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 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 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 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