More かわいい, less こわい

NB:

かわいい – kawaii (cute) こわい – kowai (eerie)

So this post is a long time coming…

Our bad but better late than never. It’s unnerving to start all over again. Thankfully, the craziness is over for now. I figured it’s best to start off in a chronological order – starting with the halloween post that’s been collecting dust in a corner of my brain.

Between the two of us, Plum is the more outgoing and sociable personality. I’m more tethered to my room, home and all things familiar.

So it took her more than a week’s worth of nagging to get me to agree to attending a Halloween party. Even the bit about it being on a boat, while novel, didn’t hook me.

Halloween isn’t anything much beyond an excuse to party, for some girls to wear next to nothing under the guise of it being a costume and generally getting up to mischief. I’ve done my share of partying in my late teens and I can honestly say that another evening of this didn’t quite appeal to me.

However, like all other ideas, this one took root and my brain was soon running away with what I might like to wear should I choose to attend.

As you can tell from the onsite pics, gunning for the sexy school girl (overrated and too close to home) or the hot slutty sailor wasn’t going to work… so I decided to corner the market on Kawaii-ness.

And that meant dressing up like a porcelain doll or…going Loli.

I’m not and expert so I was in for a huge surprise. I didn’t know till doing some sort of research online just how much effort it took to constructing the Loli-look. It isn’t just some concoction of all things frilly and pink cooked up while one’s ‘discretion gland’ is suspended.

Here’s a summary of all the stuff I gleamed throughout the process and I hope it helps anyone who wants to know more or just wants a rough breakdown. (Do click on the links. Some of the sites aren’t active – which is a shame – but just take a look. ^_^; Enjoy!)

A few issues that certainly made me stop to think were:
– type of Lolita
– anatomy of a Lolita’s getup
– the cost of an ensemble
– my own cynicism

Type of Lolita
Just go on wiki or simply googling the term ‘Lolita Fashion’ and one can see the many types of Lolitas. So my first task was choosing the type of Lolita I was going to dress up as.

According to this site, there’s up to 16 types of Loli-styles to choose from – something I find completely mind boggling. Eventually, I narrowed them down to what I understand to be the ‘main’ types of Lolita:

  • Sweet Lolita

Sweet Loli (but somehow, I have a feeling we're seriously lacking frills here...)

The Sweet Lolita is the one we all recognise dressed in varying amounts of pink, flouncy things with lots of frills, natural make up, curly hair and… all things insanely girlish and feminine.

  • Gothic Lolita

Gothic Loli... personally, I love her entire look.

This brand of Lolitas seem to capture the same ‘spirit’ but with an approach involving contrasting colours such as white and black or pink and black… Lots of black, really because it’s an easy way to show contrast. It’s apparently modeled after Victorian servant wear or mourning clothes. One blogger mentioned that it was the oddest combination of Little Girl meets Old Woman… which reminded me a little of the Olsen Twins.

The other Loli sub-types fall in between these two. The Hime or Princess Loli is very baroque and elaborate in style with pearls, more frills and at times, seems possessed by the spirit of Marie Antoinette. The Ero Loli… is pretty much straight forward sexiness playing on the nymphet fetish. On a tangetial note, the Aristocrat is an interesting alternative that I recommend you pay attention to. It seems to be lumped under Loli because there’s no current classification for it.

The Anatomy of a Lolita Getup

After deciding that I would dress up as the normal Sweet Loli and Plum, as Gothic Loli, it was time to scout for items that would make up our look.

Note the frills on this otherwise scientific diagram! *points finger to heaven*

Looks simple enough, right?

We were so dead wrong. While we knew what to look for or what sort of colours we wanted after looking through the myriad of recommended websites like Baby, The Stars Shine Down (Paris site) or Innocent World, we discovered a distinct lack of shops that could provide us with the needed items at a reasonable enough price… which brings me to the next concern I had…

The Cost of an Ensemble

Most of the cost of an outfit is offloaded by making or crafting your own stuff. Most of the Loli-sites I went to were full of people sharing their works that they take great pride in. Most of these items are very elaborate and pretty… and only understandable that it would cost quite a bit when you put them up for sale.

Still, the cost of a full ensemble is staggering, especially if everything is storebought. After some calculation, we found that it could easily reach upwards of SGD$500 with the dress and shoes being the most expensive items.

Also, due to the scarcity of these sort of shops in Singapore, the few that do sell Loli fashion items e.g. Black Alice or Haru tend to:

  • charge super expensively
  • have terrible service (though this is attributed to the salespeople and not the style… I’m just still annoyed at their No-Trying policy and their hiring of totally uninterested teenagers-pretending-to-be-adults-working-at- Abercrombie&Fitch whose level of social skills are far below the standard known as ‘Lacking’)
  • have a limited range of goods and sizes.

Thankfully, we found a good enough shop called Atsuki at Liang Court. The salesperson aka ‘Holy Princess Devil’ Jolyn (I found her email quite amusing and couldn’t help but advertise it XD) was very helpful and even told us about the rental policy they had.

I rented this gorgeous skirt…

Teal skirt with black lace and crinoline

Gothic-esque... at least

… while Plum opted for this…

So, we ended up straying away from the strict definitions of Loli by a mile… I opted to go as a porcelain doll while Plum went as a cabaret girl.

After all that effort, I can understand why and recommend people actually sew their own clothes in this style. Its amazingly hard to find what you want in stores, even online.

My Own Cynicism

While we didn’t end up dressing as Loli as we wanted to, for many reasons ranging from cost to availability… I had to say that we had tons of fun exploring another facet of ‘extreme’ fashion that I otherwise would never have considered even trying out.

While I do still have a love-hate relationship with all things cute and typically girly, I do have newfound respect for the real Lolitas who really put in effort in creating their ensembles and expressing themselves with such fervour. It’s not easy. At all.

I was surprised that I didn’t look as silly as I thought I would but that could be attributed to the fact that I already have the curls and the lack of height that already labels me as pretty diminutive. I might not look like this…

(... well maybe in my fantasies involving a certain Japanese-Taiwanese actor)

All in all, it was good fun and a great experience to go through. I’d really recommend it to anyone who thinks that this is just some really ridiculous or inane subculture to simply try it out and make the decision based on your own experience as opposed to simply hopping on the Loli-bashing bandwagon.

~Blossom

P.S.

We’ll be doing our furisode shoot soon… Here’s to hoping that we don’t overtan ourselves while on holiday! -_-;

Kimono flirtations and the daily grind.

Its been a while since we’ve updated PnB. Not that we’ve been somewhat lacking in our amour for the kimono but its currently crunch time for schools in Singapore and we’ve been bogged down by both the national and school-based exams.

Posting will probably return to normal by early to mid-November when we have more time to put quality effort in our posts instead of putting up stuff that’s half-assed. So there will be more posts on coordination and hairstyles once we get back into our kimono grooves.

On another note, since Halloween is around the corner, Plum and I have been experimenting and stepping out of our comfort zones with other forms of dressing found in Japanese sub-culture – namely the Sweet Loli and Goth Loli forms. It’s been one hell of a trip and there are similarities between that sort of dressing and kimono wear, albeit the former is less symbolic.

~ Blossom

Walk a day in my getas and tell me what you think.

Yesterday was Children’s Day’s eve here in Singapore. It’s usually a huge affair for schools as the kids look forward to a concert put up by teachers who get to hog the limelight in a positive manner for once and do things that have got nothing to do with their immediate work duties.

I promised my kids that I would wear something special since it was Children’s Day and they scored perfect marks in their last spelling test. I deal with 7 year-olds so they’re still pretty easy to bribe. I was also tasked with co-hosting the concert, in addition to performing… so it was the perfect excuse to see how it was like to keep a yukata on while running around and working.

I’ll start with the positives and get to the negatives later.

I managed to get a set at the last moment (thanks to to Yukikahou! : )) and paired that ensemble with a few items of my own. Kids love bright colours so it gave me a chance to don a bright yellow obi with a creamy pink silk sash. Also borrowed Plum’s yellow getas.

I managed to get the yukata put on under 20 minutes at 9.30 am. It was a little messy but nothing a quick tuck and fold didn’t fix. Wrong fan but convenience trumps accuracy, in this case.

Kids loved it and I got thumbs up from students I don’t normally interact with. So that was all good.

I managed to keep the yukata up for most of the day, only taking it off at 5pm so that my mid-section could get a break and I could conduct a proper physical education lesson. Kids were disappointed that I changed out of it. Lol. The yukata is easy to adjust and with an extra tie to keep the sleeves up and out of the way, the sensation of wearing it is not unlike wearing a fitting kebaya with a structured camisole or corset.

Come 6.30 pm, I rushed out of the office… invoked BFF power and got Plum to come over and help me out with the komon. While I would tie it by myself, this wasn’t some Children’s Day concert I was going to but the proper Annual Teacher’s Day Dinner that the school holds.

Fixed the Sakura Drops komon ensemble with a proper cord and zori. Also, we remembered (somewhat) to pad the waist this time!

Sakura Drops Ensemble Close Up

Me getting ready:

What to do with hair?!

For both ensembles, I managed to get my hair up in little buns and embellished one with the kanzashi. I felt like a real-life doll and went to the dinner where I was greeted with a few surprised looks and praises. I wasn’t the centre of attention as was the case for Plum’s annual dinner affair. My experience with wearing the komon was a little more… colourful.

Firstly, while the kids loved the yukata and the idea of wearing clothes that expressed one’s interests and individuality, a few adults at the dinner didn’t. I got comments like ‘why so costume-y?’ or ‘oh, you must be so uncomfortable!’ without actually asking me if I was. I did hear a ‘why is she wearing that?!’ and a ‘*snicker* no waist.’ behind my back. No. Really.

It was a little like being back in school as a student and I got teased for having curly hair.

I won’t go into detail about the dinner in general, save that it was a generally unpleasant experience (for other unrelated reasons) and made me actually feel a little bad that while I looked good, no one appreciated the fact that a lot of thought went into this ensemble. Not to mention the efforts of so many people. Especially Plum’s.

I don’t want to sound like a social activist for kimono lovers but you’d think people would show more sensitivity and tact here.

Still, I had no regrets spending a entire working day in Japanese traditional dress. ^_^ I’ve learned a few things:

  1. Modern office life isn’t suited to yukata wearing. Not in Singapore anyway.
  2. Kids love the prints on yukata and will tell you that you look beautiful/gorgeous/wonderful/insert-suitable-adjective-here.
  3. The obi and all the stuff that goes around your waist, does prevent you from eating much. Though I didn’t feel faint. I just got full really fast and on portions much lesser than usual.
  4. Not everyone will see the kimono or anything that’s different in a positive light and they don’t even need to go through WW2 to be total a$$holes about it. It was more out of ignorance as opposed to malice though they do go hand-in-hand most times.

~Blossom

EDIT:

Yukikahou was kind enough to suggest wearing things as part of a group and I agree that it would help to have someone with you who would wear such an item. But people who would want to wear kimonos to functions are few and far between and the people I work with just aren’t comfortable with wearing it. Even after I tried convincing them that it’s not that much different from what they normally wear.

I think I can put up with the name-calling and insensitive remarks. This is really more of their problem than mine.

I’ll still wear the kimono to formal dinner functions. It’s comfortable and pretty… and downright more meaningful than any other off-the-rack strapless cocktail dress.

How to Buy Vintage Kimono

The Kimono, surely perfect enough - Ichiroya.com

The Kimono, surely perfect enough - Ichiroya.com

Blossom and I are now so into the whole idea of buying vintage. There’s just something nice about the old elegance and the idea of the history you’re wearing on your back. Plus, something about the old designs do tend to appeal to us. Not only are vintage kimonos appealing, we realize that these are the kimonos most readily available to the gaijin buyer because of their relatively cheap prices (compared to brand new kimonos), and also the most accessible to those who cannot peruse websites in Japanese to buy brand new ones.

However, when Blossom and I researched on the internet, there is so little information about how one should go about buying a vintage kimono. What does one look for to make sure you don’t get cheated? OMG Stains! When it comes, what does one do? Here’s some advice from us two budding shoppers who have learned a thing or two over the course of our last purchases and several hundred dollars.

To begin with, buy from reputable sources. One of the most reputable on the net being Ichiroya.com, who offers amazing homely (though sometimes slow) service. They also happen to have a good command of English, which I appreciate being an English Teacher :/ Perhaps seeing competence in the language brings a sense of trust and security, since I feel as if they can understand what I’m trying to communicate. Reputable sellers will usually mark out stains, tears, patinas and what not on the kimono. They will be honest. Yes, I know ebay has cheaper, but I always worry because I don’t know these people nor do I trust their photos. Ichiroya so far has served me the best with the widest selection available.

Defect Report - Ichiroya.com

Stains - Ichiroya.com

Stains - Ichiroya.com

When buying, look carefully at the defect report. Most vintage kimonos should come listed with a report of defects. I don’t mind stains if they’re not huge and noticeable, and trust me, most kimono will come with stains sprinkled on by the Shoya Goblin. Expect defects. They’re vintage and were sold by their original owners for a reason. However, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so I’m not complaining.  If you see a defect that wasn’t in the defect report, chill out. Unless it’s major or hugely noticable, no one will notice it either when you wear it.

Some of the most common defects are wear marks on the collars, soy sauce stains, discolouration, patina, frays and unravelling seams. Seams can be repaired, but there’s nothing much you can do about the rest besides trying to hide them. Try to steer clear of kimono with holes or repaired holes. You are not Oshin.

Typical Patina on Inner Lining - Ichiroya.com

Typical Patina on Inner Lining - Ichiroya.com

Several aspects of a kimono you must acknowledge when buying a kimono. This is where it pays to be cynical.

  • Expect it to be worse than it seems, as cynical as this sounds. While on the photos, stains might look small, consider that your computer monitor and photo editing for contrast might have affected that. If the stain is in a nondescript place, I tend not to mind since it is easily hidden.
  • There will be stains not listed on the defect report. I don’t think this is so much duplicity on the trader’s part, though some might think of it that way. Lets face it, they need to make a living, and all salesmanship is about the presenting varying degrees of truth. If the tiny defects can be hidden, I don’t mind. If it’s major, by all means, join me in kicking up a fuss and returning the kimono.
  • Research how to care for kimono! Tiny stains are not as bad as a ruined patch of silk because you rubbed too hard to get rid of tiny stains! Learn from my heart-wrenching experience ;-;
  • Check that the sizing fits you, especially if you’re not built like the average Japanese waif. Check that the arm lengths, waist and kimono lengths will accomodate your dimensions, these are usually made known by the trader.

Now that you have your kimono chosen, it’s time to go through the transaction. I realize this takes time, over the course of a few days. Doesn’t matter to me as long as it comes quick, so when it comes to shipping, I care. I usually use EMS because I’m impatient – there, I admit it – and because it’s insured and traceable. When you get it, expect it to smell. It’s old and been in storage for a long time. I had to air out my furisode for a week before the smell stopped being noticeable. Air it out, check for defects, admire it, and then post it on your blog and show it off to the world.

All in all, when buying a vintage kimono, it’s all about what you can live with. If you’re not that picky or demanding of perfection, than a vintage kimono is an economical buy for you. Besides, like men and puppies, every kimono is perfect if you love it enough.

Sakura Drops Komon Ensemble – 1st joint post EVER!!

(Hurrah for our first joint-post, made possible by the power of googledocs! Italicised bits are Plum’s.)

Finally managed to invoke BFF power this weekend and got Plum down over to my place and ask her to test-drive the Sakura Drops komon I had. Putting on a kimono requires a great deal of coordinated pyscho-motor skills so instead of the normal concoction of cocktails (I’m alchohol-free these days anyway), we had coke, chocolates and Law & Order playing on tv while we got to getting me dressed up for our first ensemble snaps.

It was fun putting on the clothes for her. I was able to at least ensure that the cloth under her arms and back looked neat. One of the most painful realizations is that if you mess up putting on the kimono properly, you’re doomed, no matter how nicely you tie your obi and all that. Still, it was fun getting this done. While I wanted to try out the more elaborate taiko, I knew that Blossom would be melting under that komon so I decided to get it done fast and easily with a taiko musubi that I was familiar with. I felt like such a Kitsuke Lady o-o;

First, the result:

Sakura Drops Ensemble

God. I love more komon even more after putting it on proper. The blue obi looked wonderful against the cheerful floral pattern and even Plum’s getas were pretty matching, even if they are a little tight. Now, I know that a komon ought to be worn with informal zori and so far, all the books and sites we read through pointed that out but…

WWOD

Yeah, that’s pretty much my reasoning for making do with geta. What Would Oshin Do? I’ll tell you what this cultural icon of resilience would do. She’d make do. No zori? No money? No one has a decent pair of zori? It’s all right. I don’t think the normal everyday woman back in the Meiji period would go shopping to the wet market in her zori. She’d have that geta and very much use it for nearly every errand she had to run.

*Insert Gaijin Defensive Assertion* o.0

Anyway… here’s a close up:

Sakura Drops Ensemble Close Up Sakura Drops Ensemble Taiko Musubi

Overall, I found the komon much more comfortable than the yukata. First, the polyester material, while marginally warmer, was softer. The sleeves were also much shorter and that made it easier for me to at least, put it on by myself during the initial folding and securing with the koshihimos. I’m still not as neat as I would like to be but Plum didn’t have to do much repair work on the folds so… yay me, I guess. Lol.

I also have to point out that I learned a lot more by watching her tie and listening to her mother me about which fold goes where as opposed to studying a pictorial guide. Plum’s obi skilz are uber. It certainly made the process easier and maybe I’ll try it out. Later. *glances at obi she left hanging to air*

You should give it a go, the taiko is easy when tied in front, though you’ll need to either stretch or invoke Onee-chan Powers to get the makura and age tied behind your back.

To all us solo-ist kimono wearers out there, Almost any knot can be tied independantly in the front and then pulled around your waist to the back. Provided you wear your obi ita with a strap under the obi, not between the folds, and pull the obi around in a clockwise direction. Once it’s at the back, you can neaten the obi makura, obiage and obijime ties on your own. But you will need someone to help you straighten the musubi at the back, which will be out of shape because you had to push it under your arm. Tying musubi makes me wish I could eat spinach and get super arm strength like Popeye :/

I know. =.= My arms were pretty tired though by the time we were through adjusting and clipping and practically marinating me in kimono goodness. Not only did I have my hands up and out, I had to do some pseudo sleight-of-hand trick with getting the presewn haneri (fake juban collar) to stay over the collar stiffener and in place with the elasticised clips (which really put the flexibility of my shoulders and elbows to the test) that wove out of and into the kimono through the slits of the sides.

We realised that we had to make do with a lot of things e.g. the lack of a traditional obiage and obijime. Hence, we invoked the power of WWOD and decided to raid my mom’s closet for suitable replacements. *mental note to self: thank mom when she comes home from Jakarta*

After all that trouble though, came the realisation of just how important padding your waist is. Seriously. After twisting your own arm, standing still for a good 20-40 minutes while everything is being put on and adjusted, we realised that as the obi crumpled up by the side… that I had forgotten to pad my waist. Hence, resulting in this minor catastrophe:

Sakura Drops Ensemble Taiko Musubi

Moral of the story: PAD YOUR WAIST. Seriously. Just pad it. Even if it’s only at the back.

If I had remembered to pad it, this bit wouldn’t have crumpled as much. (On the bright side, this means I’ve lost weight! Go, me!)

All in all though, for our first ensemble, this wasn’t a bad attempt. I felt like a hime even if Plum felt like a kitsuke lady. After spending nearly an hour putting it on, I didn’t feel like taking it off just yet. Plus, I needed to testdrive it as I’m planning to wear the ensemble to a semi-casual dinner on Tuesday night.

Just as I had experienced at my own event wearing a tsukesage, it’s important to at least test drive your kimono lest you feel faint as I did. It’s hard to breathe when you’re tied up in an obi, let alone eat an 8 course meal, however cheap the food may be.

Things I learned just by sitting down in my living room in my komon, properly put on:

1. My posture is immediately corrected.
2. I’m able to fold my koshihimos into the correct starshaped folds for storage properly. Nihon-powers +100! (I am such a nerd. >_<;)
3. I drink my coke like ocha without realising with one hand under the bottom.
4. I don’t stomp around my own house.
5. So goddamned hard to reach for anything beyond an arm’s length as shown by picture here:

cant reach... hand it to meh!!!

(It’s like I’ve got a three-toed claw for a hand. Ugh.)

Also: 6. I (Blossom) will not sit under the fan even though I am so hot and melting under the komon because I hate draughts that much even if they would do me good. ^_^

Edit: I did sit in front of the fan with the komon on. I just refused to sit in front of it once I had it off. I’d rather cool down naturally. Which I did so within a couple of minutes. <_<;

Anyhow, just to wrap this post up before we ramble on and on… putting on a kimono is fun and yes, it will make you feel pretty. It’s good for the soul. Especially, with coke, chocolate and Law & Order playing in the background while your BFF is trying to adjust your obi-makura.

The Physics of Kimono Hair According to Blossom – Part 2: Hair Texture, Length and Accessories

Had some free time at work so decided to start on this post instead of burning my brain and working even harder than I already am. :/

In my last post about kimono hair, I talked about face shapes and hinted about how hair texture was going to play an equally important part in getting that hairstyle right. Again, I’m putting up the disclaimer that I really am not a professional and I’m just sharing tips that I’ve gathered from talking to friends and my own hairstylists (God knows I’ve been through a few of them.)

There are many types of hair. Even if you’re not going to do an updo anytime soon, knowing what type of hair you have is a good thing so you’d know how to care for it better on a day-to-day basis. I spent years buying the wrong sort of shampoo. It took two stylists, a few friends and a website to point me in the right direction.

If you’re unsure as to what’s your hair type, you can try this link at naturallycurly.com.

Once you have your hair type down pat, you can decide whether or not you want to go for that sleek smooth look when you’ve got ringlets. You might also wish to consider long beautiful straight hair can be worn half-up and half-down, in a classic manner.

Texture

Texture also dictates the kind of kanzashis you can put in your hair. Generally speaking, thicker, straight hair like Plum’s can benefit from thicker plastic combs that tend to be a little heavier and require little grip to keep it in place. The same type of comb isn’t going to stay in my hair – which is fine but in rather voluminous ringlets. Instead, I’d go for a light wire comb that has enough teeth to get a grip.

Generally, the rule for kanzashis and hair accessories (based on my trial and error) is as such…

-thick and straight hair benefit from clips that have a thicker or stronger hold e.g. butterfly clips, crocodile clips, hair sticks and barettes. Thicker hair can go for larger more spectacular pieces that tend to be heavier. These can be placed at the side of the head e.g. above or behind the ear because the hair is strong enough to support the weight.

– fine hair can support finer, lighter pieces of hair jewellery e.g. those attached to wire combs, mini-butterfly clips. Crocodile clips will hold but in my personal opinion, the damage done by the teeth to the hair shaft is just not worth it. It leads to breakages and more problems down the road. If you do wish to wear a larger and heavier piece, you might wish to support with bobbypins or position it at the base of the bun, ponytail where there’s more hair gathered to support it.

– curly hair; depending on your curls, different pieces will work. Fine, curly hair would look good with the smaller hair jewels. Thick curly hair would be able to support the heavier pieces that act as a sleek accent to the piled waves or ringlets. Its hard to say what would work because there’s a tendency for curls to overwhelm the pieces that actually hold the style together. So you really have to experiment

For examples of hair jewellery or accessories, here are some great examples I came across and more examples of how you can wear them. I won’t comment much on the whole ‘dirty your hair up a bit’ because I’ve got an oily scalp and most of the time I’ve got enough sebum-goodness to coat my curls.

– Afro-textured hair: Only after watching a few shows like Tyra (yes, I watch rubbish sometimes, even judgmental supermodels) and catching snippets of Chris Rock’s Good Hair, did I become aware of the entirely unique and different hair fibre that is afro-textured hair. I don’t have any personal experience with Afro-textured hair so I’m not going to dispense any advice on an area I don’t know about. What I do know is that, judging by the intricate cornrows, braids and patterns I’ve seen people do with Afro-textured hair, there shouldn’t be a problem with incorporating the neat, beautiful aesthetics of kimono hair. Granted, it would look different but hell, it’d still be pretty if you do it right. So if you have afro-textured hair and still want to wear a kimono, go ahead and work it.

Length

The most popular way to wear your hair, due to the crisp and smart collar of the kimono, is to have a bun worn high at the back of the head. The same formal effect can be faked with extensions and fake hair pieces. If you wish to wear your short hair as naturally as you can, you could fluff it up and to emphasise the curls, while smoothing down the fringe for a more formal appearance.

I’d really suggest browsing through the Japanese books section of your local bookstore, if you’re lucky enough to have a Kinokuniya or Sasuga near you for guides like these. Even if you can’t understand the language, the pictorial guides are enough for you to figure out the basics.

Accessories

Now that we have the texture and length out of the way, I can talk about the sort of kanzashis you want to consider. Generally speaking, floral patterns are the way to go. While most kanzashis are expensive, there are affordable pieces available on Etsy.com. This is one seller I love to bookmark. So there isn’t any need to fork out hundreds of dollars for a piece that while authentic and super traditional, its one that you won’t/can’t wear with anything else other than your kimono.

~Blossom

The Gaijin’s Insight to Choosing the Right Kimono

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.

Kuro Tomesode

Kuro Tomesode

Tomesode

  • Formality: Formal
  • Suitable for: Married Women
  • Occasions: Weddings or other formal events.
  • Description: The Kurotomesode comes in all black with bright designs on the lower part of the kimono. It comes with 5 or 3 family crests, or kamon, that distinguish the formality of the kimono. If one is a relative of the bride, one wears the Kurotomesode with a white inner collar, obi age and obi jime. This is to contrast the bride’s white kimono. The Irotomesode is the brighter coloured version of the tomesode where the base comes in different colours. It is worn by married women who are not related to the bride at weddings.
  • Obi: Fukuro/Maru
  • Shoes: Zori for tomesode, with silk decoration attached at the heel, white tabi.

Furisode

Furisode

Furisode

  • Formality: Formal
  • Suitable for: Unmarried Women
  • Occasions: Coming of Age Ceremony, weddings and other formal events.
  • Description: The Furisode literally means ‘swinging sleeves’, which are meant to catch the hearts of young men in them. Don’t know if they work for me. However, the furisode is the most formal kimono that an unmarried woman may wear, with brightly-coloured and eye-catching motifs to attract the male of the species. (I suddenly feel as if I should wear this more often)
  • Obi: Fukuro/Maru
  • Shoes: Zori for furisode, with silk decoration attached at the heel, white tabi.

Houmongi

Houmongi

Houmongi

  • Formality: Formal to Semi-formal
  • Suitable for: Married and Unmarried Women
  • Occasions: Can be worn at most occasions.
  • Description: The Houmongi is categorized by the patterns which flow over the seams, shoulders and sleeves. It is the most versatile of kimonos which can be worn to most occasions depending on how many kamon it has.
  • Obi: Fukuro/Maru/Nagoya (Nagoya being the most informal of these obis)
  • Shoes: Zori with tabi of white or different colours

Tsukesage

Tsukesage

Tsukesage

  • Formality: Semi-formal
  • Suitable for: Married/Unmarried Women
  • Occasions: Can be worn at most semi-formal occasions, have personally worn one to a dinner and dance before.
  • Description: The Tsukesage is identified by the patterns that occupy small areas, usually below the waist and sometimes accented on the sleeves. It is slightly less formal than the Houmongi.
  • Obi: Fukuro/Nagoya
  • Shoes: Zori with tabi of white or different colours

Iromuji

Iromuji

Iromuji

  • Formality: Semi-formal
  • Suitable for: Married/Unmarried Women
  • Occasions: Tea Ceremonies only
  • Description: The Iromuji is identified by its solid colours. While there may be figures on the dyed silk, there is no pattern of other colours.
  • Obi: Nagoya
  • Shoes: Zori with tabi of white or different colours.

Komon

Komon

Komon

  • Formality: Informal
  • Suitable for: Married/Unmarried Women
  • Occasions: Casual wear
  • Description: The Komon is characterized by its patterns that are small and repeated. It is the most informal of kimonos (with the exception of yukata, which I think should be in a different category) and suitable for casual wear. Blossom’s kimono is a Komon.
  • Obi: Nagoya/Hanhaba
  • Shoes: Zori with tabi of white or different colours.

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.

~Plum

kimono epic fail

If you’re going to wear a traditional costume, its best to learn as much as you can about it. IN the case of the kimono, the significance of certain things like obi in front or the right panel over the left one, little things like that really do matter. I’m sure there are other cases.

Its all about respect.

Well, at least, that’s the advice that any Japanese would give any Gaijin who would want to wear their national dress. And that brings me to this state of confusion:

Miss Japan's mini kimono

Miss Japan's mini kimono Miss Japan's mini kimono

No. Just no.

Personally, I find this very painful to look at. And it really does look like something out of a pornstar’s fetish closet. If it really was designed for that, I wouldn’t have minded so much. I would have lol-ed and got it out of the way.

But this was the national costume for Japan’s entry to the Miss Universe 2009 Pageant (which eventhough is over, I’m glad I didn’t watch). It was, thankfully, altered to a little longer to become this:

Miss Japan's mini kimono Miss Japan's mini kimono

So, the panty-flashing bit is still there and part of me is still going ‘Wait, honey… you forgot to move that pretty obi knot to the front of your costume’… but at least, she’s not flashing her crotch to everyone. :/

I find it mildly hilarious and disconcerting that while I was looking for pics on kimono coordination and working on a post to do your hair, I would come across the largest kimono epic fail to date… and not from the hands of some ignorant cosplaying gaijin idiot but a native Japanese. Being Japanese doesn’t give you the right to massacre the whole philosophy behind the kimono. Just like how being Singaporean doesn’t give you the right to mangle four ethnic costumes into a single suited mish-mash of blasphemy.

Seriously, people. The hell. *palmface*

~Blossom

Kimono Couture

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.

Not necessarily.

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.

Jotaro Saito

~Plum

The Physics of Kimono Hair according to Blossom – Part 1: Face Shape

It’s funny how many life lessons one can extrapolate from a kimono – from the structure, the history of how the design came about, the type of cloth, the knots… it’s all really one massive exercise in coordination. You don’t really need Plum or I to point that out. So after sweating buckets over the right obi to go with the right kimono with the right sort of footwear, kanzashi and bag, you’d think you’re done with the hard part. Well, there’s the issue of what to do with that mop of cilia on top of your head – your hair. How are you going to do your hair? The ginko style isn’t going to suit everyone and unless you’re a real Japanese, this is going to look super costume-y on you.

spare fabric

Theatrical but no. Unless you’re really Japanese or Liza Dalby.

Big huge no-no there. There are easy escape routes like the chignon but if you’re non-Japanese and are wearing a kimono to a function, you don’t want to look just okay. You want to look great. That means getting the right updo, dammit. Thusly, I’ve regurgitated what I’ve learned about wearing your hair with any sort of kimono. I’m not a professional and God knows, there are days that I need help with my own hair but if I can save someone out there the trouble I went through in choosing what hairstyle to choose… why not? If the kimono was ice-cream, your hair is the topping that makes or breaks it.

Personally, I prefer the more polished look since the kimono is a garment meant for semi-formal to formal events. Unfortunately, having short curls puts me on the road towards ‘fun and flirty’ as opposed to ‘dignified goddess’. :/

When choosing an updo to go with your kimono, there are a few things to consider:

1. Face shape
2. Hair colour, type and texture
3. Length of hair
4. Accessories
5. The function you’re dressing up for (Dinner? Open-air wedding reception? Prom?)
6. Your own personality and threshold for fussiness

Because this is going to be pretty long and lengthy… I’m just going to touch on face shape.

Before starting, get a jacket with a proper collar. This will help you see how your neck looks like, more or less, and how high you ought to style your hair without having to put on a kimono.

By now, you should know your face type is one of these types:
– round
– square
– heart
– oval

Depending on the shape of your face, there are certain parts of your face you want to elongate or disguise.

For round faces, choose updos that add focus to your crown and elongate your face. Side swept fringes and long, tousled bangs able to be tucked behind the ear will work well. The idea is to break the line of your cheek and jaw. Avoid slick backed styles and flat bangs as these just look awkward and have a tendency to look school-marmish. This is a nice example, even if it is Selena Gomez:

spare fabric

If you’ve got a squarish face, then you might want to consider adding some wispy (not unkempt) strands at the side of your face to soften the angles:

spare fabric

Heart-shaped faces have wide foreheads and cheekbones and a rather pointy chin. So choose updos that give the illusion of a smaller forehead and not-too-small chin. You could do a half-up-half-down hairstyle if you’ve got short to medium length hair. If you’ve got longer hair, you could pin your hair a little lower or to a side bun where it can be seen from the front. Try not to pile everything on top of your head or hide it. Wispy but arranged strands look nice so I’d suggest really experimenting.

spare fabric spare fabric

If you’ve got an oval-shaped face, then you’re lucky. The common opinion is that you can pull off most styles with little consideration in choosing. I still say experiment because while the style might suit your face… There’s still the issue of hair colour and texture to consider next. (And you oval-shaped faced people thought you could get away easy…. XD)

~Blossom

I did try to find a more varied range of pictures but scouring the internetz for examples and trying to guess which face looks like which shape is harder than it looks. Much, much harder.

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