it 'up' or 'down' with the obi.
- Houmongi + Tsukesage: These are most easily confused, and there are many hybrids since there were once many more shades of formality. Generally, however, these have patterns at the bottom of the kimono and on the sleeves, but not the main body. Also, these are usually coloured, not black. They are the flashiest kimono a married woman can wear.
- Irotomesode: These have designs only at the bottom of the kimono, none on the sleeves, and usually have 3-5 crests. Generally, married or women older than 25 wear these to quite formal events.
- Furisode + Kurotomesode: These are the most formal kimono a person can own for 'regular use' (ie, not a dance kimono or wedding outfit). Furisode are generally for children and young women. Kurotomesode are for married women or older women.

Obi (These also come in lined and unlined!):
- Hanhaba: Half-width, usually only 6" wide, and thin. Today these are usually synthetic, or more expensive wool or cotton. These are the least formal and can only be paired with yukata and lower-end komon.
- Nagoya: Invented in the 1940s, these are also informal, although vintage ones exist which were made from maru obi since they use only around 1/4 of the fabric necessary. Wear them with komon and crestless kimono. If they have metallic threads, a single crest kimono might be appropriate.
- Fukuro: Appropriate for more formal kimono and many furisode. Fukuro that are less patterned or without metallic threads may be able to 'downgrade' to komon status.
- Maru: Appropriate for kurotomesode, wedding outfits, and furisode. These are much harder to find these days, so most people only have fukuro obi.

There are, of course, more shades and formalities than this, like komon made of luxury shiny silk which should be paired with fukuro obi, and komon-tsukesage kimono, or other interesting mixes. You can figure these out when you've got a better footing. These are the basics. The accessories change throughout the year as well, but take your time and choose those based on the 'big things' you have: kimono and obi.

In this case, I'll show you one example:

This is a komon made of very shiny, upscale silk, paired with a silk Nagoya obi which has metallic threads. In daylight it is a warmer green, mint in colour with fewer blue tones, but the indoor light brings out the metallic gold in the brocade obi.

The weave of the komon is in a pattern much like coral, with pampass grass, ohagi (another type of grass), and small orange flowers that look like daisies, which mimic the shape of chrysanthemums. The obi is white and orange, as the patterns of the kimono are, with gold threads to imitate the tans and golds of the grass patterns. You can see that the exact flowers do not have to match; they just have to be in season, and compliment each other. Of course, my juban is also silk, woven and dyed with chrysanthemums in such a small pattern that the overall affect appears as pale pink mist. The obijime cord is flat, white, and woven with golden squares to imitate the obi pattern. Obiage is partially shibori, to pull in line the higher formality of the komon and the Nagoya obi, with patterns of rivers.

It was an outfit inspired by timing while shopping online for new pieces, and by a love for geisha-watching. Here, you can see that Umechika of Kamishichiken (Kyoto) is wearing a white obiage, black obi, and green kimono are paired for the late Summer (June 23, 2016), with a touch of purple, a colour that hints at deep cold, precious in the humid days of end of summer. (Original image source here.) The pattern on her obi is the same pattern that is woven into the fabric of my kosode!

Of course, normal wearers do not wear trailing hikizuri kimono, so we do not have certain garments like the red under-obi peeking out of geisha's clothing constantly, nor do we usually wear shigoki-obi, a kind of long scarf under the obi, to help tie up the long hem of the kimono while we walk. That is the purple cord you see under her sleeve. The ohashori (waist tie) of a regular kosode should be what ties up the hem to your ankles. Shigoki are sometimes still worn for fashionable effect, as I did with this outfit, but that is strictly optional and can look more childish.

When pairing kimono to imitate geisha, try to work with a 'theme': a feeling of coolness, repeating little patterns so that it isn't so obvious at first (such as the squares on the obi and the obijime), and try to keep in line with season. This can take a LOT of time and money. Many kimono are multi-season, so if you are just starting or are on a budget, YES, buy the multi-season kimono! Then you may only have to change accessories to demonstrate which one you are emphasizing. Look closely at the patterns on her outfit. If you can see group photos, look at what everyone is wearing to get an idea of palette or flowers in season. You can keep a small notebook of date the photo was taken and who is wearing what, to get better grip on the seasonal calendar.

Try to keep lined items with lined, gauze items with gauze or open-weave pieces. Most people do not even bother with hitoe items anymore if they are transparent because 'mistakes' in dressing are more prone to be obvious, and hitoe items have their own wardrobe of accessories. You may want to stick with awase when just starting! I did exactly that! And I'm still trying to put in money to build a hitoe selection. Florida is NOT 'cool'. It is 91F outside in May, and that's a 'relaxing summer day'. Ha! It sometimes gets over 100F in summer, especially with humidity, and heat stroke is not uncommon. And yet, it took me a years of practice until I could be confident enough to buy hitoe kimono.

Don't worry. You will get the hang of it. Keep practicing, and join us for part 3!

April 25, 2017

Getting A Stylish Look, pt. 1

It is no secret that geisha are the premiere wearers of kimono, and have access to luxury designers for every aspect of wearing, from collars that can reach over $1000USD in cost, to kimono which can fetch $40,000 easily. Even for informal, day-to-day running between classes, geiko in Kyoto must exude a luxury image to maintain their status. Therefore, a geisha should always be stylish as well.

Of course, the average person has no such luxury. Who of us have even $50 (considered cheap) to drop on a single piece of plain chirimen, a few feet long and all of 8" wide? Not many.

To clarify, we use the word 'kimono' today to mean the classic traditional Japanese garment. But actually, 'kimono' just means 'things to wear'. The outer garment with rectangular sleeves is called a 'kosode'. The distinction is necessary because different social classes wore different items depending on their jobs. Obviously, a farming girl will not be wearing the same clothing as a dancer or teahouse worker. A merchant will not wear the same clothing as a hunter or samurai. 'Average' women wore 'working clothes', rough cottons or hemps, or monpei- like pants and a shirt. Kosode were not for everyone only a short time ago, historically-speaking. Only at the turn of the 20th Century were we seeing a reduction in difference between classes, a major social upheaval that lasted well into the 50's when Western dress truly became the norm and use of traditional clothing fell out of favour.

Back to kimono:

How do we imitate the look while wearing kimono that is made for today's activities? By this, I mean that in the upper classes, kimono were once longer and trailed behind a person, making it easier to walk indoors. These were then tied up at the waist with shigoki obi. Today, they are shorter, and are tied automatically at the waist (ohashori). Only hikizuri trail behind a person, kimono reserved for dancers, actors, and other professionals. We must not only work with everyday kimono, but also on a budget that we can afford, which means most often buying secondhand and taking what we can get instead of having each kimono custom-tailoured to us.

But there is more! Rules of wearing are not always easily discerned outside of Japan, and there are four major seasons to follow, with 72 mini-seasons to think about timing for, plus many types of fabrics with their own seasonal meanings, etc. Seasons where you can wear lined kimono, but unlined juban; or situations where you can wear silk, but not hemp. Nana-no-ha for this week- next week, a butterfly is most appropriate. Does your look blend in with the season, enhancing the image? Or attempt to compete with the beauty of nature, and lose because of it?

With time and experience, these rules become easy to follow and you will know them by heart.

In the meantime, I can't even pretend to know every pointer, season, flower, etc. etc., nor do the vast majority of women have nearly the grandiose collection necessary to cover this entire spectrum. Not even geisha often have this many kimono!

In this short series, I can give pointers on how to achieve a good outfit, following what has been established as iki by kenban (geisha houses). Until you gain confidence in your own ideas, it is good to learn a solid base of what is/isn't worn together.

April 6, 2017

Tadaima, minna-san.

It's been a long time. Years. I've gotten older, but not much smarter it seems.

Watching the blog, which I once spent hours a week on, to becoming something I think of now and again but don't touch... it's like a treasured book that you never read. A mirror in a shrine that no one sees.

Over the years, the depression that I've talked about before hasn't gone away. It's only gotten worse. before, I could ignore it by absorbing myself in work. Now, I can't manage half of what I'd like to do. Chemical imbalances are... not something you can "just handle", like a bad day. It's having a perfect day with absolutely nothing going wrong, and having barely any energy to even sit up on your own, and wanting to burst into tears without reason. And it just don't stop, ever. There are only bad days and worse days. I've tried to tell this to doctor after doctor, and they don't listen worth a damn. "But you said you had an OK day ten minutes ago!" "Yes," through gritted teeth, "But MY 'okay' days involve being able to go grocery shopping AND throw frozen food in the oven AND eat on the same day. THAT IS NOT A NORMAL LIFE. My bad days involve panic attacks for no reason, or worse."

I think people don't talk about these things because there's a huge stigma around the issue, and neurotypical people have a habit of saying they're compassionate and understanding, and then they turn around an prove themselves to be absolutely terrible human beings. They equate "being depressed" with "just being sad", usually over some melodramatic bullshit like "oh, you didn't get something you didn't deserve just handed to you!" When that is absolutely NOT what is happening,

If we get *at all* angry about being invalidated or directly harmed by these people, "Woah, woah, woah! You're mental! You're too unstable to have a rational conversation about what's happening to you! I should dictate how your life REALLY is because you're too crazy!" Condescension, invalidation, and personal attacks are what we can expect if we try to talk to anyone or get help.

See, none of you are actually helping. Many of you make things infinitely worse, in fact. Especially terrible are the "medical professionals" who don't give a damn about their patients and are just there to collect a paycheque, paid up-front for appointments regardless of quality of actual service. Eventually, we just stop trying. To directly remind you all, that is to say that many of us WERE ACTIVELY TRYING TO HELP OURSELVES, on limited resources, and very limited energy- but the difference between normal sadness and depression is that sadness is a transient spring rain. Depression is a climate change, and now you have 12 months of monsoon season and you need help building your house up on stilts to escape floodwaters. Handing us an umbrella and then getting angry when we say, "Hey, we're still wet, in fact, we're drowning." won't cut it.

And you all wonder why the suicide rates are so breathtakingly high in America.

ha ha. breathtaking. that was a joke, people.


That's a large part of the reason I disappeared. I'd log in, stare at the screen, log out, defeated and more depressed than I started. I tried Xanax, but it just left me dissociated and unable to function very well. Life has gotten pretty bad in places, so it isn't like I'm entirely unreasonable, but it's starting to come back up, sort of. Dante, the Takehisa cat, died recently. Last week? It's so hard to keep track of what day it is. "Brain fog" is what it's called- depression so deep you can't figure out 'when' you are, when things happened, even important things to you. Lovecraft died in November. Azrael died a few years ago- did I write about that? I wrote about adopting him... My sister died too, shortly after the heart transplant... and so many others. Bebe and Seraphina are lonely without the other cats, but we're going to quasi-adopt two more. Maybe it'll cheer them up a little? I stopped collecting kimono for awhile too, and started again this year... I just... had no enthusiasm for anything. And no energy for anything that I once loved.

So why bother posting now?

hnnn well...

I finally decided to hell with it all. I'm going to die broke and unhappy anyways, working 60+ hours a week and making less than poverty-line wages. I might as well go to school and rack up debt, and get something done that was so far out of reach for me... I paid quite a bit of my student loans to medical bills, finally going to docs to try and get a diagnosis of why my bones hurt, my joints are on fire, and I feel like I'm walking on broken glass and legos half the time. I have most of the Brighton Score points. heh. And that's the better end of the health issue. The guy that wrecked my car (and my neck) in the hit-and-run back in 2013? He's suing ME for damages. That's rich. So I get to take care of that. There's a whole host of awful things happening, microaggressions on a major scale (hey, men- FYI, life is not television. We do NOT like it when you walk up to us, grab us, and start kissing us, and WE DON'T EVEN FUCKING KNOW YOU! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH MEN?! FUCKING CHRIST! And if I say ANYTHING about it to anyone, *I'm* the problem! What the hell?!) SO yeah, definitely depressed for a damn good reason.

But I found one person who really loves kimono, at a local sushi bar run by Japanese people. So I've been trying to go in a new outfit every week, something in tune with the current or preceding of the 72 seasons. Someone said that one of the keys to dealing with depression is to have a ritual that you absolutely must stick to, in a way to kind of 'reorder' a life that seems to be passing by in a haze. To give clear delineation to that existence, you have to hang on to something, even when you really don't want to. So far, I've done four outfits, maybe five. I'm surprised by how many kimono I really own, even with so many in shops or having been sold already. I'm still waiting- five more should have been here by today, but haven't arrived yet. I hope they come soon, though.

I want to go out tonight, to wear kimono and such, but honestly I've done nothing today and somehow have no energy. Maybe later I will start posting what photos I have of past outings. I'd really like to renew and go through the blog, but I don't know if I have the spoons to commit to it yet.

June 21, 2015

Natsu Matsuri is Next Saturday!

OMG it's time already! I spent so long waiting for this week to come, and now it's here, and where did all the time go? The older I get, the faster I notice it slipping by.

Natsu Matsuri, the annual Summer Festival in Tampa, is next Saturday. I'll have a booth all to myself for a few hours. It only runs from 9am-12noon, since it gets really hot this time of year. I wish it did run longer, though, at least until 2pm. It would give us late-risers and night-shift workers a chance at attending! I don't know about you, but if I work at a gas station, call centre, or even as a first responder (EMS, police, whatever) until 2am, I am NOT getting up at 8am to go to a festival! ::sighs:: Even so, the organizers really do a wonderful job every year, working within the event location that we have. And they managed to secure a wonderful covered location that is large enough for us to spread out a bit, all under a cement pavilion, which helps us avoid the rain and wind of previous years.

I can't wait to break out some of the things I am bringing this year! I should probably get to sewing a bit, to have some handmade crafts for the event, but I don't know that I want to put forth effort on low-demand traditional goods. Unfortunately, competing means having large sums of start-up capital, something I've never had for niche-market projects. I do want to do something different this year, though! I may make a series of magnets or other items to showcase traditional Japanese beauty, and bring high-quality prints of ukiyo-e art to demonstrate that kimono are indeed wearable, and have been for two thousand years.

If you're in the Tampa, FL area, be sure to come by! We're at Christ the King Church on the corner of Henderson and S Dale Mabry Hwy.

June 4, 2015

It's Too Early for Ro, But...

I know it's two months too early for ro, but I seem to only have two sha kimono and a total lack of sha accessories. Really, I preferred only awase kimono for so long that I never bothered buying anything sheer, despite living in such a hot climate. I didn't want to deal with having only sha or ro accessories, juban, haneri, everything when they're only seasonally relevant for a month or two each in the strictest sense. It's very expensive! But now, I'm much more comfortable with my skill of wearing kimono, so finally I've come to terms and started trading out for gauzy things.

... well, it isn't just that. It's also that I'm really self-conscious, so I don't even really have any transparent yofuku either. I wear layers and long sleeves in public pretty often, even in the heat. If I could, I'd dress modestly for an Alaskan, but it's way too hot here.

That being said, I wanted to get dressed for an impromptu meeting at the local teahouse, Kalesia's. But I only have one really viable sha kimono, which is the blue one that keeps showing up in photos, since the other is a fragile Taisho piece that almost feels like stiff, thick paper. The risk of buying antiques: some are too fragile to wear when they arrive. That, paired with the lack of proper accessories, brought me to ro fabric. 80F+ is way too hot to even think about lined kimono! I wanted something bright and colourful. Only one option there: my muted purple kimono with faux-sashiko bishamon kikko in white.

I have a few ro obi, all of which match the kimono- do I do subtle 'older' proper woman, and go with a pale wheat-gold obi with dragons embroidered on it? Black and white hakata? Nah. Let's go bold. I've felt awful with anxiety for weeks. To heck with this. Let's do BRIGHT! A bold salmon-orange 1960s fukuro obi with white, sky-blue, and buttery yellow nadeshiko and metallic gold grass embroidered all over, a faded yellow silk obiage old enough to buy it's own liquor, and a pale pink obijime with a wide, open weave.

The juban is a thin, slightly rough fabric printed with asanoha in a shade of salmon so brilliantly neon that it actually hurts to look at. Under the kimono, it takes on a new dimension. Too bad it's so short! If it were a foot longer, it'd be perfect for me... but I wore it anyways. I adore it too much to worry. I need to make a pair of blue  hanao for the shoes sometime. I've got so much gorgeous fabric... but I never get it done... I think my favourite accessory was this fluffy long scarf that my friend gave me, with gathers similar to shibori, echoing the shibori in the obiage. The Bolivian bag my father sent me from Samaipata ties all of these brilliant colours together.

After the teahouse, we went to the bookstore to look around. Mojo Books is a great place for offbeat stuff that you won't find at a Barnes + Noble (and yeah, some things you will).

I do need to get better at tying Ginza musubi, to make it 'fluffier' at the bottom. I was mostly worried about pulling the fabric on such an old obi, but I might yet find a way that works. It's such a floppy, soft obi too, so it's definitely one of my favourites! If it ever tears, I'll (maybe cry a little) probably frame a section as art. I'll keep practicing! <3

May 21, 2015

Thinking Out Loud: It's Summer Already

It's summer already. Why. Why, Florida? Well, technically, it's been summer since the beginning of the year, but even so. This means I really need to work on converting all of my wardrobe to hitoe fabrics, preferably ro, sha, or perhaps even ra clothing. I'm seriously thinking of getting large spools of hemp and crocheting an obi! Something loose-weave and light for casual wear, which is all it could ever be, like heko obi-style. Fortunately, I still have one or two yukata to wear.

I'm getting prepped for Natsu Matsuri. I'm not sure what to do this year. I may have only one table and I'll bring the shoe rack. I need to find my Square reader and download the app for it. I do have two nice hanging mannequins to dress up this time! So exciting! Although I should think about a new design for how things are set up. I bought a display board for jewellery to help get it above eye level and painted it for Morigyaru style (my current fave). So... maybe a garment rack, which I can borrow... I will likely try to sell off a stack of books this year. There's so much to think about every time, and every time I think I over think the event! Really, it's only three hours long, and it starts so early in the morning most don't even start filtering in until the last hour. Maybe I should make some new stuff for the event?

I want to bring everything I can! Some things you can expect to see:

- Hanhaba obi, including synthetic and cotton obi in various stripes and colours.
- Vintage silk obiage
- LOTS of obijime! I cleared out my drawers of anything non-essential, and there's still plenty up for sale
- Haori accessories
- Obi kazari, charms to tuck into the obi that dangle and tie together colours you might not have thought to pair together
- Kimono (of course)
- A few high-end fukuro obi
- Lots of jewellery, including bracelets and earrings
- Books on Japan or about Japanese culture

Should I bring things like little drawstring pouches for sale (in addition to the jewellery)? Herb sachets for drawers? I'll probably make a bunch of magnets... those tend to be cheap, anyone can use them, and I can produce them quickly. How should I display them? Maybe I should get a really cheap but nice cookie sheet to prop up and cover in the bright sparkly things. I definitely need to print new business cards! Should I go with the old ukiyoe-based red/indigo/parchment yellow? Or should I go for a more modern peach/brown/mint/sky blue palette?

May 16, 2015

For Sale: New Obijime, Obi Kazari

Lots of things for sale this week! I'm clearing out my closets. There are so many beautiful things that I bought and love, but I either don't wear them because I don't wear many things of the formality level required, or I have enough similar things that my outfits can still work beautifully. I can always get more obijime later! I need to work on getting obiage!

 Obi kazari, an obi charm tucked into the top of the obi which dangles and catches light. Used for informal outfits. Hand-beaded in glass and copper; beads are in shades of purples, blues, and yellow, with a hint of pink in the AB finish.

Each kazari is one of a kind and made by me. I used new and vintage beads, so every item is unique! No one else will have one identical to this.

Wide obijime in hot pink and black! It's absolutely gorgeous, despite the subtle staining. I haven't tried to wash it, so they might come out. The tassels are in really good condition, too!

Wide obijime aren't very common, I think. They're informal in category, and this one is so bright and stark in contrast, you could go for a lot of different modern looks with this one obijime.

2.2cm wide x 133.5cm long, not including tassels.

Super-cute silk furisode obijime! Muted metallic threads, cotton candy pink on one side, saturated blue on the other. Tassels need some careful combing and ironing. There's a few tiny loose thread ends, but they don't seem to affect wearability.

1cm wide x 152.5cm long, not including tassels.

 Another formal obijime for young women, this one for ofurisode. It's still new with the tag and tassel protector on it! The main cord is mulberry red with a dusky pastel purple split cord. One side is a normal maru obijime, the other side splits into two cords to make fancier shapes like flowers or hearts when tying the obi.

1cm wide x 154cm long, not including tassel on one side. 

No flaws found.
Beautiful paprika red + green formal maru obijime! Bought new and worn only a few times. It's such a gorgeous colour combo! This one was perfect for houmongi, older iromuji (the kind that actually do have subtle colours and patterns, but pre-WW2 they were still considered iromuji), and maybe 1-3 crest irotomesode. You may also like wearing it with furisode! The tassels are still in great shape, too.

1cm wide x 157cm long, not including tassels.

Another new furisode obijime in mousy grey-green brown and soft purples. This one appears to have a loose thread or two from the manufacturing process. There are some other subtle additions of colour where the purples wrap into the main cords. The tag and tassel protectors are still on it.

1cm wide x 154cm long, not including tassels.

May 2, 2015

Eye-Candy Movie: Lady Maiko

*Paid*? To do art all day? And to hang out and perform and entertain people all night? Sign me up. Minus the art, that's basically what I already do as a waitress. You have to try to keep people entertained with conversation when the kitchen is running behind; it helps the time pass by more quickly, so they are not so upset when the food comes out. Pour drinks, offer another drink, are you sure you don't want just one more? Be beautiful every time you come in: a man will pay you more. But pay the most attention to a woman when she comes in with a man- she might take it the wrong way if you don't, and leave nothing at all. When I finally get some time off to pursue any kind of art, it's short-lived due to lack of resources or time/energy to invest in it. And I certainly don't get paid much for my efforts. Every crafter knows the dreaded "Why do you charge so much? I could make this at home!" or "Ugh, you know, I could get this much cheaper from Claire's!" Yes, you could make this at home... with about $200 in craft supplies, and four or five years of experience to learn how to make something meant to last years.

But that's a geisha's life, isn't it? Painstakingly dedicate years to learning art and how to entertain. Four or five years as a maiko to learn the ropes before you become a real professional. And you'd be paid exorbitant amounts to keep up with that lifestyle. Meanwhile, I spend a bad night's earnings on just makeup for that month... ::sighs::

I guess sometimes I share the fantasy of being something more. Or at least gaining something monetary beyond basic living expenses.

Anyways, I'm thinking this because I'm watching a new movie before I go to work. The downside: no subtitles, and I don't speak Japanese. Ara ma~ But even though it's hard to understand context without it, the storyline, in Kabuki fashion, is easy to follow without knowing the language. Young girl comes to talk with the okaasan of a maiko, is turned away, must learn some things, and reapply to become maiko. As the news review says, it's "My Fair Lady" in kimono.

Even though the movie isn't entirely accurate, even the person who created it says it's 'pure fantasy', so we'll go with it. ^_~ The sets and costumes are beautiful, and the lead actress has a Disney-quality voice (although it doesn't match with what is traditionally 'beautiful' for singing). The whole movie is on Youtube in two parts. Again, only in Japanese; no subtitles.