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.

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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.

The Gaijin’s Insight into Kimono Coordination

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.

Kimono Overview

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.

Colours that are side-by-side on the colour wheel; matching colours

Analogous Colours: Colours that are side-by-side on the colour wheel; 'matching colours'

Colours that are opposite on the colour wheel; Striking colours

Complementary Colours: Colours that are opposite on the colour wheel; 'Striking colours'


Colours taken from both opposites and side-by-side; Focal point colours

Split-Complementary Colours: Colours taken from both opposites and side-by-side; 'Focal point colours'


An example of split-complementary colour scheme - yellow and green base colours with purple accents.

An example of split-complementary colour scheme - light orange and green base colours with purple accents.

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 :/

~Plum

New Kimono Literature (of sorts)

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

ISBN: 4-418-04405-1

Price: SG$35.10

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

ISBN:4-418-06405-2

Price: SG$38.20

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):
yes
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.

Plum

Plum