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