Bebe Taian: Cheap-o Komono: How to Make and Fake Some Accessories

December 4, 2010

Cheap-o Komono: How to Make and Fake Some Accessories

Wow! Outfitting in kimono CAN be really inexpensive! But wait! WHAT ABOUT OTHER KITSUKE ITEMS?

Glad you asked! Other kitsuke items are not readily apparent, so some people forget they need them or don't understand just how incredibly useful they are!

Here are the facts: kimono books today will tell you that you need a million koshihimo, datejime, and types of padding for everything to give you that "perfect cylinder" of a modern woman. This is and isn't true. It depends on the look you're going for.

Today's kimono is not "every day wear" to most people any longer. It takes time to learn to tie a kimono on your own. It takes time to tie an obi on your own. It takes time to learn about motifs and seasons and fabrics and what is and isn't appropriate and OMG WAY TOO MUCH for the average Japanese to remember on top of work/school/kids/errands/cleaning, etc. Kimono-wearing today very much reflects that. Rules are somewhat relaxed, for one thing. If you see an awase (lined) kimono in summer, yes, it's likely inappropriate for the season- but that person probably owns nothing else and could not or did not rent for some reason. Kimono for most people today is for Obon holiday, New Years', graduations, and sometimes funerals or weddings. Thus, the kimono-wearing style has changed "shape". Gone are the days when women wore kimono every day, and things were tied more loosely or simply differently because women were working and living in them. Today, women model them for posterity and maybe because dressing up for a day or two a year is fun and exciting. The somewhat uncomfortable cylindrical shape I think is because of how "smooth" it looks. And it takes most people some hot, stuffy padding to get that shape!

A breakdown of some of the most common komono:


People who wear kimono often learn to adjust to their own bodies' needs. Koshihimo are long cotton, synthetic, or silk ties that hold the kimono and juban shut. I need more koshihimo than I think most people use because jubans either tend to be too long for me, or kimono are too short. Ack! I can also tie an obi that will sit better for longer if I use an extra koshihimo in the knot, since my lower back needs work before it straightens out. Obi can also get somewhat rumpled and turned when driving, so this helps keep it in place. Most people have maybe four or five koshihimo as a basic starter set, I think. I make mine from washable cotton and sell them in sets of three for only $15. I have worn the ones I made for six years now and have not needed a new set!


This is the smooth cardboard panel that is tucked into the front of the obi for support and a smooth appearance in the front. They tend to have a pocket on one side, and both sides are covered in very thin silks or synthetic fabrics. If you cannot get one immediately, it should not show when worn at all. Please find a panel of stiff cardboard and bend it smoothly to your needs. A layer or two of 6"x12" cardstock that comes with scrapbooking paper in craft stores has worked for me in the past until I could get my first "real" ita, generously given to me by an okaasan in Sapporo during a festival. I still have the obi and kimono I had bought from those women! Even though I did not speak more than a few words of Japanese, they were so kind and helpful in giving demonstrations. I cannot forget them, even now that years have gone by.
Today, I have two obi ita, one red and one pink, so that I may dress a friend if we go out in kimono together.


This one is more difficult. An obi makura (lit., "obi pillow") gives the obi shape and form when tied. It is virtually impossible to not use one when tying an obi which is not a hanhaba obi. Because kimono at the time were hard to get and accessories were doubly expensive, on my 13 year olds' wages it was impossible to afford these luxuries. I learned a way around it. There are two ways you can do this. One is if you have a very long-sleeved shirt that roughly matches the kimono or obi, or is plain white or black, you can use the sleeves as ties and roll the shirt part in such a way that it forms the pillow before hiding it with an obiage. A small handtowel may be wrapped inside for bulk. The other way to fake this is to not fake it. Make your own makura! It is simple. A makura is nothing but a simple rectangular pillow made of sturdy fabric stuffed tightly with polyfill, with long pieces of narrow fabric on either side to tie it in the front. Make sure to leave an extra 8-10" on either side than your measurements around the underbust. This comes in handy if you have to tie it over an obi knot or if you need extra length to tie the cords in a bow before tucking them into the obi.


I simply went without these until this year, when one of the lovely women at Ichibans' generously gifted one to me- along with a fabulous orange kimono, which I can't wait to wear! Date jime seem to help keep my silks in place after tying them with koshi himo. The modern one I have is a rubberised piece with velcro. Traditional datejime are silk and have hakata weave. This is why I condone using a damaged hanhaba obi as a datejime in a pinch. They also seem to help fill in the curve at the waist, which can make tying kimono properly much easier when it comes time to fold the ohashori! Still, I don't see them as absolutely necessary if you can get by using the koshihimo. If you find you absolutely need some help at the waist, try the shirt trick used for the makura! Fold a shirt so that the torso section creates some padding for you before using the sleeves to tie it on. It will be hidden by the obi later. Fill it in with washcloths, if need be. Personally, heat is a serious issue here, and the more fabric you have packed on at the core, the warmer you will be. I avoid extra layers at all costs in Florida, even in the "winter"!


Under the juban, the layer under the kosode (kimono), you should wear something to protect your juban from any perspiration or scents that may rub off on it. Do this by wearing a layer of clothing underneath. You may see these juban skirts, susoyoke, I believe, for sale. Sometimes they are excellently priced, but sometimes they are expensive. Japanese shipping is very expensive on top of that, so beware sticker shock! The tops to these ensembles are so comfortable and really are perfect, but if you can't afford them, there are things you can do to get around it.

Top: Wear something with sleeves. Short sleeves, preferably, and a low v-neck on both sides if possible. The short sleeves prevent perspiration and moisture from collecting on the juban, which can be difficult to clean, and the v-neck prevents the collar from being seen when the juban and kimono are put on.

Bottom: Those kimono skirts are often a long panel of fabric in a plain rectangle, cut to a persons' measurements. If you don't have stretch pants or PJ pants that can be passable when not seen, but short enough and comfortable enough to wear while tying higher up above the belly button so as to hide the thicker band under the obi, make your own susoyoke.

WITH LITTLE SKILL, YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN! The tutorial is actually kind of long, and I'm making the illustrations for it as best as I can on a coffee-addled brain at 2:30AM. :P I'm on a roll! So check out the tutorial on how to make your own passable susoyoke. You might be surprised as to how easy it is!

1 comment:

  1. I'm researching kimono stuff to try and attempt to make a realistic looking BJD sized kimono or two. So Thank You so much for posting informative gems like this, that contain the not so easily known part of the kimono, at least not to me :)