The day we became Kogane-hime and Sakura-hime

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.

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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