Bebe Taian

June 9, 2018

Another 1930s Outfit, with Meiji Obi

Another outfit that I dressed up for photos. I should do this more often to show my collection!

This iro-komon is a now-'extinct' mix of iromuji and komon. It is one shade of muted purple with occasional silver and gold flowers woven in. The hakkake lining is also the same purple, with a bright red lining inside in the upper body and sleeves typical of pre-war kimono. There is one mon (crest) denoting moderate formality. I wore this kimono previously with a gold obi and red accessories, which... turned out to also be the outfit of an elderly fortuneteller character in xxxHolic. ... I am the owner of a witch shop... and the running joke in the family is that I was 40 before I was 10... ha. ha. ha. 

The obi in question is being given to a well-respected anthropology professor who is a former Japanese resident (a person who lived there for about a decade, not Nihonjin). He is in love with textiles as I am, and what better living example to show a classroom?

The fact is, this Meiji-era hanhaba obi is far too damaged for 'outside wear'. It is a very soft silk piece that was cut down from a maru obi in olive green with bright purple and orange woven fine embroidery, which has almost entirely worn away now. This 'ribbon' style of tying the obi is meant to show this wear. I used binder clips to hold the folds together and tied it higher with an obi makura, not typically used in this kind of formality. The purpose is to make it easier to see in photos, and more aesthetic. If an obi has weak fabric, binder clips are very strong to hold it together. Just put a small scrap piece of muslin or cotton in between the metal of the binder clip and the silk so that it doesn't snag. For a ribbon obi though, a sanjuhimo or gojujimo is easiest. It was ends like a normal koshi himo to tie in front, but in the back, it is three or five strands for pulling hanhaba or heko obi through for this kind of drapey look.

This kind of musubi styling could feasibly be appropriate for a silk, patterened hanhaba obi of high quality (as opposed to cheap synthetic kinds) with a lower-end komon, but not with an iro-komon like this, since it has a crest in the back denoting formality. If using the makura, an obiage is necessary. This is the same white and gold cloud obiage from the blue 1930s set, since it was just easier... Ideally, if using an obiage, you should also use obijime. Since it's done with heko or hanhaba, wouldn't a narrow, thin obijime with an old clip-on earring for an obidome be really cute?

The rice bag is also photographed here, since it's from approx. wartime era, and it's beautifully made from old maru obi fabric outside with some leftover cotton or somesuch inside. I'm absolutely against taking it apart to find out exact material via burn test since these bags are quite rare on the english-speaking markets these days. Rice is no longer kept this way. We keep it all in plastic now; airtight means rice lasts longer in storage, no worry about bugs. The scent of silk stored in tansu with some cedar kept them away in previous years, and can do it now of course, but it's more work. So no one really needs them anymore...

Wish me luck in buying a new mannequin soon. I would like one for displaying clothing, and also for making clothing. It would be so much easier if I had one to pin fabric to as I worked. <3

June 5, 2018

An Early 1930s Outfit

It isn't in 1930s style, per se, but I brought out a few of my kimono yesterday for another textile lover. Since I couldn't figure out how to get good photos with them lying flat on the bed, I decided to get out my hanging torsos and tie some quick outfits. Of course, these are without the modern ohashori, and the musubi is tied in front to hang them on the wall. My inability to get the top of the otaiko to sit right on the mannequin was driving me crazy!

I'll post the next set soon, when I'm done editing them.

This irotomesode (coloured tomesode) kimono is one you've all seen before. I typically wear it with a different obi, one that is more muted and tan, and a warm brown obijime. Same white obiage. I haven't had too many of those over the years. and this one has cloud patterns in shibori with a fine lining of gold thread. I made sure to switch a few things up so that I don't let my mind do the autistic thing of This Thing Must Not Change. Trying to get comfortable with breaking habits is one of those exercises somehow made a little easier when it's kimono that I'm dealing with.

The kimono is a dusty deep blue chirimen fabric, super-thin and light, with the original red lining. The lower hakkake lining is a deeper chemical blue, like a slightly purple-tinged royal blue that matches the bold blue in the obi. The dating is 1930s, with sleeves longer than post-war standards but shorter than Taisho era's long, flowing sleeves. Because it still has the red lining, this places it pre-war era. The art deco design and light use of gold leafing on the bottom has a classic 30s feel. The wearer was maybe middle age- the design is bold and modern, but still subdued. Yet, it isn't so muted or pastel that it would be for an old woman, either, nor are the sleeves long enough to suggest a younger or unmarried wearer too old for furisode. Of course, there are also formal occasions where furisode would be out of place, especially after ~15 years old back then. The kimono has only one mon, minimum formality for an irotomesode.

I wonder who the wearer was, what she was like... would she have chosen an obi like this? With its' subtle use of metallics in gold and silver hidden in the vibrant, but traditional, patterns of fans and royal carts? I feel like the obi fits the colour scheme but maybe not the pattern of the kimono. The obi is about the same age though, I think.

It is a proper Nagoya obi, not a converted one from an earlier maru obi. Those were invented in the 30s, so maybe this one is from late '30s-'40s. The heavy brocade still says 'maru', but the length is perfect- when the otaiko is folded away from the tare, the tare makes one perfect 'loop' around the taiko when folding it, so it rests neatly. It's so satisfying to fold for storage.

The obijime here is tied in kind of a fanciful knot, like a flower blossom, for photographic effect. I think a formal event ensemble should generally follow 'proper kimono rules'... although, since it has only one crest, maybe something like this could be okay for a younger wearer? The dusty rose colour brings out the richness of the blue and kind of nods to the values of the orange and plum shades in the obi. I'm still not sure about the type of patterns, though- it could be better, a modern obi design with a modern kimono design. But it's passable, and I think most people wouldn't think too deeply on it so long as it looks nice. It's just me being picky, that's all. :P

May 25, 2018

Night Out at Yoko's

Yoko's Restaurant is one of my favourite places. Yoko is still there frequently, and the food is not just Americanized-Japanese. There are also Japanese-Japanese options, which makes me very happy. She also makes these really well-spiced apple harumaki, like apple pie in thin deep-fried shells, served with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. After the semester ended and I walked with straight-A's, my friend decided that we should celebrate with sushi. :P Of course, I had to wear kimono. What better excuse? What nicer location?


Tomoko of ChirimenBunny made me some super-cute kanzashi! Blue on blue flowers with a gold and faux pearl centre. They come with alligator clips so that they'll actually stay in my hair, which is super-fine and way straighter than I will ever be.

It's been raining for weeks. Weeks. And there's more slated for the next two weeks. The parking lot out front floods daily, but usually dries out by evening... just in time for more rain. >D So when my friend invited me out to dinner, I didn't want to wear anything that could be ruined by rainwater. And of course, pulling my outfit together and getting everything on took right up until the last minute (aaaugh, is this obi really a foot shorter than I thought?? no, no, I gained more weight...) I didn't get photos until late that night, around 11pm. It was so dark by that time that it was difficult at best to get photos... ::sighs::

I ended up choosing my old intensely-blue ro iromuji, which is fully synthetic and washable, a synthetic ro juban in pure white, a grey-blue ro obiage, pale pink obijime which picks up the same pink from the clouds in the obiage. The obiage almost matches the grey-blue in the sha obi, which is pale blue with metallic pale gold pampass grass with the same muted pastel purples, pinks, and greens with a mum design on one side of the obi. I tried for a 'fluffier' musubi but ended up not having enough obi to pull it off... now that I've gained 20lbs... thanks, fibromyalgia. I needed that. x.x The asagao fan was a gift from my homestay sister in Sapporo from 2005. I still use it all the time... It matches the iromuji perfectly!

Protip: the secret to that super-sleek, flat-looking obiage is... paper. Take a piece of plain white printer paper. Fold it in half and tear it so that it is 8.5"x5.5". Fold it into 3-4 folds so that it's wide enough for your obiage. Fold it inside the obiage close to the front. Leave room to tie the obiage. Tuck one end into the obi. Fold the other end neatly to hide the knot and tuck into the obi behind the obi-ita. The paper should be close enough to the front knot to keep that sleek look. You might need to fold the corners down in front to prevent a 'boxy' giveaway shape. All done! That's it! That's how you get that formal 'flat' look. <3

May 6, 2018

When I was 13...

When I was 13, I finally had some money gifted to me to pursue my interests. I think around this time I had paid off my first sewing machine. There were extremely few online sellers of kimono, with almost no information about formalities or types. Most sites in English were about how to tie yukata, not layers of kimono. They definitely didn't tell me about everything I needed to wear them. This was before even Youtube existed. Even damaged kimono were extremely expensive... obi were harder to find. Mostly it was cheap Chinese knockoffs, the kind for Halloween costumes and tourists. If I'd had a lot more money then, I could have purchased a very large bundle from Yokodana and sorted them out, but I could never afford it then.


So, of course not knowing better, I bought some fabric (which was still expensive to 13 year old me, working under the table for it) and started drawing what I would have liked to have seen. I had ningyo from Nishi Co. for inspiration and some photos of maiko and geiko circa 1960s (postcards from my paternal grandfather) and 1990s. I can't believe the ink has lasted this long. Also not knowing how to do proper embroidery, I figured if I set some gold thread in first, I could fill it in later when I was better at embroidering large areas. I tackled it like a test at school- do all the easy stuff first, then go back for the hard parts.

Clearly I didn't finish making it into an obi. I didn't have nearly enough. And being 13, even then, I didn't finish most of my craft projects... I was always so, so busy. School, work, homework, chores, making food, cleaning up, sometimes a friend??? babysitting, school, reading... there is never enough time in life.

I found this fabric again, bright daidaiiro red (the camera makes it look a little more pink-toned). I don't know what I should do with it. Clearly, it isn't finished. It isn't even of decent quality. I was just learning about fabrics then, without many resources at all to tell the difference between good and bad. Why do books never come with fabric samples, or at least up-close, detailed photos? But even so, I don't want to throw it out. Besides being something I had worked on, it's perfectly serviceable fabric... hnnn.

May 5, 2018

Kodomo no Hi + Kalesia Tea

It's possibly the last day I can tolerate awase kimono this year. And that is only because I am going to and from an air-conditioned place, in an air conditioned car, on a day where we will finally have some rain.

Today is Cinco de Mayo, but it is also 5-5, Kodomo no Hi (Childrens' Day). Plus, Kalesia Tea is having their Spring Tasting (but... it's almost summer?) which means lots of free tea to drink. How can I pass it up?

To get ready, I finally made myself a hanjuban layer. It was easy, really. I was frustrated that wearing only a tank top would still mean sweat might get on my juban, ruining the silks, so I cut the collar from a plain white cotton t-shirt. I need to sew on a binding piece of fabric to keep the knit from unravelling, but it didn't need to be done right then. T-shirt + susoyoke combo in white under a white hitoe juban, with a yellow nature and court scene patterned kimono in the shade of yellowed parchement paper. The obi is a parchment-patterned white, silver, and pale gold, woven with Heian-era court ladies and flowers to fit with the empty houses of the kimono. The ro obiage carries the muted oranges, greens, and purples within faded pale blue; the obijime is woven with the same blue and silver within rich brown. The zori, naturally, matched the metallics and silvers perfectly.

Even though it's Spring becoming Summer, I wanted to use muted colours as the kimono is still in the warm yellow-tan range that reminisces of heat in an already unbearably warm season. I think pairing the soft colours to emphasize blues and silvers might have helped 'cool' it visually.

My friends met up with me at Kalesia's to enjoy the different teas as well. It was nice to catch up with them. Eventually we decided that the tea was making us all hungry... and being Cinco de Mayo, we wanted to avoid any place that might have or be near a bar. Naturally, being in kimono and having a tea day, we decided to head to a sushi restaurant. It turned out to be very affordable, even on weekends! I can eat endless harumaki, okay? Even in kimono, I wear it so that the himo can be adjusted for a big lunch...

In any event, it was very comfortable to wear. I think it would have been even better if it hadn't been so hot... but I'm lucky that I escaped most of the rain! It suddenly started pouring on my way home, after threatening with grey clouds all day. Next time, I will remember to bring different socks for the drive. I take off my zori while driving because they slide, and I don't like that. But being the floor of an old car, the pedals get my white tabi absolutely filthy. So note to self: different socks to drive. Change them when I get to an event! And bring a tenugui to protect the kimono from the seat of the car!

April 22, 2018

Making Susoyoke + My Big Giant List

I have a Big Giant List of things to make for kimono. And things to make in general, but really, I need to not be so lazy (and so broke... and unemployed... and disabled, causing the unemployment...) and just MAKE things!

In this case, the summer heat has been here for some time. It's overwhelming. 90F+ daily, no rain in sight.

I sold enough recently that I bought myself some things deeply on clearance. Namely, some thin gauze-like organic cotton in uroku pattern, some uroku-patterned thicker cotton (heavier, like quilting cotton), and some polyblend crepe de chine. Fortunately, it doesn't have the cheap-looking shine to it that some polys do. Each was on the clearance rack, half off or more, plus I had a discount coupon valid even for things on clearance. Otherwise, I couldn't have afforded them. I consider myself quite fortunute, though! The only hard choice was between the coral or the green version of the organic gauze. Aaaugh! But I already have enough saturated coral-colour juban, so green it is. I won't have enough to make sleeves, I think, but the susoyoke is what I really need now since almost all of my juban are nearly a foot too short... and I'm only 5'3". oy. I was going to try to buy a premade red susoyoke at least, but... $80 for the cheapest one I could find? And it's synthetic? Absolutely out of the question! Thanks, I don't think I even spent $20 on all of this fabric; I'm not paying $80 for a factory-made susoyoke.

Resting Beauty in Summer
Evening
- Oda Tomiya
::sighs:: Really, when it comes to dressing, I'm bored.

This is the style I want to bring back. Generally, a juban is not seen except for perhaps in tiny flashes at the hem while walking, or when the wind is blowing quite a bit, or in the summer when all clothing is transparent anyways.

Since juban can be seen through hitoe kimono, but for women, they only come in white, pink, coral, and sometimes, a mixture... ugh. Where is the fun? The artistry?! There ARE other colours, but those are almost exclusively antiques, or things made custom for someone. They are far from common. Once, it was considered the height of fashion to layer gauze kimono in such a way that they produced new colours, or fashionably layered patterns. A hundred years ago, they would be patterned, sometimes with cranes, flowers, pine needles, all sorts of beautiful things- even in brass or gold leaf!


 This, of course, goes back to Heian era values: when courtly women wore between 4-15 or more layers, the art was entirely in how to pair colour combinations and sometimes woven patterns. There were entire running commentaries on this in women's pillow books, most famously perhaps in Murasaki and Shonagon's works.

Why did we stop? For what- austerity? Life is too short for this. Save your formal, muted wear for formal, muted times.

I need to check my thread stash and see about cleaning my sewing machine. Then I can take some measurements and see if I have any muslin fabric to complete the susoyoke, and look up how to tailour the corners properly. Mitred corners make the difference between an obvious beginner and an expert tailour, so I might as well train myself right the first time. If I become good at this, I can make them for others as well!

April 18, 2018

International Student's Day

International Student's Day at my local college is a day for the whole student body to get together and have some fun, talk about where they're from, get some food, and hang out between classes. Around 11am that day, some professors decided to cancel class so that students could attend the flag ceremony without penalty. Dozens of students representing over 15 countries carried flags, each announced separately; students introduced themselves in their native language and/or in English. Afterwards, there was an entire section of campus cleared for a food festival featuring American-Italian, Greek, American-Chinese, and ... hnn one food type I didn't get to try, I think. It was out already! :P

It was so. hot. outside. So hot. ::whines:: I have my asanoha hitoe wool juban, the colour that hurts the eyes it's SO saturated coral, with it's synthetic woven collar under a navy blue hitoe kimono. The obi is a pale blue hanhaba obi with hints of metallic pastel pink. I used a black obijime and cat-patterned tabi in the same blues, blacks, and bright yellow. The zori were tatami and wood with black hanao featuring tiny white pinstripes. All in all, the outfit came together well.

I got to meet the women who represented Japan! She's learning English so quickly (it's a hard language...) and had such a cute yukata! I wish I had gotten a photo of her, but by the time I was able to find her, she had changed back into yofuku. Even so, she was happy to not be the only one in kimono. I hope she becomes more comfortable wearing one in America, but right now, I think she wants to fit in more instead of standing out.

Anyways, other than this, today was mostly just long and tedious. So much classwork, so much homework... so much heat...



Note: typically black accessories today are used for mourning. This is not out of line. Bebe (the cat behind BebeTaian) died recently. We were expecting it this year, since she was 22 or 23 years old, but even so... I was lucky to have 21 years with her.

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!

Lining: 
- 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!