Some of my favourite shots!
To all curious onlookers at the park: Yes, we were there to make your day! 😄
Some of my favourite shots!
To all curious onlookers at the park: Yes, we were there to make your day! 😄
It’s the day of our Furisode photoshoot. I’m amazed. I felt glam. So glam. Glam and chi-chi, more so than I’ve ever felt in any western style dress I’ve worn. I’ve come away from today with valuable lessons in mind, that I shall – at length – share with you in chronological order of my learning:
1) Bliss comes in many forms.
The day began with me sleeping in late – which I usually do since, as Blossom will gladly point out, I sleep like a dead log. Shizuru, Blossom and I would be the Himes for the day, while Yukikahou (a.k.a. Kahouya/Kitsuke-oba-san), would help us get ready. As Kahouya did my hair ala Malay-Dance style, she proceeded to move on to the kitsuke, dressing us up one by one. I have to admit, she and I take a very different approach to the process. I tend to wrestle with it – to git r’ done, as it were. She, on the other hand, smiled all the way through, blissfully wrapping us in silks while constantly checking if we could breathe. We joked about her unusual joy found in dressing up other people, but I do realize that she approaches the process like an art form. Seeing the ‘creations’ come together in her own way made her happy, which is something I should pick up. Kahouya beat my kitsuke time, OBVIOUSLY, getting us all dressed and out the door like an efficient mother hen.
2) Photoshoots bring out a sense of your inner self.
And apparently, my inner self is old and dated and probably wrinkled and naggy. I wore my golden furisode, with yellow flowers in my hair and a comb and hair-sticks (they probably have proper names, but I am too tired to research). My bronzed look made me look… well, old poised and classically glamourous. Still, I was the Mama-san to my two geisha girls.
Shizuru had transformed into Shizuru-hime, garbed in red with her hair elaborately curled and done up. She was rather beautiful, truth be told, her hairstyle accentuating her features and making her look like a lost and severely culturally-confused westerner. Was it obvious that her hobby is doing her hair up? Yes, just a little. She was vibrant and eye-catching in her red, like a pretty lost ang-pao.
Blossom was sweetly flowery, revelling in the femininity of her furisode’s motif. For all that she sometimes comes across as caustic and jaded, she ultimately comes out of the clothing closet as the girly girl who wants to be pretty and girly and wreathed in flowers while being surrounded by Takeshi Kaneshiro/Daniel Henny clones – or the ultimate creation of a TK/DH lovechild, synthesizing their hotness into one mighty uber-stud. This paragraph took on a life of its own, it seems.
Even the props we used conveyed our personalities, with Blossom opting for a sweet lotus-leaf motif fan while I ran around looking murderous with a tanto stuck in my obi.
3) Posing is harder than it looks.
You feel so self-concious! Is my hand ok? Do I look kaku (stiff)/constipated/insanely-smiley? All these thoughts are running through one’s mind. Shizuru, the veteran of many a photo-shoot, took to it like a fish to water, while Blossom had a bit of trouble settling into it. Eventually, the OMGIAMPRETTY of her furisode seeped into her nervous system and she started to be more at ease. It was nice to see her finally opening up and enjoying herself, since she has this self-fulfilling belief that she grimaces on camera and always looks horrid in pictures. She even went so far as to try and take pictures with terrapins, but they were scared and ran from her for some reason. Don’t let it fool you, people. Posing is tiring, frustrating and moving from place to place hurts your feet more than anything.
4) Photographers have a hard job.
It is not just taking photos – point and click. The number of times I saw the frustration on their faces at a shot not taken right… I have to hand it to them. It was an honour working with them, for all that I probably irritated them with my stupid jokes. The effort put in was nearly palpable, and once again, I have to sit back and admire the talent and art that they create. Hats off to them, especially knowing that I have little to no patience to do their job. I was extremely impressed. And they even accommodated my whims to pose in the sunlight which made my furisode glitter (Magpie Mode Initiate)! I will forever be grateful to stand in the middle of the water, glittering like a fallen sunbeam!
5) Zori are the shoes they make you wear in hell.
They are narrow, uncomfortable, and have no distinction between left and right feet. Why? Isn’t it obvious that feet are shaped different? Why no left and right shapes? Why are they so narrow? Agony, agony and pain. My feet soaked for an hour and they still hurt.
Right, my long preamble is over. Goodness knows I talk/write too much. Pictures to come, promise! We have to begin the painful wait now for the photos to be processed. It was only towards the end of the day that I realized I’d survived posing, walking, shallow breathing for 5 hours on nothing but a cup of tea and half an egg-sandwich. I had a big dinner, believe me…
But I know I speak for Blossom/Sakura-hime when I say this: Thank you everyone. It has been truly a pleasure. You’ve made this day a day to remember for us and rekindled my love of kimono, which has dwindled in my busyness. Thank you Shizuru-hime for organizing the event so well (so teacher). Thank you Kahouya for dressing us up so professionally and prettily and for touching us up throughout the day – especially me. Thank you Eriol and Eugene, our photographers, for taking pains to immortalize our hime-ness in the best possible way. Thank you God for not making it rain that much today and for not letting us slip off stepping stones and fall in the water. Thank you to everyone else who was there, for your helpful advice, company and occasional bag-pulling. Even the people who walked by and stared at us with a smile – thank you! It really has been a wonderful day.
So your company’s holding a Dinner and Dance soon. You’ve gotten the bee in your bonnet to wear a kimono. Which do you choose? In fact, there are nearly a dozen types of kimono available to you, all with varying degrees of formality and appropriateness, that selecting one can seem totally mystifying to most. Not to mention that you have to pick the obi, of which there are four types, accessories and shoes.
In order to help us gaijins, I’ve compiled a list of kimono and accompanying obis and shoes according to their degree of formality or appropriateness (i.e. married or not?). However, I will not be including Uchikake, Kakeshita or Shiromuku in my list, since all three are for brides to wear on their wedding day. I will, instead, be focusing on the kimono that most of us would wear practically and for a variety of reasons or occasions. Once again, I’ll bring in the whole disclaimer of “I am not an expert”. If I do make any mistakes, please leave a comment to let me know.
Consider your occasion, its level of formality and whether or not you’re married (which hopefully shouldn’t take you too long). From there, choose your kimono accordingly. The general rule of thumb is that if you’re married, choose more subdued colours. Unmarried girls tend to be able to get away with the more garish pinks and blues. Once chosen, proceed with coordination as talked about in a previous post.
Let me just give some word of advice on wearing kimono to a dinner and dance: 1) don’t tie things too tight or you might not be able to eat the awesome free food, let alone breathe; 2) be prepared to be a talking point and photo object – which I frankly loved, being the humble person that I am; 3) watch how you sit, lest you expose your unmentionables to the world as your kimono opens up at the legs.
I think it’s probably no secret that to the ‘entry level’ kimono buyer, Vintages are the way to go. Not only are they cheap but generally in good condition. Besides, it’s not as if traditional wear ever changes in style – not changing in style is what tradition is.
Take Yukatas. It’s a well known fact that these pieces do change in fashion in terms of their weaves, motifs, accompanying hairstyles and accessories. Not surprising when you consider that of all the types of Japanese traditional wear, the yukata is the easiest to wear and thus most accessible to the casual wearer. Recently, it appears that the motif of the season was the barabara yukata with much pink and purples and a hairstyle that you could nest a pigeon in.
Okay that was unfair, you can’t nest a pigeon in that hair.
Pigeons don’t need nests that big.
So does that mean that the Kimono has fallen into fashion limbo where changing tastes will no longer touch its beloved form?
If that were so, this would be a really short post.
Enter Jotaro Saito, the youngest kimono fashion designer and the only one willing to take the kimono and put it on the runway where it belongs. At 39, Saito is one of the youngest kimono designers, bringing many modern elements and twists to his design of the eternally elegant kimono. Gone are the loud colours that signified wealth of old. Colours chosen for his latest Marbling Collection are subtle, enhanced with geometric patterns and obis with equally subtle motifs. While his choice of colours might be subtle, there is a synthesis there that makes the whole ensemble eyecatching and so incredibly chic.
Needless to say… I WANT ONE!!!
There is so much to be said about his combination of geometric patterns, spaced out motifs on the shoulder and sleeves and the simple yet eyecatching motifs on the obi. I also love the thought of using grey jubans and synchronized tabi socks with matching zori. This might be just to highlight the kimono worn instead, but I think that makes it all the better. You wear the focal point. His 2009 collection called The Marbling (or Marbring but I don’t think he meant for it to be spelled that way) features those subtle hues with generally solid coloured obijime and obiage, also bringing the obidome back into fashion.
It is generally hard to find information about the kimono in Japanese Fashion Week, but by all accounts, Jotaro Saito is one kimono couture designer I’ll be following for a while.
Having drawn the recent avatars for our site, Blossom noted that she looks girly and that it was all a matter of perception. Perhaps she’s right, but I always perceived myself to be a lot less feminine than she was. However, she pointed out that one area of femininty I displayed was a desire to coordinate clothes according to obscure fashion rules. She’s also right. I do like to coordinate clothes when I have the desire to be pretty. That’s also part of the reason why I enjoy kimono coordination and find it a delightful task. So, I’ll be giving you Plum’s Gaijin Insights to Kimono Coordination.
Let me just point out before we begin that I am no expert. All the tips I’m giving you here are a result of my own personal tastes and what I see generally works according to some rules about colour selection and design. If you have any other tips to share, please feel free to comment and let me know.
First, let’s look at what will be visible when you put on a kimono (minus accessories like zori which I will be covering in another post). Pictured here is a pretty standard set up, we’ll be discussing all of these save the obi-dome.
Tip 1: Busy+Busy=Bad – Consider your kimono’s design.
Design Concept: Focal Points – part of a design that your eye is made to focus on, the key element in your design.
A lot of kimonos are easy to coordinate, usually bearing a pretty solid colour for the body with some woven or dyed motifs on the base, sleeve and/or shoulder. These are generally easy to coordinate since your obi will naturally draw the eye against a plain background. Yukatas and Furisodes tend to have bright designs all over, and are harder to coordinate since the eye will be drawn to the patterns on the yukata or furisode more so than the obi if your obi itself has designs on it.
Essentially, you want to decide at this point if you want your obi or the kimono to be your focal point. If your kimono has a striking design, pick a subdued obi. If your kimono has a relatively simple design like a tsukekage, pick an obi that stands out.
Tip 2: Colours Make or Break
Design Concept: Colour theory – Analogous and Complementary Colours.
Kimonos will usually come with certain motifs woven or dyed onto it. Flowers seem predominant, though there are many other sorts of motifs. When you select an obi design, you might want to either match the motifs on your kimono (e.g. flowers with flowers) or you can go for a similar theme with different elements (e.g. flowers with butterflies). Now comes the hard part: colours.
Let me introduce to you two concepts of colour theory.
It’s not too much information, but selecting colours based on your colour wheel will ensure you never go wrong. I’ve found that since your kimono essentially has three elements to coordinate (your kimono, obi and obi-age/jime), the split-complementary colour schemes are the best if you choose for your obi to be the focal point. Assess the predominant colour of your kimono. If the colours are purple and blue, an orange obi would be a good focal point. If your kimono is busy with colours, patterns and motifs in yellow and green, then an orange obi from the analagous colour scheme would not overpower your patterns. For yukatas, the complementary colour scheme works best.
Since you have already chosen your focal point, you now want to choose an obi-jime/age to draw attention to it. Using the above colour rules, you should try to select them in colours that are analogous to either your obi (if that is your focal point) or your kimono.
Tip 3: Musubi Meanings and Obi Types – RESEARCH
Design Concept: Not looking like an idiot to the natives.
Please, please research your musubi. Each type of knot has certain unwritten rules about who should wear them and when. For example, the most basic knot – the taiko-bashi – is worn by married women while unmarried women wear the ‘sparrow’ fukura suzume. While I think Japanese are willing to forgive the fact that some of those musubi knots are mixed up, it’s hard to get away with wearing the wrong sort of obi or knot formality entirely.
There are most commonly 3 types of obi depending on the formality of the occasion. The least formal is the hanhaba (half-width) which can be worn with yukatas and kimonos in very casual occasions. Next in line is the Nagoya obi, which is worn for casual to semi-formal events. Up the line is the Fukuro, the most formal and practical of obis these days, and also the longest for those more elaborate knots. The more formal the occasion, the more elaborate the design of the obi and the more complicated the musubi you have to tie.
If all else fails, wikipedia is your friend.
Blossom and I can spend hours trawling sites to mix and match a basic set. While all the tips above might seem daunting to you now as were they when I just learned them, sooner or later you’ll begin to be able to pick instinctively. Still, better to take some extra work to plan before hand rather than look like something a rainbow vomited out
I’m somewhat sure that I can speak for Blossom in this regard, but I… am… in… love…
Our long awaited furisodes have arrived. We worked hard for these – we worked hard for the money to buy these, we worked hard to choose them, we worked hard to plan for accessories for them and they have finally arrived.
These are vintage, which to me initially brought a gasp to my throat as I opened them and touched mine for the first time. I’ll not forget that feeling of silk against my palm, it’s like touching the breeze… They were beautiful, slightly marred, but beautiful nonetheless. Blossom’s was made during the mid Showa period (1926-1989), and has really beautiful dyeing that reminds me of a painted piece of art. It’s also sweet, pink and girly, like her.
I have no idea when mine was made, though the side I bought it from listed it as ‘quite old’. However, I doubt that this was made relatively recently like ten years ago – unless the mouldy-monster has had a field day spraying the inside lining of my furisode with its brown goo. Still, the thought of touching a piece of clothing that has seen so much history, that has lived through memories of someone else who might not even be alive any more just brings out the melodramatic poet in me. What was that person like? Was she a good person? I wonder what she’ll say about me wearing her beloved furisode…
Incidentally, my mother asked if I was scared bringing something ‘old’ and that has had ‘someone died in’ into my room. To which I replied, “…no.”
It might be dramatic of me to relate this to human relationships, but I’ll do so anyway. It is really like I just got married. To look at the furisode, knowing that mine was probably sewn in the 1920s, is like falling in love. You see the marred portions of it, you see where the gold has faded and age has touched it with a slight patina. It would be so easy to focus on the negatives. But when you step back, it takes your breath away.
It also smells of mothballs.
I hope I go through life always appreciating the beauty of the whole and not minding the faults of the moment. The things one learns from a furisode. (Yes, in case few have noticed, I do tend to take everyday experiences and weave them into philosophy of transient life, written in semi-decent prose.)
Enough talk: ON TO THE PICTURES!!
So Blossom and I, on my father’s credit card (unbeknownst and to be duly reimbursed before he is beknownst), went to Kinokuniya to look up stuff for our budding library of kimono literature. After some stomping around the Japanese section – which I swear to me is like a foreign land – we finally were directed to the appropriate section. I also learned 2 new Japanese characters and can now read the word ‘kimono’ in kanji. I’m proud of myself.
However, since neither of us could read kanji, which most of the books were titled in, the conversation eventually descended to:
P: What’s this about?
B: something something… ki-mo-mo-… It’s about kimonos, lah.
P: Really. @.@
Yes. However, we soon found a good set of books but because I was worried about money, we had to only select 2. We have plans for an upcoming photoshoot for Furisodes and so realize that our choices regarding our hobby are now geared towards that. We picked up two books as follows (with grammatical approximation):
Title: Kimono Hairstyles of the Day
The hairstyles in the hairstyle book are beautiful, though maybe some a little too aged for us – very eighties older woman type buns. Some were classic. We realized that a lot of the accessories selected for their hair tended towards the mimicry or appreciation of the beauty of nature. All that glittered was only gold. Until we came to the hairstyles of the ‘modern’ kimono-girl. Think being attacked my dragonflies after your hair gets shocked out of its bun due to electrocution. Okay, that was unfair. No, that sort of style is not for us. We tend towards the more subtle and elegant of the styles so… probably we have the combined chic/hippie taste that screams older woman anyway. <_<; Not that we care.
(Blossom is the hippie.)
Title: Basic Kimono Musubi
Plum says (8:48 PM):
Blossom we picked up the BASIC OBI BOOK
Blossom says (8:49 PM):
that was f&^%$#g basic?
Plum says (8:49 PM):
Blossom says (8:51 PM):
well. there goes our first conversation excerpt for you.
These musubis are BASIC???? The book was selected because we saw a few designs that could be used for future furisodes. And if that is basic… what is intermediate or advanced? Origami kimonos? Okay, I know me looking at these musibis from my point of view is like a prawn in the primordial pool trying to comprehend chartered accounting, but the amount of ingenuity that went into the humble knot to turn it into such a work of art is staggering!
There is a reason why I kept this book while Blossom kept the hair book. She hates tieing musubis because it makes her tired and her blue blood probably rebels against it. I, on the other hand, don’t care much about my hair as long as it looks decent and is out of my face.
(In case you’re wondering, yes, we do make little jibes about each other even in real life. She will mock my lack of regard to such things as Rules Against Bending New Shoes You Happen To Be Wearing At The Time In Public while I will mock the fact that she is a kampong dowager-to-be born in the wrong era).
You know, if nothing else, this hobby will prompt us to learn Japanese seriously if only just to read these how-to books.
September 2, 2009 at 12:30 pm (Plum)
Hello and welcome to the Plum and Blossom. As much as our site name sounds so much like a teahouse, let me assure that it is not. Blossom covered the founding of our site pretty well, so I’ll skip over that. I’ll head right to the introductions. I’m the Plum of the pair, for as much as that lends itself to so many jokes. Unlike Blossom, who treats words like gentle brush strokes on a canvas, I tend to slap them together, knock a few nails in and hope it looks like the picture on the cover of my brain. She’s the far more prolific and poetic of the pair of us and there really are times when it shows. (Like now ^^)
Blossom and I started this little escapade out of boredom and the need for escapism. Both being admirers of Japanese culture (the ancient one, not so much the ‘dye-your-hair-neon-pink-and-dress-like-a-doll’ one), we have finally found our way to the calcified culture as demonstrated through their clothing. We rented a costume for Natsu Matsuri and I think that just opened the floodgates to a dormant love affair for clothes that are really none too practical for our climate.
That being said, there is much insight to gain through simply experiencing the clothes of another culture. I’m eurasian and pretty deprived on the culture front. Thus, it was nice to experience an ‘official’ ethnic experience and learn much from it.
Kimono lesson #1: There is a reason why Japanese women are thin and the food is raw.
It takes a long time to put on these things (largely because we don’t have the luxury of a servant to dress us, unless we count eachother), so there probably wasn’t enough time to cook. Also, our bodies were the sort that got worshiped as prime models of fertility in ancient cultures – what with the child-bearing hips and breasts and all – and as such, the willowy shape the kimono requires needs some creative padding.
Kimono lesson #2: Our postures are terrible but our bladder control is impeccable.
The obi is the greatest spine straightener ever, if tied properly. And since we weren’t about to even try to pee while in kimono, our years of training to obtain the iron bladder have paid off.
Kimono lesson #3: Obis are a creative endeavour.
The part that I love, and that Blossom hates – the obi. Tieing it is, to me, a creative endeavour and something I enjoy doing. She was born to be a rich girl who presumably will have someone paid to dress her, so everything works out in the end.
We both love different things about the kimono – she the prints and I the obi and coordination. As we slowly build up our collection of things to wear and excuses to wear them, we’ll be bringing you along for the ride as the Gaijins Go Native.