Monday, May 10, 2010

Tips for Kimono Newbies: Keep the Ladies Covered!

What is sexy? When it comes to kimono, the answer may surprise you: it's not your chest.

Some people new to kimono wear them way off the shoulder, exposing their shoulders and cleavage. It's an easy mistake to make: you can see it repeated in Western fan art, fetish "geisha" shoots and Halloween costumes and, while not a mistake, an artistic liberty taken by Japanese anime and manga creators.

It's a very Western approach to kimono, as for many Westerners it's hard to imagine a girl being cute or sexy without some skin showing. However, traditionally, kimono were very concealing, and the sexiest parts of a woman's body corresponded with the shape of the kimono: the back of the neck (hence the apprentice geisha's lower collar and distinctive white paint pattern), the wrist and forearm, and the ankles.

Above: the super-sexy plunging back of a maiko (apprentice geisha's) kimono, worn much lower than a "normal" woman's customary 2-3 inches off the back of the neck.

The bust is flattened, pressed down, and hidden under obi in young women. In older women the obi sits lower, but the bust is still hidden underneath an ideal smooth line from the top of the chest to the obi.

The collar is also worn closed and never dips down far enough to show any hint of cleavage. The exact angle depends on your age, but even geisha, the sexiest kimono-wearers out there, still show extremely little of their chests in comparison to modern Western women.

Above: a modern kimono wearer. Note how high her collar is and how her chest has been flattened so that there's hardly any curve present over the top edge of the obi.

Above: Kyoto maiko Mamechiho (2005). Notice that while her kimono is fairly far off her shoulders compared to a normal woman's, a wide collar and underkimono still keep her covered. Again, as with a normal woman's ideal look, the bust is almost non-existent.

The misconception of kimono about to fall from the shoulders probably also comes from people looking at famous ukiyo-e paintings of women in very loosely tied kimono and drawing conclusions from that. The trick with that, however, is that usually the women depicted are either a. prostitutes, b. changing clothes, or c. getting ready to have sex. It's a cultural misunderstanding, sort of like if an alien were to watch a Victoria's Secret commercial and decide that all Earth women run around in their panties all day. ;)

So, long story short, if you're interested in wearing a kimono traditionally (and some would argue respectfully) keep the ladies covered unless it's cosplay.

Images copyright Daniel Bachler, Corpse Reviver, and Joi respectively

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