Bebe Taian: November 2013

November 27, 2013

Racists and Misogynists for Katy Perry: A Study in 25 Screencaps

Katy Perry + Backup Dancers at the AMAs 2013
I'm sure nearly every American knows by now that last week was the American Music Awards, where Katy Perry made a huge spectacle of a show. Huge spectacles are the point of the awards shows- no one debates this! But if you read this conversation you'll find that there are hundreds of costumes and sets she could have chosen besides a racist caricature of geisha and Japanese women on the whole.

If you find yourself spouting racist-apologist excuses, simply stop. All Katy Perry had to do was use Google and read all of one wiki page for ten minutes or less to know better. To assume that she does not have any control over what is done with her image is disingenuous and insulting to her. She has intelligence. She has agency. She is not stupid, weak-minded, or powerless. She chose to use her power, prestige, and agency to perform an Orientalist and sexist show. And now, all she has to do is apologize and educate herself on why this show concept was a bad idea, and then not promote those same attitudes and images in the future. It's really, really easy to do and takes maybe two hours of research on the internet.

So pay close attention. This is a sample of real people's attitudes; the very same people who say they just "appreciate Japanese culture!" and "they love women" and that they're "not sexist or racist". These are people you might call your friends. These are people who might be like you. You can change. You can change yourself, and you sometimes change others. You don't get a cookie or a parade or anything for it, and frankly, don't expect one. The end result is worth more than one's own ego.

As I said in the convo, you can also still like problematic things. I still like Scott Adams, Lexx, and lots of other shows, bands, authors, and people in general. Just admit that sometimes the show/art/person is problematic, and don't give them a pass for that behaviour. And do the same for yourself. And remember: this is how hard it is for women with white privilege to call anyone out on their behaviour. You think it isn’t harder for those who don’t? Jezus Christ...

Convo under cut, since it's image-heavy and triggering. TW: misogyny, racism, sexism, festishisation

November 14, 2013

Coveted Kimono: Greys and Blues

I've been in love with greys, browns, and blues for quite awhile now this year. I'm in love with late-Edo/Meiji mid-low class palettes, with modern cuts and fabrics. Or not-so-modern in material, but in manufacturing. I like small-patterned fabrics but natural cloth, such as hemp, cotton, or linen. Wool is fine, but it's itchy. x.x

I really don't like most synthetic fabrics. They're hot and don't breathe, or stiff, or itchy, or rough, and they're really environmentally bad to manufacture. It's much better at all stages to manufacture natural fabrics! While the plants grow, they filter our air. When we take what we need from the plants and leave the rest, it recycles back into the earth, enriching the soil and preparing for a new crop. There is no chemical waste due to making the synthetic materials before weaving, although there may be some from synthetic dyes; if you can avoid those too, you may find a rainbow of gorgeous, colour-safe hues that are just as beautiful. Plus, natural fabrics will eventually break down. Synthetics take forever.

Silk komon kimono from Ichiroya
I won't lie: I do have synthetic clothing, and surely most things are dyed synthetically, but if I'm buying a new item I'd rather get something more natural. Most of my clothes come from thrift store outlets for a few dollars a pound. I think it's a worse thing to throw those things away than to avoid them for fabric content. I'd rather not buy anything clothing-related if I can avoid it... but kimono are my weakness.

I think recreating the subtlety and maturity of this doll's outfit lies in picking a patterned kimono which is a muted colour from far away and up-close. Small amounts of deep burgundy, grey, purple, or other dark colours would work, but not bright blotches of colour.

Closeup of the komon pattern
Then, in order to match it to an obi and accessories, follow the usual rules: keep warm tones to warm tones, such as a warm grey kimono with a dull kiniro or mustard-coloured obi, and pair cool tones with like cool colours, such as the sky-blue obi or a deep cool burgundy. Even a darker grey or grey-green might work in some cases, depending on the up-close pattern of the kimono.

I think this particular kimono might go either way. True neutrals do exist! If a kimono in natural light looks great with both warm and cool colours, you have probably found a true neutral. These are the easiest shades to deal with for that reason. If you only have enough money for one kimono, attempt to get something as versatile as possible.

Asa obi from Ichiroya
In this case, even though it's a hemp summer obi, I'd probably wear this one often. It isn't transparent, and we have dragonflies here all year around, so maybe in Florida it wouldn't be considered season-specific. If I were in Japan coordinating such a thing, my choice might be different. The flowing line created by the dragonflies contrasts with the geometric pattern of the kimono up close, which adds an air of relaxation. The shades of blue-grey in the dragonflies' wings echo back to the kimono colour as well, without being too obvious of a match. White or very pale accessories should be worn with this kimono.

I adore hemp because it's like soft denim. It breathes, it's durable, it isn't uncomfortable on the skin... hemp is pretty much the perfect fabric, similar to thickly-woven cotton when it's processed the right way. The soft, 'fluttering' motif of dragonflies evokes an image of a cool breeze near water, and the tranquil blue colour can make a hot day feel nice again. This ability to transcend the world around you with only these images is the essence of kimono, isn't it?

November 12, 2013

The Talisman, by Masao Yamakawa

After typing up a transcript of The Girls, I wanted to follow up by posting a short story by a Japanese author featured in the same magazine. It was printed in English, so no word on how accurate the translation is. I intend to work on posting the rest of the articles from this magazine to preserve them. It seems like ancient history, but many people who lived through this time are still alive- and some work in politics! So the viewpoints of this 'dated' material are still very important today.

The Talisman
A Short Story by Masao Yamakawa
TIME/LIFE Magazine - September 11, 1964 (Showa)
Special Issue: Japan

Another kind of revolt against explosive modernization - paralleling the revolt of youth (preceding pages) - is described in fiction by one of Japan's finest young writers.

I don't suppose you need any dynamite?"

This was the question my friend Sekiguchi asked me. I had not seen him in four or five years. We had run into each other on the Ginza, and were drinking in an upstairs room of a small restaurant.

I had been with Sekiguchi through high school. He was now working for a construction company. It was not strange that he should have access to dynamite; but the question, however peculiar an old friend he might be, was a little sudden.

"I don't know what I'd use it for."

"I have it right here if you want it."

It would be a joke, of course. I smiled and poured a new drink for him. "It would blow up right in my hands. And what is the point of carrying dynamite around with you?"

This was the story Sekuguchi told me.

November 10, 2013

Maiko in Time/Life Magazine, Sept. 11 1964

National Treasures, Demure and Chic - The Girls
by Tom Prideaux
TIME/LIFE Magazine - September 11, 1964 (Showa)
Special Issue: Japan

LIFE's Entertainment Editor has for background in this report 20 years of girl watching as a respected Broadway critic.

Whether, as the old song says, she is poor butterfly 'neath the blossoms waiting for her lover, or happy butterfly waiting to welcome you onto your hotel elevator, the Japanese woman is a national treasure. At her best, she is a living art form and a living doll, and much too good to be true. But she is true, at least wherever I saw her.

I am talking here about the kind of Japanese women you see readily in any city, the ones who are sprinkled through business and pleasure to make life easier and livelier and prettier. Japan put armies of young women to work in factories and offices, but it also employs thousands more like lilies of the field, neither to toil nor spin, but mainly to gladden the heart and beautify the scene.

November 9, 2013

Finer Points of Taisho Style

I admit, my method of kitsuke tends to look odd when dressing 'normally', but I contend that this cylindrical look for kimono is very modern. 100 years ago, women wore kimono everywhere, every day. A 'flat' look was still desirable, and much easier to achieve!

Finer points of 1900s-1930s-era kitsuke acquired from old photos:

- Wider collars

Collars in younger women showed more in the front, wider and with more variety in colour and patterns of collars, instead of the standard white that women seem to favour for 'proper' kitsuke these days. Darker collars didn't have to be washed immediately because they didn't look dingy and dirty after a single wear the way white collars do.

- Diagonal obijime

This seems especially popular for younger women in informal clothing. Similar postcards from the same era show the straight-across obijime in formal situations such as weddings or when kurotomesode are worn. This shows that the notion of obijime being worn only specific ways to be 'proper', even in casual situations, is relatively modern.

Uploaded by Monkeymud on Flickr
- Style of tying obi is different

Today's style is to tie obi 'straight across' again, one smooth perfect cylinder of fabric wrapped across the abdomen and tied tightly in back. However, chuya obi and fukuro obi of the day were often tied in a criss-cross pattern, similar to how Kyoto maiko tie theirs, with different musubi in the back. Otaiko knots ranged from perfectly shaped to relatively floppy and loose.

- Style of obi itself is different

Today's fukuro are middle- or high-formality, and as such, usually involve a lot of heavy embroidery and metallic threads to denote them as such. Compare this to today's relatively dull and simple-patterned Nagoya obi, which is standard for most casual outfits and even for some formal outfits, provided that the Nagoya is gold and more high-class in fabric. In fact, Nagoya obi didn't exist until the 1940s, so this lower class of formality did not exist in Taisho and late Meiji era!

Instead, there were high-class fukuro involving heavy embroidery (the next step up being maru obi common at the time) and 'low'-class fukuro, with all manners of dyeing and light or no embroidery. The more casual and versatile of these is the chuya obi (day/night obi) which had two sides in two different patterns.

From Old Photos of Japan
- Lots of stripes!

Stripes were ever-popular, seasonless, and easy to produce. It's a fashionable and basic carryover from feudal times, when most classes were only allowed to wear stripes in certain patterns and colours. The Meiji era carried this on presumably because many women knew these patterns and could pass them down, in an era before machine-weaving had reached Japan. By Taisho period, there was an explosion of stripes in all sorts of new colours and patterns, thanks to the advent of machine-weaving, synthetic dyes, and the newly-introduced silk/synthetic blends of fabric! Striped kimono from that era are quite easy to get. If you want to experiment with kitsuke from the past, and get the style right, I recommend bold stripes with a soft floral obi and low obijime!

November 6, 2013

Coveted Kimono: Vintage Ofurisode

I think it's the glamour of what Halloween is supposed to be still clinging to me, but I've found myself looking at ofurisode. I liked ofurisode when I was 14, 15 years old (an appropriate age to be wearing them!) but I'm far too old for that now! And being married, ofurisode are wholly inappropriate for me to wear. The sleeves are cumbersome, to say the least. These were not kimono women worked in. These were clearly meant for ceremonial or special occasions!  And... I don't do a lot of those.

This gorgeous vintage bride's ofurisode features snowflake and butterfly patterns, with cascades of flowers in decadent late-Autumn, mid-Winter clothing. This specific colour palette is one of my favourites!

The bright metallic threads sparkling like snow, light embroidery at the bottom of the skirt, warm mustard yellows and bright red flowers livening up the icy blues and frozen earth brown... it's a perfect thing to wear or display in the home. Truly a work of art!

Sadly, it's already sold, but I have no use for a furisode at this point anyways. I'm glad it's found a good home. Hopefully that person adores it as much as I do!

This shibori furisode kimono is just stunning. The sheer amount of technical work that went into making this luxurious piece is... unthinkable. All of this is genuine shibori, not printed faux shibori, meaning that every tiny dot used to make that pattern was hand-tied with thin threads to produce this unique nubbly silk fabric.

The subdued black/grey is sophisticated enough for a reserved but still young woman, with hints of the salmon orange and mustard yellow cascading down streams for just a touch of colour. This is probably the sort of ofurisode I'd wear today, unlike the brighter, more bold patterns of my teenage years! A simple metallic gold obi to wear it with, perhaps, or maybe a deep mustard with hints of black and orange.

What do you think? Do you have a favourite ofurisode style?

November 2, 2013

Sold! Hakoseko, Nishijin Thread, Haori

I'm so happy! After a few sales this week, I was able to restock on cat food for the furkids. Most of them have special needs (one diabetic, two with severe allergies to common stuff), so it can get pretty expensive. So for this, I'm grateful! And I'm sure they are, too.

What's gone?

I actually sold piles of threads in quite a few colours, almost my entire stash! Deep indigo blues, a few different whites, some bright orange that I loved... I'd actually planned to sew the katsugi and embroider them with these very threads, but caring for the cats is much more important to me. I have enough projects on my plate that I won't get around to the katsugi for many months. This person actually has something in mind, so I hope it goes very well! AND she told me she's making kumihimo with them! <3

So thank you to everyone who took the time to check out the shops. The past few weeks have been rough, but I'm looking forward to getting back on track, getting things done, and hopefully destashing the apartment in the process. Tomorrow's For Sale Sunday is on hold until I find a card reader compatible with the backup camera's XD card.