Bebe Taian: May 2011

May 29, 2011

Is It Worth It?

It can take me some time to bring out buckets of kimono-related items, figure out which are old enough to be vintage, and which are likely too new (with newer kimono, it can be difficult to tell!), pull out something that can be photographed with current lighting, get good pictures, edit those pictures, post it online with accurate descriptions and measurements, open up each piece to double-check it for damages, refold it, and put it away. For all this work, sometimes I have to ask: "Is it worth it?"

Is it worth all this trouble for items that have some damages, which may or may not sell? It is worth it to go through all this trouble for cheaper items, when the time spent doing these things will never be counted in the sale price? Is it worth it to take the time afterwards to blog about each thing, to pick apart history or stories of similar items of the time period, to speculate endlessly of times long gone by?

I think so.

Even when I feel like it's too small of a niche market, like every person interested in kimono is also selling them, reminding myself that I will never get paid for the time put into procurement and listing... every time I leave a show without having sold a single thing... I remember that I don't do it for profit.

I do it because I love wearing kimono, and I love introducing kimono to those who have never seen or worn them before. I love the art of each piece.

I love the feel of silks new and old, I love the smell of incense and smoke and mothballs whenever I get a new package...

I love surprises, like when I bought a "maru obi" which turned out to be far too small, and not a maru obi- it was a tenga obi, an obi for dancing. And more than that, it wasn't in mint condition as I'd thought. It had small stains from years of tiny red flowers being folded into the fabric. On one hand, it spoiled the embroidery. On the other, how did someone manage to pack flowers into their clothes? Was it intentional? Surely not- surely, the owner must have known that it would stain forever... see, this is what I mean.

While I would love to hang on to every piece I buy forever, some don't fit anymore, some don't look right on me, and some will need accessories that I don't yet have- and with few opportunities in such hot weather to wear kimono as often as I'd like, I'd rather keep pieces that I REALLY adore and share the others with those who have no experience with importing these things themselves.

Now, does anyone know what to do with an obijime like this?

I haven't tried to clean it, but it's pretty heavily damaged with age. Small brown spots everywhere. The tassels can be easily restored with some combing and ironing, but the stains. Eek! It's a very stiff piece. Maybe someone could use it for something else- maybe for stiffening a hem, hidden inside other fabric? I'll be listing it on ArtFire, very, very cheaply compared to obijime in better condition. I bought it to go with my Meiji-style wedding ensemble, but when it arrived, the condition was too poor for this. I went with a different pale blue obijime instead. A shame, since the colour really was perfect for the obi! Alas... it's just another thing in the pile of stuff to "destash". Goodbye, obijime.

May 27, 2011

For Sale: Formal Obiage, Vintage Rice Bag, Obijime!

Some things for sale this week! I got my camera working well enough, and was lucky to have a very bright day to photograph things! So I pulled out some of my smaller items and have begun listing. Some things have many more photos available than what ArtFire allows in a single listing, but as usual, everyone is free to message me if they want more photos of anything in store. <3

An obijime I loved- and oh, I did love it so much. It came with an orange obiage. I don't have many obiage that aren't pale pink, so I think I'll keep it, but I don't think I'm quite so enamoured with the obijime anymore. I think it's time for this gorgeous piece to go to a new home. It's in very new condition, despite not being the newest thing on the market. I doubt that it was worn very often by previous owners. Although, if requested, maybe I'll sell the obiage too. I think it did have a damage or two, like a small hole here or there, but nothing that would make it unwearable.

This is the obiage that got listed- white silk, clouds of shippo... it's gorgeous. I bought it for a wedding ensemble, and really, having a white obiage was great for wearing kurotomesode!

That being said, it IS a formal piece. I don't think you could wear something so 'flashy' to a tea ceremony, or with a wool kimono or something like this, but for a furisode or tomesode, or for a wedding, I have seen them worn. At some point, I will buy up some Japanese wedding magazines and scan sections of them to give everyone ideas of their own!

For a less-formal kimono, maybe 'plain' silk, or if you're young enough, you might be able to get away with less-intricate shibori. If you've seen the red shibori obiage listed, it has been made flat to better show the detail of the design. I would wear it with quite a bit, if I didn't already have two or three others like it! :P

The last item is a prize, in my opinion. It is an old rice bag, reconstructed from a used cotton piece for the lining, and maru obi fabric for the outside. I love the drawstring cord and tassels, especially since there wasn't any teal in the actual obi fabric- yet it looked so good with that bag!

Although, I think it would not be ideal as a carry-around tote. The threads may not be strong enough to carry the weight of things. Probably, it really is best to just fill it with rice and store it safely on a clean shelf. Alternatively, perhaps storing something like extra washcloths or something light would not be unreasonable.

All in all, it's been a busy week (although, perhaps not for Bebe Taian). I've been thinking up outfits for items that I don't have a "match" to- a rogue obi, or a kimono that doesn't quite have something appropriate to pair it with. I'm also fascinated with a blogger called 'Okinawa Soba' on Facebook and her fascination with turning traditional kimono-wearing into high-fashion couture. Not by cutting it up, of course! Rather, by simply wearing a kosode with modern accessories, over jeans or a dressy top, tying it shut with a leather "obi" or somesuch. I want to try out this style in person myself sometime- maybe for a museum visit? <3 Maybe I should wait until it isn't so hot out...

May 25, 2011

Coveted Kimono: Speaking of Cats...

Speaking of cats...

I saw this kimono last week, and... I literally have NO money to spend on anything that isn't food right now. We're talking rice and beans. Beans may be optional. I guess this is a good time to go on that diet, eh? ^_~ But oh, I saw this, and... my heart just broke a little.

This kimono may not be the most decorative or fabulous piece, but how often do you see cats on a kimono? I can't think of too many, unless they were made very recently by someone like Mamechiyo. And I don't think I can hope to own one of her outfits!

Technically, what kind of kimono is this? It isn't komon- the pattern isn't "all over". Not houmongi, either, I don't think. Certainly not iromuji with a pattern on it. So what kind is it considered to be? I'll have to look through the categories to find out. In any case, it's strictly informal without mon (crests)... an obi with temari motifs would work so well here...

This one was for sale from Kyoto.Antiques. I will warn ahead of time that the reviews of their service seem to be hit or miss; either it's excellent, or it's a trainwreck. If you are going to purchase, I recommend getting EMS (tracking and insurance) that way you are covered. EMS from them when I purchased previously arrived within a week or less. However, SAL might never reach you, regardless of seller, and with SAL, you can't prove whether or not Kyoto.Antiques shipped the item or not. Regardless, Ebay has a few protections for buyers, so open a dispute within one month of purchasing from overseas and send a polite letter informing the seller as to why; it can always be closed later without incident. Otherwise, you have no recourse, regardless of who you bought from. SAL has taken up to 3 MONTHS for me! But I digress... Service aside, they somehow manage to come up with some interesting items...

::le sigh::

If I could have a kimono commissioned for me, it would have my cats on it. Deep red-purple, with rolling bamboo screens like the Heien era women used (and that are still used today! <3) tied with red cords, cats rambunctiously playing with temari and each others' tails. It would be epically cute!

May 24, 2011

Dante, the Takehisa Cat

This is Dante, the Takehisa Cat.

Dante is your ordinary housecat. She's timid, lazy, and is interested in pink jingly balls, food, and anything that looks like it might be food. Also, she guards the refrigerator by sitting on top of it and sleeping there, reminding everyone who owns the food contained within. She likes cheese, fish, and raw chicken. She has three companions here, and a twin who doesn't live with us. All of the cats have terrible reactions to Meow Mix, despite having few or no allergies whatsoever. She prefers Evos or Wellness, which are both mostly meat. But, there is one thing that separates her from other cats...

She has a thing for kimono. Most cats like piles of clothes, especially anything expensive, but I swear, she wants NOTHING to do with them when I have a new batch piled on the bed- she's only ever interested in the box, which is *obviously* made for scratching and sleeping in. But every time I put one on, she HAS to be all over me! Something about being in kimono makes her desperate for attention. She wants to be held and carried all over the house. But I only carry her while in synthetic kimono- she has the habit of doing "kneady paws", the flexing thing cats do with their claws when they're comfy. All over my shoulder while being carried. Tearing my kimono. The synthetic sha and ro ones are easy to fix if they're not torn- a safety pin or fine needle can push the threads back into place, but... actual holes... ahhh, there's not much I can do then. Silly cat. Isn't she strange?

 But why "Takehisa Cat"?

Takehisa Yumeji, a Taisho-era artist who usually depicted women in kimono, posing with cats- especially black cats. Black cats like my little bear-faced Dante.

It is my ambition to one day get a kimono similar to the one in the painting... I've already scouted various obi that I'm opting for. I love that bright turquoise colour! And yellowy-beige is something that I'm liking on my skin lately. It's funny. I used to despise that colour. But now, it looks like an option that's better and better... and the bright pink underlayers! I could always get a bolt of silk and make my own lining to imitate that look. I'm not sure about the pale coral haneri. I'll see if I can get something similar for the sake of accuracy, though. Then I would just need to hit up a good hairdresser, get a few more hairpins, and take some photos over at Ichibans. (Ichiban is a local Japanese restaurant with good decor.) Really, I can't ever pull of her look too well. I just don't have quite the right face.  I wish I could invite my friend in Japan to dress up! She'd be perfect.

Hnnn I think my ambitions outweigh my monetary ability to perform them. :P

May 22, 2011

For Sale: Custom Koshi Himo!

Custom koshi himo, made by BebeTaian!

I am taking orders for custom-made koshi himo on BebeTaian. I have listed for three sizes, although because they are custom-made, I can always make larger or smaller measurements. Ah, the beauty of handmade accessories! :P

SMALL: 84"/210CM long; waist measurement up to 30"/75CM.

MEDIUM: 114"/285CM long; waist measurement up to 45"/112.5CM.

LARGE: 144"/360CM long; waist measurement up to 60"/150CM.

CUSTOM: Let me know what size you need, and I'll be happy to make something for you! Kimono are difficult enough to find in large sizes. Koshi himo can be impossible! But I can make you whatever you'd like, so let me know how to help!
The beauty of custom himo is not only in knowing that these items were handmade for you, and that they will last a very long time with proper care, but also that you can choose your colours. Do you want to match something to a kimono? Send me a pic and I'll do my best! Have a specific colour in mind? Let me know. I'll work on getting swatches, Hex codes (HTML colour codes for matching), etc. Or I can just send you two matching himo from cottons I already have in stock! Come the hols, I can make you Christmas himo! Easter? How about some bunny himo? I can also special order Japanese-print cotton fabrics, but the price on this can vary.

Really, I think koshi himo are an under-appreciated kimono item. Of course, no one is going to see them, but still- YOU know that they're there! And when standard sizes are just too short (or just annoyingly long), you can always get a pair that were made for you. <3

May 21, 2011

w00t! Made a sale today.

I'm very happy to say that today, an obijime will be finding a new home. I'm extremely excited, since it'll also be my first sale at BebeTaian! <3 I think my first customer should get something a little special, don't you?

May 11, 2011

They're Here Already!

They're here already! <3 Paid for on the 8th, arrived the morning of the 11th. Isn't that freaking AWESOME? The cats are up, jumping around, so I'm going to wait until I clean the floors and they start napping (about midday) to open up everything and really look at it. But so far, I'm not disappointed. The shipping time alone was amazing.

I can tell on the ofurisode, while it's folded, that much of the kinran has either faded off (what's left is thread wrapped in paper with flecks of gold) or has weakened. It will need to be restored. I want to get real kinran for that. Also, I think it may have been hand dyed because of little things that I don't usually see with machine-printed items: slight overlaps in inks, tiny runs in certain colours... things like this. I haven't checked stitching yet, but not so long ago, a woman was not considered to be well-educated if she couldn't sew a kimono. For it's age, I am certain it was hand-stitched. Even so, I will check to be sure. As for repairs and sewing, I am sure that I can learn quickly.

The tomesode is in equally bright colours. Much brighter than what I'm used to seeing for something from the 1930s. Again, it looks to be hand-dyed and sewn. I will have to check them both more thoroughly for damages. Because the advertisements did not really mention any specific stains, only a "3/5 condition" for each, I am not quite sure what to expect.

But again, this is the risk of buying kimono online from overseas with some sellers. You cannot see in person what you are buying before it's in your country. Since these are very old pieces, I hope that they are wearable, and if not, at least displayable and can be fixed. Not everyone understands that silk naturally turns brown or yellow with age, and it doesn't always do so evenly. I expect there to be stains on both pieces. I am just not certain about how extensive the damages are. Today, I will find out.


The tomesode is almost pristine. Aside from some faint white marks on one sleeve, there are no flaws that I can find anywhere. Of course, the pattern at the bottom is starting to yellow, but that happens when something is nearly 100 years old- tell me that you'll look as good as you do now in a century! I expected to pay around $100 for something like this, plus shipping to import something like this. Tomesode are relatively common- since they are so formal, I hardly expect them to be worn frequently. They will probably spend the most time in storage.

The furisode, however, has many, many damages. It cannot be worn. I am hesitant to attempt cleaning it. I may repair the existing threads, but I cannot bother with spending so much money tracking down and buying real kinran to restore it. This is beyond my expertise. But, it is still probably good enough for museum viewing, and the crests are clear. Furisode of similar age and quality on Ichiroya cost around what I paid to double to triple what I paid for this one. I may be able to do some inconspicuous spot-cleaning after I research how to best clean the silks, but it will never be wearable. Still, I am not disappointed. It is possible to fix the existing threads, some of the actual embroidery is still beautiful, and despite the many, many stains, some of them may be able to be cleaned or lessened. For a Taisho furisode, this is about what I expected. I am happy that I got the discount that I did- it allowed me to get a pristine early Showa piece- but I am also not unhappy with what I found. It's par for the course.

The real question is now, with the condition of the furisode, should I bother with buying an obi to match it? Even just for display... with the possibility of reselling it...

May 8, 2011

Another Unexpected Gift!

Another unexpected gift.

The seller miraculously gave me a discount on the ofurisode. A discount great enough to also purchase a Taisho or early Showa-era tomesode, a very stylish one.

I believe it is early Showa because the tomesode does not have the typical mirror-image pattern at the bottom. But, it's a little bit of an unusual thing, I think. It is long for a tomesode of that era. At 64", it's a little long, isn't it? I have a purple ro kimono of the same crest and approximate age which is over a foot shorter.

Interestingly, someone on Immortal Geisha recently found a darari (maiko) obi with the Taira butterfly crest. I have to wonder- is this a common crest, or, like the ivy crest, is there some small variation to this crest used by an okiya that may no longer exist? Is the iro tomesode I already own a common iro tomesode, or was it owned by a member of some okiya for regular wear? Is this new tomesode long because it is really a hikizuri of that time? Some hikizuri of Taisho and early Showa were only an inch or two shorter or longer than this one, with approximately the same wingspan (wrist to wrist length). Or, was it only made for a very tall person, who had no connection to that world?

The furisode is a little odd, too. The ofurisode is most definitely Taisho or early Showa, but it is about 66" long according to the advertisement- long enough for someone who is 5'4" to wear it! Almost a full foot taller than the average woman in Taisho era, and still a few inches taller than the average Japanese woman today! Taller than even most men of that time...

I only hope that the seller does right by me and sends them EMS, and that they arrive here quickly and safely. The seller didn't mention any stains, which makes me a little nervous, and the "rating" was 3/5. However, I hope I can clean stains and make any repairs to make them presentable enough for museum display. It would kill me to be forced to cut them for craft materials. It would really break my heart...

So, what does everyone think?

May 7, 2011

A Spectacular Gift!

Today, I went to see my mother in law. Or, who I like to think of as my real mother that I'd only recently met. :P Like me, she has a great interest in refined things and antiques- arts that should be preserved. I had only mentioned it in passing, I think, because she had asked about BebeTaian and how business is going, but I found a kimono that I fell in love with. A kimono that would be the prize of my collection, and that would be an excellent museum piece once I restored it. However, it was unthinkably expensive to me. Perhaps not a big deal for a museum, which is where I think this piece should be, but not for someone who needs to buy groceries and pay for insurance. Underhandedly, she gave my husband the money for it. Ah! I am being told in no uncertain terms by her to get it and do whatever it takes to get it displayed where it belongs!

If you recall, Fuji Musume was the first ningyo I owned. It was the icon of the style I wanted to have one day. Really, Edo period is my favourite for clothing, but since obviously Edo clothing no longer really exists, Taisho is my favourite for wearing. I love the longer sleeves and the bolder patterns! I especially love woven-patterned kimono, but I also have a taste for yuzen and shibori. But of course, what girl doesn't? The kimono I found is a spectacular yellow kosode with three seasons patterns on it. The boldest are kiri (paulownia) and momiji (maple) but it also appears to have pink strands of fuji (wisteria)! It looks slightly like the kimono sleeve barely shown in under the red shibori kosode. I think if I can find a second kimono like the red one, it would be amazing. But really, only this one is perfect for so many seasons. I already have a black and orange winter obi that would match it perfectly, and could acquire an autumn one as well. But what I really want is an obi, in crimson, black, or something in a kabuki-style.

I think an odori obi would do the best job in a museum, next to this piece. Perhaps acquire a maiougi (a special dancing fan the performers use) and some other accessories for it as well. The kimono needs some repairs, and I will have to pay for new kinran to fix it. The seller did not mention stains, but as it is very old, it likely has many. Maybe the art museum would pay to host the collection for a month or so.

Right now, I am waiting to hear from the seller of the ofurisode. I hope very much that they will make the furisode available to me quickly. I would like to contact the local art director about an exhibit as soon as possible. If I am very, very lucky, I can schedule a summer exhibition for when people are out of school. Probably, however, it will be during the winter, depending on how far ahead an exhibit must be planned. I will have to speak to them about sales through the museum as well, and what that entails. Of course, I would not sell this furisode! Only some of the other pieces in my collection. That way, I could repay the money given to me for this most wonderful art!

Oh, wish me luck!

May 5, 2011

Makeup-related Post

So, I didn't think I would post anything like this, but I was thinking about makeup today. It's a slow day.

Mostly, it's slow because I ate well, slept well, and still woke up too exhausted to get out of bed for long. I went over the week in my head while writing it down for my personal blog, and it occurred to me that in daily life, I tend to come back to makeup and business matters.

See, I love doing makeup when I'm in kimono. I think that with most kimono that I wear, going without seems somehow... unfinished. It's like seeing a maiko without hairpins or something. I feel undone if I'm in silks and no makeup! Yukata is maybe a different story, but even a lipgloss or something would feel more finished to me. Usually, it is an eyeliner, brow powder, foundation (my skin is horribly uneven), and maybe a lipcolour or clear lipgloss. Maybe I'll use an eyeshadow or something, but I have to not overpower the kimono if its' something very high end. I admire the ease that Japanese women seem to have when deciding these things!

But when job-hunting the other day, I went to a few makeup outlets as well. Partially because I am looking for a new foundation, but also partially because I wanted to apply to some places.

Origins was a great store run by friendly staff who knew the products fairly well, and had made sure to ask questions about things like skin type and habits (do I wear anti-aging things made for night during the day. They can damage the skin because of the sun... things like this.) before giving me something to try and go home with. It can take four to six weeks to see real results using any anti-aging or anti-wrinkle product daily, so I may go to another to get a second sample and see how long the sample lasts. If the stuff works, I'm happy to pay for it. But mostly, I was impressed with the customer service.

I also came across a makeup line that I was not familiar with. Normally, I tend to use low-middle end products due to financial constraints, and having to worry about things like gas money and such. I have noticed that the mid-high end stores are very generous with samples, depending on the representative, if you make it clear that you're not going to buy immediately and want to try something new for your skin. I have noticed that people are more helpful sometimes if you explain that you have an allergy or sensitive skin and do patch tests before buying something, the way I have to. The rep for Kiehls gave me plenty of sample packets of various things to try, at least a months' worth of creams and serums, and explanations on how to make them work best, and how to make them last.

I headed to MAC because I have a few of their things already, most things that I've traded with friends for. I liked one of their purple eyeliner pencils especially for smoothness and staying power, and figured it's be a good place to try a foundation. If I could afford it soon, perhaps a new eyeliner. But the most important part for me was to find a foundation that matched my current skin tone, and to test it to see whether or not my skin broke out because of it.

It seemed that the store was bustling... with reps who wanted people to find the stuff they needed and pay. I saw maybe five reps in this small store, two or three customers. One flustered rep eventually asked me if I was looking for something, after around ten minutes of checking products and looking about to catch a rep who didn't seem busy. The rep I met had good colour sense, but poor, hurried technical skills, and didn't know too much about the product. She knew what things were and product names, but not always what was best for various skin types, etc. She also needs to CLEAN HER BRUSHES in between using them on people! Overall, not incredibly impressed. The reps overall seemed disdainful if someone didn't know about their various product lines already, didn't care to answer questions or didn't know the answers, and generally just wanted people to be impressed with the pretty colours and their ultra-professional-looking jobs. I am far from impressed. Very far from it. If I'm going to pay $30 for foundation, I want to know something about it first. And considering my allergies, if I'm going to pay $30 for foundation, I want to try it on first without the hassle. I hope other MAC stores don't operate like this. I'll likely be looking elsewhere.

At the end of the day, I think my new eyeshadows are going to be coming from ShiroCosmetics. She's releasing a HUGE collection of new shades within a week, and I know that her makeup is free of all the ingredients I seem to have problems with.

I have a sample of her EVERYTHING IS BEARS, which is one of my fave colours so far. It has a superfine gold glitter in it, and it's divine when layered with other yellowy-golden shadows or neutrals. I've also used it with some bright teals and purples, which was very fun! Because she operates the shop herself, shipping can take awhile, depending on turnaround time posted. She'll let you know when she ships, and you'll get your stuff quickly. Questions? Ask away. She'll answer as soon as possible. Although the Heart Containers are likely to be discontinued, I still want to get at least one before they're gone. I think Curaga would be an excellent colour to have.

If you are going out in kimono, do you normally use makeup? Do you do it before or after getting dressed? Any particular look you go for? Where do you get your ideas from?

May 3, 2011

New Kimono and Buying Online

Maybe I haven't mentioned it yet, but this week I received my giant box of new inventory (and a few personal collection items) from Japan. I was very worried because they were shipped only a few days before the earthquakes started. Most people in America will remember the 9.0 Tohoku earthquake, but really, there were many earthquakes before and after the 9.0 that week. I was not expecting to see these things at all, and had already put them out of mind. After all, if they had been lost, what could I do? Being upset would do no good. But, thankfully, they did arrive. <3 The seller must have shipped them very quickly! It took about two months for them to reach me, but it's well worth it.

I want to figure out how to set up my own show, an introduction to kimono, and show off some of the art of Taisho era as well. I think I have a vague idea, but I need more to start with. My "personal collection" is now a mix of museum-quality items that I will not likely personally wear, but want to display, and my own wearing-kimono. My wearing-kimono have to be fairly thought-out, since I'm quite a bit taller than I used to be, and have fairly long arms. Neither is a good thing when purchasing vintage (or even new) kimono! Oy.

I try to buy things that are relatively high-quality. By "high-quality", I generally mean "things in good-excellent condition"; no prominent stains, no tears, embroidery that I can't replace or repair, etc. If seams are torn, like a sleeve coming off, this is no problem for me to fix. Kimono are meant to be taken apart for cleaning, so this is expected. But, tears in the fabric are especially unrepairable. Prominent stains in places that are not hidden, such as the lining or where the obi will be, those are difficult to hide or fix, if they can be fixed at all. Often, by the time I get a stained item, I have no idea what made the stain or how long it's been set, or if the fabric will be damaged or will run if I try to remove the stain. It is a gamble every time.

Of course, buying online is a gamble in itself. I think I have mentioned this before, but when buying from overseas, there is a language barrier. It is difficult for someone without native knowledge of English to always describe something in details that we would get a clear image from, and anyways, in Japan, a used kimono is not something worth much notice. Maybe buying a secondhand one for kitsuke practice or for fabric is pretty normal, but I don't think buying anything secondhand has been very popular unless there is no other way to get it. So, maybe a person does not think to mention all stains sometimes, assuming that it will be used for display or crafting of some sort. Or, more likely, the person is unable to describe something because of limitations of language. Either way, there are certain risks and benefits to buying from Japanese sellers. I've received things that are much better than descriptions made them sound, and items that had many more flaws than photos could show. I've learned to expect anything when I make a purchase.

Up front, it is probably seems more expensive to buy from an American seller. But I think that when you see the price of Japanese shipping, find out how long a box can take to get to you (two months sometimes, even with EMS!), and find out that what you get might not be quite what you expected, some people find it easier to buy from someone who is already in the country. Items from Japan can sometimes be deceptively cheap up front, but when you find out how much the shipping is, you may find yourself paying over $100 for uninsured shipping for a few $5 items! O.o With domestic shipping, these things do not happen. What you pay for shipping is relatively uncomplicated with Priority Mail, which reaches anywhere in the US in three business days. Flat-rate boxes run between $15-20 for larger items, and some things can be safely condensed into the $6 flat-rate items.

For this reason, I think it is well worth it to go to someone domestic, and leave the hard work of scouting, checking items, and dealing with international sellers to someone who has the time to do these things. Buying a kimono should be a much simpler, more enjoyable experience, without guesswork or difficulty, don't you think?

I am happy to have such easy people to work with when buying from Japan- really, they've helped me a lot! My only concern for myself every time is whether or not that box will make it past customs or arrive undamaged. For someone who loves kimono as much as I do, it's... a little terrifying. But the thrill of unfolding new silks is the same every time! I want someone to have that joy without the uneasiness preceding it. I can't wait to share some of the new things with everyone.

May 1, 2011

Satsuki: Fuji to Ayame

May: Wisteria and Iris

This month, maiko will change their hairpins to wisteria and irises. 'Hanashoubu' is 'iris', although sometimes an iris will be called 'ayame'. This is because it is a reference to two different types of irises, although they are similar-looking. Ayame begin to grow in May, on dry land, and are purple (or rarely, white). Hanashoubu are cultivated in water gardens, and can be purple, white, or red-purple. Those, however, begin to grow in June. There is a third kind which grows in May, a dry/wet cultivation of iris that appears as blue, purple, or white, called 'kakitsubata', but I think the kind in maiko hairpins is the ayame variety. 

The days are getting hotter. Soon, it'll be time for hitoe kimono. Some places say that May is strictly awase weather- lined kimono and obi, but accessories may start to transition to ro or sha hitoe fabrics. However, this is probably a guideline, as different sources post different charts to help with this decision. As for myself, it is already too hot to wear awase kimono (and has been since January)! I will probably opt for a thicker hitoe item, like wool or hemp, being cooler than silk, with sha hitoe accessories. I think it is a little too early for ro.
This is a sentiment echoed in the karyukai of days gone by.

Today, the iris kimono you see is in purples and whites, with soft hints of blues and red-purples, and is awase- likely intended for May, or maybe late April, in anticipation of the upcoming season. It is a modern piece, likely late Showa, by the shortness of the sleeves and colour of the lining. It is clearly sewn with modern rules and tastes in mind.

The second kimono, however, is actually a hitoe hikizuri (geisha's kimono). In particular, this hikizuri depicts a scene from the famous 'Fuji Musume', which was made popular again in the early-mid 1930s. Ichiroya has it for sale, and states that it is dated from Taisho (1912-1926) to early Showa (1926-1989). I agree that it is likely from early Showa-era. It would have been the perfect thing for a woman to wear, celebrating the resurgence of a once-unpopular small dance segment, emerging as a popular play all on it's own.

In a way, I think it reflected the geikos' life of the time. Young girls were often bought from very poor families and trained to be geisha. They would go from something unpopular, with little or no standing in society, soon to be forgotten about, to becoming talented, beautiful, and maybe even famous... just like 'Fuji Musume'. I'd imagine that this was the perfect kimono for some wealthy geiko.

If you are like me (and many other folks who desire this coveted kimono), but can't afford a piece like this, or perhaps you just can't find many reasons to own many kimono, you can dress in a way to reflect Japanese seasons regardless. Choose clothing according to colours in season, perhaps even choosing something with the motif in mind- an iris hairpin, or a beaded wisteria bracelet. Really, any flower in season would be appropriate. And naturally, choose lighter fabrics instead of heavier weaves, in accordance with temperature outside. White, purple, blue-purple, pale green, and brown would all be good choices.

What will you wear this month?