Bebe Taian: 2017

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!

- 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!

April 25, 2017

Getting A Stylish Look, pt. 1

It is no secret that geisha are the premiere wearers of kimono, and have access to luxury designers for every aspect of wearing, from collars that can reach over $1000USD in cost, to kimono which can fetch $40,000 easily. Even for informal, day-to-day running between classes, geiko in Kyoto must exude a luxury image to maintain their status. Therefore, a geisha should always be stylish as well.

Of course, the average person has no such luxury. Who of us have even $50 (considered cheap) to drop on a single piece of plain chirimen, a few feet long and all of 8" wide? Not many.

To clarify, we use the word 'kimono' today to mean the classic traditional Japanese garment. But actually, 'kimono' just means 'things to wear'. The outer garment with rectangular sleeves is called a 'kosode'. The distinction is necessary because different social classes wore different items depending on their jobs. Obviously, a farming girl will not be wearing the same clothing as a dancer or teahouse worker. A merchant will not wear the same clothing as a hunter or samurai. 'Average' women wore 'working clothes', rough cottons or hemps, or monpei- like pants and a shirt. Kosode were not for everyone only a short time ago, historically-speaking. Only at the turn of the 20th Century were we seeing a reduction in difference between classes, a major social upheaval that lasted well into the 50's when Western dress truly became the norm and use of traditional clothing fell out of favour.

Back to kimono:

How do we imitate the look while wearing kimono that is made for today's activities? By this, I mean that in the upper classes, kimono were once longer and trailed behind a person, making it easier to walk indoors. These were then tied up at the waist with shigoki obi. Today, they are shorter, and are tied automatically at the waist (ohashori). Only hikizuri trail behind a person, kimono reserved for dancers, actors, and other professionals. We must not only work with everyday kimono, but also on a budget that we can afford, which means most often buying secondhand and taking what we can get instead of having each kimono custom-tailoured to us.

But there is more! Rules of wearing are not always easily discerned outside of Japan, and there are four major seasons to follow, with 72 mini-seasons to think about timing for, plus many types of fabrics with their own seasonal meanings, etc. Seasons where you can wear lined kimono, but unlined juban; or situations where you can wear silk, but not hemp. Nana-no-ha for this week- next week, a butterfly is most appropriate. Does your look blend in with the season, enhancing the image? Or attempt to compete with the beauty of nature, and lose because of it?

With time and experience, these rules become easy to follow and you will know them by heart.

In the meantime, I can't even pretend to know every pointer, season, flower, etc. etc., nor do the vast majority of women have nearly the grandiose collection necessary to cover this entire spectrum. Not even geisha often have this many kimono!

In this short series, I can give pointers on how to achieve a good outfit, following what has been established as iki by kenban (geisha houses). Until you gain confidence in your own ideas, it is good to learn a solid base of what is/isn't worn together.

April 6, 2017

Tadaima, minna-san.

It's been a long time. Years. I've gotten older, but not much smarter it seems.

Watching the blog, which I once spent hours a week on, to becoming something I think of now and again but don't touch... it's like a treasured book that you never read. A mirror in a shrine that no one sees.

Over the years, the depression that I've talked about before hasn't gone away. It's only gotten worse. before, I could ignore it by absorbing myself in work. Now, I can't manage half of what I'd like to do. Chemical imbalances are... not something you can "just handle", like a bad day. It's having a perfect day with absolutely nothing going wrong, and having barely any energy to even sit up on your own, and wanting to burst into tears without reason. And it just don't stop, ever. There are only bad days and worse days. I've tried to tell this to doctor after doctor, and they don't listen worth a damn. "But you said you had an OK day ten minutes ago!" "Yes," through gritted teeth, "But MY 'okay' days involve being able to go grocery shopping AND throw frozen food in the oven AND eat on the same day. THAT IS NOT A NORMAL LIFE. My bad days involve panic attacks for no reason, or worse."

I think people don't talk about these things because there's a huge stigma around the issue, and neurotypical people have a habit of saying they're compassionate and understanding, and then they turn around an prove themselves to be absolutely terrible human beings. They equate "being depressed" with "just being sad", usually over some melodramatic bullshit like "oh, you didn't get something you didn't deserve just handed to you!" When that is absolutely NOT what is happening,

If we get *at all* angry about being invalidated or directly harmed by these people, "Woah, woah, woah! You're mental! You're too unstable to have a rational conversation about what's happening to you! I should dictate how your life REALLY is because you're too crazy!" Condescension, invalidation, and personal attacks are what we can expect if we try to talk to anyone or get help.

See, none of you are actually helping. Many of you make things infinitely worse, in fact. Especially terrible are the "medical professionals" who don't give a damn about their patients and are just there to collect a paycheque, paid up-front for appointments regardless of quality of actual service. Eventually, we just stop trying. To directly remind you all, that is to say that many of us WERE ACTIVELY TRYING TO HELP OURSELVES, on limited resources, and very limited energy- but the difference between normal sadness and depression is that sadness is a transient spring rain. Depression is a climate change, and now you have 12 months of monsoon season and you need help building your house up on stilts to escape floodwaters. Handing us an umbrella and then getting angry when we say, "Hey, we're still wet, in fact, we're drowning." won't cut it.

And you all wonder why the suicide rates are so breathtakingly high in America.

ha ha. breathtaking. that was a joke, people.


That's a large part of the reason I disappeared. I'd log in, stare at the screen, log out, defeated and more depressed than I started. I tried Xanax, but it just left me dissociated and unable to function very well. Life has gotten pretty bad in places, so it isn't like I'm entirely unreasonable, but it's starting to come back up, sort of. Dante, the Takehisa cat, died recently. Last week? It's so hard to keep track of what day it is. "Brain fog" is what it's called- depression so deep you can't figure out 'when' you are, when things happened, even important things to you. Lovecraft died in November. Azrael died a few years ago- did I write about that? I wrote about adopting him... My sister died too, shortly after the heart transplant... and so many others. Bebe and Seraphina are lonely without the other cats, but we're going to quasi-adopt two more. Maybe it'll cheer them up a little? I stopped collecting kimono for awhile too, and started again this year... I just... had no enthusiasm for anything. And no energy for anything that I once loved.

So why bother posting now?

hnnn well...

I finally decided to hell with it all. I'm going to die broke and unhappy anyways, working 60+ hours a week and making less than poverty-line wages. I might as well go to school and rack up debt, and get something done that was so far out of reach for me... I paid quite a bit of my student loans to medical bills, finally going to docs to try and get a diagnosis of why my bones hurt, my joints are on fire, and I feel like I'm walking on broken glass and legos half the time. I have most of the Brighton Score points. heh. And that's the better end of the health issue. The guy that wrecked my car (and my neck) in the hit-and-run back in 2013? He's suing ME for damages. That's rich. So I get to take care of that. There's a whole host of awful things happening, microaggressions on a major scale (hey, men- FYI, life is not television. We do NOT like it when you walk up to us, grab us, and start kissing us, and WE DON'T EVEN FUCKING KNOW YOU! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH MEN?! FUCKING CHRIST! And if I say ANYTHING about it to anyone, *I'm* the problem! What the hell?!) SO yeah, definitely depressed for a damn good reason.

But I found one person who really loves kimono, at a local sushi bar run by Japanese people. So I've been trying to go in a new outfit every week, something in tune with the current or preceding of the 72 seasons. Someone said that one of the keys to dealing with depression is to have a ritual that you absolutely must stick to, in a way to kind of 'reorder' a life that seems to be passing by in a haze. To give clear delineation to that existence, you have to hang on to something, even when you really don't want to. So far, I've done four outfits, maybe five. I'm surprised by how many kimono I really own, even with so many in shops or having been sold already. I'm still waiting- five more should have been here by today, but haven't arrived yet. I hope they come soon, though.

I want to go out tonight, to wear kimono and such, but honestly I've done nothing today and somehow have no energy. Maybe later I will start posting what photos I have of past outings. I'd really like to renew and go through the blog, but I don't know if I have the spoons to commit to it yet.