Bebe Taian: August 2012

August 29, 2012

Coveted Kimono: KERA, Juliette et Justine

Modern style, traditional garments.

I'm in love with the greys and blues of the second kimono, especially with the use of artwork in such an imaginative way. This goes up there with my lust for a blue Yoshi kimono (ala Super Mario Bros.), with a brick obi.

I have so much lace in my drawers, and I've been wanting to make haneri for awhile. Maybe it's time to clean up the sewing machine!

It occurs to me that although my Western wardrobe is mostly black, I don't own much that is wearable in wafuku in dark, muted colours. My kimono tend to be the opposite of my daily clothes: bright, bold, and usually purchased because I was inspired by something I saw in ukiyo-e prints. I think it's time for me to get a few things for 'daily wear' in greys, denims, and sky blues. And oh, how I love the okobo with that outfit! I probably would have painted my toenails blue though, OPI No Room for the Blues, with silver glittery tips or something. Probably not my nails though- I do way too much with my hands, and fake nails always break or painfully tear off. Waitressing is hard on the hands! I'll stick with the lacy gloves!

August 27, 2012

Making Kimono Smell Better

If you aren't in Japan (and even if you are) and you buy a secondhand kimono, chances are, it was stored with mothballs at some point. And since many Japanese folks smoke, it might have a musty smell, too. Ugh! How irritating! And how difficult that is when older kimono can be so fragile, and can't be cleaned or even dry-cleaned without risk of damage.

So, what to do?

As for myself, I burn benzoin resin close by (but sufficiently away from the kimono- no getting smoke damage or residue on them!) to help rid the smell. Airing them out frequently helps a lot, and some of the more resilient fabrics like wool or hemp can be Febreze-d or washed. Another thing I do when bringing them out of storage or unpacking them upon arrival is burn incense in the room with the kimono hanging on the wall.

This week, I'm holding a sale at my Ebay page, as it's my first year as a seller of pagan supplies, incenses, etc. on there. If you want a deal on cone incense (much less messy than stick incense), check it out! I also have brass incense burners for $2.50, which I can add to any invoice upon request.

The listings will expire in one week, and Buy It Now options are available for those who don't want to wait around for a bidding war.

6 Boxes of Cone Incense - You Choose Scents
6 Boxes of Cone Incense + Incense Burner
10 Boxes of Cone Incense - You Choose Scents

- Dragon's Blood
- Patchouli
- Sandalwood
- Myrrh
- Night Queen
- Lotus
- Cinnamon
- Vanilla
- Nag Champa
- Cannabis
- Sage
- Frankincense
- Opium
- Millefleurs

August 26, 2012

Sri Threads: A Cool Textile Blog

Sri Threads is a blog I found about a year ago, although admittedly, I don't check it as often as I used to. Where my interests mainly lie in silks and styles of wearing, Sri's interest is clearly in what most people wore- cottons, hemps, and... paper.


Oh yes.

If you are at all interested in what the common people wore in Japan, especially 100 years ago or even further back, I highly suggest you take a look at this blog. Not only Japanese antiques are featured; occasionally, I see Indian or Islamic clothing or textile works, but mainly you will find Japanese textiles.

Of my favourite posts is about long mesh mosquito nets. I suppose this isn't the sort of thing people romanticize, but it isn't merely about function. I think of court ladies, shrouded and mysterious, by these nets, hidden and revealed simultaneously. I think of intensive labour of the weaving processes used to make such intricate, gauzy panels, the harvesting of plants to make the dyes (and the harsh humidity and heat that someone endured to do so), and the thought put into the colours that would be created for just the right atmosphere. After all, something so predominant in a room must be visually pleasing to ensure a certain amount of enjoyment. Surely, even a mosquito net is worth such attention.

The most recent entry is about a rare paper garment called a 'kappa', not to be confused with the water monster 'kappa'. This 'kappa' comes from 'capa', a Portuguese word for 'cape', which is exactly what it is! It seems to have been treated (and therefore preserved) by the same methods that were used to make and preserve katagami, stencils for dyeing kimono!

I suggest you give it a read. If you are at all interested in fashion, textiles, or just want a glimpse into what the daily life of an ordinary person in Japan might have meant in the 1800s, spend some time leafing through her blog.

August 24, 2012

A Night in Tokyo 3

Three years ago, I went with Ana's Ikimaru to an event at USF called "A Night in Tokyo". It was a fashion show and talent show, where Aikido groups and drummers performed. I missed the second one (I think I was working), sadly, but I was invited to come to this years' event again! <3

By invited, I mean that this year, I'm helping to run the fashion show portion of the program.

There is a fashion designer, Amandia Reese Craig, also working on the same project, so I don't feel alone or particularly nervous. This being my first fashion show, I'm slightly panicking... like I always do... and then I grit my teeth, get on with it, and somehow stuff usually turns out okay. Plus, there will be a makeup artist team, so that makes things easier!

I'm mainly worried about a few things: importing tabi and shoes to match outfits, and finding clothes that will fit the models, as most of mine are Japanese-sized, and American women are built bigger. We tend to be taller, broader in shoulder and hips, and that makes it difficult without startup money to provide something in the way of 25 outfits.

Akiya, Guitarist - Kaggra
What I *think* will happen is that I will have five outfits or so to be worn traditionally, whereas the rest will be wearing various wafuku items in a modern fashion, like kimonoHIME or angura-kei style.

As someone who sought out visual kei bands, Kaggra was a favourite for their fashion as well as their music. Where many bands began to imitate Dir en grey, Malice Mizer, and generally became fashion-parodies of themselves, Kaggra remained pretty much themselves, favouring a mix of kimono and modern clothing that represented their style of music. While I think the fashion show in this case would have a less disheveled look to it (mostly to keep the kimono clean and off the ground), the bright colours, patterns, and less-restricted methods of wearing clothing is encouraging and inspiring to me. If only I had a few bangasa laying about!

Or a kanzashi set ala "The Cat Who Walked Through Walls". I want one of those too, for the sheer geek factor and future-coolness.

Let it be known: Wa-fashion is ALWAYS "in". The rest of the world just forgets that sometimes.

August 20, 2012

Mannered Mondays: Katagi

This post is typed verbatim from Keys to the Japanese Heart + Soul, an excerpt from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia.


(character, turn of mind, spirit). An important concept in Japanese popular psychology. The word originally meant a wooden board with carved designs used to print designs on paper and cloth. It later came to mean customs and habits and, eventually, the spirit, traits, or mind-set common to members of an occupational, age, or status group. Stories describing the katagi of members of various social categories (such as mistress, merchant, student, and farmer) constituted a genre (katagi-mono) of popular literature in the Edo period. Katagi among artisans (shokunin katagi), for example, was characterized by a fastidious devotion to work and pride in their product, to the point of ignoring profit. It also implied the artisan's lack of social tact, his indifference to complicated interpersonal relations, and his honesty and naivete.

Previously: Gambare!
Next: ?

August 17, 2012

Project Unmei: Better Health for Destiny

Let's talk about a serious issue we have in America, and how it affects real people. Notably, my sister.

Most of my readers seem to be American, so we know all about the problems with our healthcare system. Namely, that even if you can afford health insurance (and about 60 million of us can't), the insurance company can deny claims at any time- leaving you footing a bill that should have been covered. Appeals are time-consuming, costly, and all but impossible to get. So it's no surprise to us that getting, retaining, and using insurance for a person with multiple chronic and potentially fatal illnesses is a trial in itself. Then, if that is accomplished, you still have to deal with co-pays. Co-pays are charges you incur when using your insurance when they don't cover the entirety of the costs of something, say medication, or a doctor's visit fee. They rack up quickly. Then come costs for transportation, car repairs as a result of so much driving to and from almost daily doctors' appointments, expenses while my sister is hospitalised (sometimes for weeks on end)... and of course, being a single mother and having to do all this stuff, my mom can't keep jobs either because she has to take off work so often. So there's the 'normal' living expenses like food and shelter, too.

Social Security is supposed to help the disabled pay for a portion of their living expenses. We get $100. Not even enough for a month's worth of groceries for the girl. $100 divided by 31 days is $3.22 a day, or $1.07 per meal. Good luck getting healthy food with $1. That doesn't cover her vitamins, medications (she's on about seven or so a day), or things like the air purifier she needs to combat her asthma and allergies in her own home. Basically, $100 is a slap in the face, a reminder of how impossible it is to just get basic necessities.

I tend to work a lot to keep a roof over my own head- I have a job at a restaurant, I sell religious supplies, and for the Winter/Spring part of the year, I sell off the kimono I've imported. I've even sold some of my private collection this year to make ends meet. I haven't been able to import much of anything this year due to finances; I can't afford to look long-term at gains anymore. A luxury only the wealthy can afford. This means I don't see Destiny as much as I'd like to, and also, that I can't afford to help out the way I used to. I wrote about taking off time from work to see her when she was hospitalized for a month back in March. My mom can't keep up on expenses on her own, and I'm not in a position to help her directly anymore.

So what I need from you is to tell people about my new project, Project Unmei. Project Unmei is ongoing; right now, you can visit my IndieGoGo campaign to raise $5,000 this month for various expenses related to her constant doctor's visits, medications, and getting her the air purifier she needs. She also has a therapy animal, a guinea pig named 'Mama', that she cares for. It's a source of stress relief, and doesn't live in her bedroom, so she isn't likely to have problems with keeping her until she gets her heart transplant. But all of that stuff costs thousands of dollars a month- and that doesn't cover basic living expenses! Since the IndieGoGo fundraiser only lasts 45 days, I have a section on the BebeTaian website where I'll post sale items to benefit her whenever I can.

You can FB about it, Twitter about it, forward the link to your friends through e-mail- however you like. If it's possible to donate even $1, please do! Even a few bucks can pay off a little gas money for her next appointment, or cover a cheaper co-pay on her medicines.

Ookini arigatou-san dosu!

August 15, 2012

Revisiting Old Loves: Dir en grey

Way back in the day, when I was younger, most people were on the Britney Spears/NSync love affair train. I... was a "special" kid. ::laughs:: Properly, I guess that should be spelled 'speshul'. I was into 80s hair bands, New Wave (still am), and J-rock. It was an accidental thing, the J-rock. Here's how it went:

I was on the internet, finally having access after moving to a place with more than one school in the city, and looking for anime stuff after someone had introduced me to Rurouni Kenshin/Samurai X. I was also very big into learning to code my own websites, and I'd taught myself some basic HTML. I was looking to bring the two together by building a site on something I really liked, getting in coding practice and exploring new stuff (kind of like why I blog here on culture). One of the characters in Rurouni Kenshin is a woman named Kaoru. Searching for images of her, I ran across another person named Kaoru- Kaoru of Dir en grey.

Napster was still alive and well, so I downloaded a few of their songs... but being a Japanese band, it wasn't exactly a set of files that was easy to get. And being distracted by my original goal, I promptly forgot about them, and when searching through my music, I tended to skip over stuff I hadn't heard of before...

Fast-forward weeks later. 

'Cage' was the first song I'd listened to. It was so different from anything I'd heard before, but the rock element was there, so I gave it a go. I didn't like Kyo's voice at first. Sometimes, I'm still not sure whether or not I like his style as a vocalist. But it was one of those songs that grew on me. 'Yurameki' might have been the next one. I don't remember now. All of this was over a decade ago.

At the time, there were all of three English websites mentioning Dir en grey. One of which was in-depth (for the time). Everything else was in Japanese. I was still on my coding kick. It only made sense to mine as much of the scattered information there was about them to create one site where you could get pages and pages of photos, information on each band member, what instruments they preferred, etc. For awhile, I had a Geocities site, but I ran out of hosting space, and found myself creating multiple usernames for the images alone. Ugh. My uncle is a hoopty frood though (Hitchhiker's lingo for a 'cool guy'), and hosted a domain for me for a couple of years. Of course, real life intervened eventually, and I moved on to other things.

But I won't forget this: to everyone who says that downloading music illegally hurts artists, without Napster, I would have never bothered with Dir en grey. And you know what? Before any of their stuff was available in the US, I spent $80 on their album, "Gauze". And after that, I bought the 'Yurameki' single, "Complete Singles II" (there was never a "Complete Singles I", but whatever.) and the "MACABRE" album. And then I moved on from them to half a dozen other artists, which I also begged to have imported for every Christmas for a couple of years. For a kid who had little access to stuff like money for books, or for better-quality food, or for medical stuff, my mom spent a hell of a lot on foreign music that I COULD have downloaded for free to make me happy. Dir en grey, and their recording people, made a hell of a lot of money off of me, thanks to an illegal file-sharing program.

I'm no longer a real fan of Diru. I loved the older stuff, but I don't care for the current style as much. I think I dropped off around the time "Vulgar" came out. I'm really glad that they've survived and evolved as a band, and from what I've heard about the band mates themselves, they're all pretty cool people. I think I'd really like Kaoru and Shinya if we ever met. Even so, I listen to their older work from time to time, and remember the thrall of discovering a new world of music.

"Gauze"-era Dir en grey: Kyo, Toshiya, Kaoru, Shinya, Die
I blame them for my gothy style, my love for bright blue hair, and my need to really pick apart music. Before, I was a passive listener. Now, I look for a myriad of traits in songs, styles of playing, musical cohesion (do they sound like they're all playing in the same room? Some bands don't.), and technical aspects of recording. I also look at the musician's lives sometimes. I want to understand why they wrote a song the way they did. I have less respect for 'artists' who sing, but can't play music, don't compose, don't write, and... well, some of those people can't sing very well, either. Having to really think about a form of music so new to me has opened me up to analyze the work of others as well. It's given me a new appreciation for quality and artistry. So, really, I can't thank them enough... and for that, I'll always be a fan. ^_^

A few of my favourite songs: Hotarubi, Akuro no Oka (and the KNY mix), JEALOUS, Cage, and Zakuro.

August 9, 2012

Coveted Kimono: Taisho Rabbits

Taisho Usagi kimono, from Ichiroya
One of my favourite motifs, usagi (rabbits), is a fairly difficult one to come by on adult kimono. Why is that? I dream of a particular rabbit houmongi, made of ro silk, in twilight blues and dusky purples and pinks, with fields of summer grasses and usagi. <3

But this kimono is so, so beautiful. It has so many of my favourite colours. I think it's Taisho-early Showa, judging by sleeve length and style. Meisen weave was very popular at that time! This kimono was unlined, obviously intended for early summer. 

Most Taisho kimono feature stripes, a favourite holdover from the Meiji period, or brilliant flowery patterns now made easier to produce because of the introduction of synthetic dyes and factory weaving. To find something so bright and bold with such an unusual pattern is wonderful. It must have been a very spirited woman who wore this kimono! And probably, very fashionable.

But... it cost about what I make in a month on Ichiroya, and it sold as soon as it was listed. So this one will not be mine. However, I have another project to spend money on right now. I'll be announcing THAT project on here soon!

August 6, 2012

Mannered Monday: Gambare!

This post is typed verbatim from Keys to the Japanese Heart + Soul, an excerpt from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia.


(To persist, to hang on, to do one's best). An important word in Japanese interpersonal relationships. Probably derived from ga o haru (to be self-willed), the word originally had the negative connotation of asserting oneself against group decisions and norms. Since the 1930's, however, gambaru has become a positive word, commonly used to exhort enthusiasm and hard work, usually toward a group objective. For example, when a village youth leaves for a new job in the city, he promises his friends, parents, and teachers that he will gambaru. The implication is that he will try not to disappoint them. The word is also used among members of a group to encourage each other in cooperative activities, often in the imperative form gambare

(BebeTaian's note: 'gambare' is also the term 'Ganbatte!' that you will hear frequently. It's kind of like "good luck!" here in America.)

Previously: Ojigi, A Followup
Next: Katagi

August 3, 2012

Kinyoubi Kimono 8

Previously, "Kimono confessions. Did you know that…"

8. Your dream kitsuke items (or at least items you really, really want but can't get for whatever reason).

I run a category called 'Coveted Kimono' to explore this very question. There have been so, so many things that I could never afford, or things that were once beautiful, but have been absolutely ruined by poor treatment or accidents that they would be unwearable, unsalvageable for anything but perhaps tiny scraps to work into quilts... and by that point, the weight of the larger picture would be lost.

Amongst them? 

A white juban with a realistic black snake moving across the grass painted on the hemline... heaping piles of furisode and wedding kimono I'll never wear... several hikizuri, including one depicting two heavenly foxes in battle... a gorgeous blue Taisho komon with rabbit in the moon patterns done in brilliant whites, reds, and golds... the thistle kimono that ended up being bought by Asai-san (she certainly has good taste!). There are so, so many. 

Can't hug every cat, can't have every kimono.

But as some small consolation, I can save a few photos of the ones I've loved, and appreciate the ones I've been able to have all the more for it. I am grateful for the prizes I've been able to wear, to care for, to treasure and display for others. 

Next: Your biggest kimono fears.