Saturday, May 09, 2015

Let's Kitsuke Like It's 1944 ~ or how about ~ Kimono Obsession Takes Over!

Yes, that same odd obsession that you may have noticed in the last few posts......well...it hasn't really gone away. Turns out my daughter and I just have too much fun, she enables me, and I enable her. So, in honor of this latest bit of fun, here are some pictures of my daughter in kimono. For those un-initiated, the act  / skill of dressing is called kitsuke. I buy the wafuku (Japanese traditional clothing / accessories), dress my daughter, and she models it. (She has been learning how to dress herself lately and is doing very well ~ I'm quite proud of her!) I'll try to explain things as I post them ~ who knows, perhaps you might just fall in love with all things kimono yourself. ;-D



This first kimono is a charming little Heisei era silk / wool blend hitoe (that is Japanese for unlined) kimono.  It has a great seasonless pattern and makes me think of a Taisho Roman (1890's to 1930's or 1940's.. pre- wwII) look. Being in the colors of red, black, dk green, and a sort of creamy off white (with a greenish yellow undertone) background, it can co-ordinate with so many obi, and can be worn any time except during the heat of summer. And even then, you could wear it in the evenings around here, since we have a 40*F+ temperature swing from day to night. (That's what it means to live out in the arid desert.)

This is a close-up of the kitsuke. Although I like the turtle, I am not fond of how it seems to mess up the line of the obijime. Obijime is the red silk cord used to secure the obi. Obi is the very wide belt that secures the kimono in front & ties up into decorative knots and bows in the back. The different types of bows and knots are called musubi. The black length of silk above the obi is called an obiage. Normally, in very formal situations, black is reserved for funeral wear; however, we don't live in Japan, and we don't have any formal tea ceremonies or Japanese funerals to go to, so I think we'll be ok bending this rule on the obiage.

This musubi is called an otaiko drum knot, or taiko for short. It is one of the easiest knots to tie, especially if you are dressing yourself, so this is the musubi you will likely see most often.  It also spans age range, seasonality, and formality, so it is a very useful musubi. There are even special obi designed specifically for this knot ~ it is called a Nagoya obi. There are also easy tie fake taiko obi, in 2 pieces, called a tsuke obi.


This long black jacket is called a haori. It is open in the front, and is usually decorated somewhat simply, although I have seen some really wild designs, too. This particular haori has woven urushi designs. Urushi is where they take strips of paper, laquer them to different colors, and then weave them into the fabric as part of the design. Isn't that just so genius? And because it is a high quality washi paper, there are long plant fibers in it, which makes it very durable. I have some pieces of urushi woven fabric that I have soaked, hand-washed, and then ironed out, and the design, colors, & integrity remain as lovely as before, if not better. No bleeding at all.

Now this umbrella is called a wagasa or bangasa. It is also made of lacquered paper, and then the design is hand-painted on. If you ever have the chance to own a real, hand made Japanese shade (parasol, wagasa, bangasa, umbrella) I recommend you take it. They are beautiful works of art. And I mean the precision with which they are constructed, as well as the painted decoration.
This is how the long haori look in the front. Often, they have small haori-himo (or kumihimo) to tie the front loosely. Himo means tie, or cord.

This is another great timeless and seasonless kimono. It is a wool plaid hitoe from the Heisei era, but again, could be from almost any more recent era (1890's & on).  The obi is a tsumugi wool, with a modern woven design. Tsumugi means a few things, but generally, it connotates the nubbiness of the fabric. A silk tsumugi is like a raw silk, from the lesser quality silk cocoons, where-as a wool tsumugi is a nubbier, less smooth fabric. Both have wonderful wear-ability, and in fact, many silk tsumugi kimono only become more and more comfortable and soft as they age, and are therefore passed down from generation to generation for wear.


Here you can somewhat see the modern woven design on the obi. The flower is highly stylized, and is therefore seasonless. If the flower can be identified, then you generally want to wear it just prior to the season in which it will bloom. So if you had a sakura (cherry blossom) kimono or obi, you would wear it the week or 2 before the sakura bloomed in your area. According to the very stiff old rules, you would not want to wear it during the sakura blooming, because that would be seen as competing with the real thing, which would be considered rather gauche. You also wouldn't want to wear it after the sakura bloom, because by then, the season is over, and for pete's sake, that's ~So Last Week!~. However, in the dead of winter, if you were to wear sakura, it might be acceptable, because then it would be seen as a wish for spring. Complicated, isn't it?
One must remember, however, that all of these dressing rules were made up when people had tons of different kimono just hanging around, and kimono designers wanted a good excuse to sell more kimono. It's the same old commercial song & dance you see in every clothing business trade. Make it seem like the newest, latest, make some rules up about it, and sell more clothes! (And those made-up  rules exist across cultures ~ think of wearing white past Labor Day, etc.)


This ensemble is a beautiful rust silk michiyuki over a grey-blue silk awase kimono, with a woven pattern of chrysanthemums & maple leaves. A michiyuki is much like a haori, except that it closes completely at the front, snaps up and often has a small pocket in front. The collar of the michiyuki is designed to show off the co-ordination of all of the collars, as it frames them all so beautifully. Awase means lined. So an awase kimono is lined (usually with silk, but occasionally with muslin or cotton, depending on the fabric the kimono is made of) & is therefore to be used during colder days of the year. Does that mean that you can only wear awase when it's cold and hitoe (unlined) when it's warm? Not necessarily ~ again with those rules ~ ;-D ~ remember the wool kimono? They are almost never lined, yet are for cold weather! Ahhh, the complexities of kimono.

Here you can see the shoes that are worn, these kind are called zori. The strap is centered in the shoe, and oddly enough, the foot usually falls off slightly on the outside, as well as a bit on the heel. And that is the proper way to wear them. It isn't very comfortable at first, and many ladies are sorely tempted to just get a slightly larger size. You can do that, but only if you have tiny feet to begin with, since the Japanese just don't make zori in very large sizes. Luckily, my daughter is a tiny girl (5'2 1/2"), and has small feet as well (23cm, or size 6.5 to 7). This has made it much, much easier to purchase reasonably priced second hand wafuku. The socks she is wearing are called tabi, and these are also measured in centimeters, so we get her 22.5 to 24cm sized tabi. You have to get used to the way the toes are split up, but that too becomes comfortable after wearing them often enough.

See how the collar is back away from her neck here? That is how kimono are to be worn properly. If you saw some earlier posts, you noticed that we did not give the correct amount of space back at the neck. Only little girls and men wear their kimono close against the neck.


Here, you can see the flowers in her hair. These are tsubaki, or camellia flower. They are typically a winter flower, but these particular tsubaki are handmade little chirimen, and they looked so right in her hair, that I decided, to heck with that winter flower dealio ~ we're putting them in her hair! Besides, they match perfectly. :-D 
Perhaps you can also see the red at the inside of the collar, and the red lining the back of the sleeves.  This is called a nagajuban, or juban, for short. It is an under kimono, and is worn not only to give added color and interest to the entire ensemble, but also as a protection, to keep the outer kimono clean and free of body dirts, sweat salts, and so on. Silk kimono cannot be washed without completely unstitching, carefully handwashing, ironing, re-stitching, and finally minimal ironing. It's quite a process! So you can see why a nagajuban would be necessary. There is another layer of protection, as well. It is called the hadajuban. Hadajuban are typically made of either double gauze cotton, or double gauze cotton and muslin. (In many parts of the world, Japan included, the term "muslin" is used for a very light thin wool fabric, not the cheaper unbleached cotton fabric that we use the term to describe here in America.) The hadajuban actually touch the skin, and so can be washed easily, and are far cheaper to replace. A hadajuban might be used for a few seasons and then thrown away or re-purposed into something else, but a nagajuban will last for decades or more, and kimono can be passed down from generation to generation. Isn't that just so awesome & genius?

Look under the obi, do you see that extra bit of fabric that looks folded? That is called the ohashori. Ohashori is an important part of kitsuke. One of the reasons it is important is because it allows the bottom half of the kimono to move independently of the top half of the kimono. It also creates a nice neat line that adds to the entire look, and gives it a sort of ~jacket~ or ~peplum~ look. Is it absolutely necessary? Weeeeeelll.... big debates on that. If you are trying to wear those amazing Roman Taisho era kimono, and you are taller than 5'2" (and I am here to tell you, even THAT is too tall sometimes!), you are going to have a hard time getting a decent ohashori out of the kimono. A lot of ladies will simply make a tiny one that is under the obi, and just call it good. It doesn't look bad, it just doesn't always look quite right. But we've done it, because some kimono deserves to be worn, regardless of height! ;-D Another trick is to get that obi up higher, in order to get a touch more ohashori. You can also tie your koshihimo lower on the hips, and see if that helps. Koshihimo are the hidden ties underneath that help to hold everything together. (I will cover how to dress and those terms in another post.)




See the string that is flying about? That is another himo that is part of the michiyuki. It is just there to help secure the insides of the michiyuki, so that it hangs properly.

Note the worried look on her face ~ the duck and goose goop is THICK ~ we had to walk ever so carefully in order to not step in it.

  A close-up of the tsubaki hair ornaments, and the wooden hair fork that her daddy carved for her. It's very important that when you wear kimono, you make certain your hair also looks nice. So many times I have seen gals struggle and twist and finally get their obi tied and their kitsuke in order, and they are so pooped that by the end, they have forgotten their hair! My suggestion ~ do your hair first. Kimono will never mess up your hair-do, so it's always a safe bet. Besides which, you don't want overspray from hairspray or other hair or make-up products to get on your gorgeous kimono. And it's far easier to do your hair NOT in kimono, if you have to do your own.
Well, More kimono in another post, I hope you enjoyed this little Foray Into the Kimono ~ ;-D

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