Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Newbie Tips: Top Ten Kimono-Wearing Mistakes

I love seeing new folks get interested in kimono, and I will happily welcome an enthusiastic newbie making mistakes when wearing one because I know they're interested and their heart is in the right place. We were all newbies once!

If you're wearing yours just for fun, or in a non-traditional style, you don't really need to worry about the following (minus the left-over-right part!), but if you're interested in traditional kitsuke (kimono wearing), here are the top ten common mistakes I see at conventions and online.

1. Lack of obi knot: Obi aren't just tied in a big knot in the back with the ends dangling down. Look on Youtube for "how to tie an obi" to see examples: for example, the simple bunko musubi, the bow-tie seen on the skinny hanhaba obi worn with casual kimono, can actually be mastered in about ten minutes. Don't be afraid of the obi! :)

2. Obi knot worn in the front: While centuries ago the knot wandered around the waist in terms of placement, it's stayed firmly in the back for both men and women for over 100 years now. Wearing it in the front calls up the idea of the old, now-outlawed prostitutes, who wore theirs in front and is never done in normal kitsuke.

3. Obi-jime dangling: The obi-jime, the thin cord worn around the middle of the obi, should never dangle like curtain cords from the front of your obi. Often it's brought around from the back, tied in a slip knot in the front, and then pulled back the way it came and tucked into itself at the sides (kimono sleeves hide this). Some more modern styles have it tied in a bow tie or fancier knots, but something is done with it to keep it from hanging down.

4. Women unknowingly wearing men's geta: While there are some examples that can be harder to tell, a good rule for distinguishing men's sandals from women's is this: if the size is over 25-26cm it's almost guaranteed to be men's. Men's are also usually more angular and square and not as colorful as women's.

5. Men's hakama worn backwards: The stiff board part goes in the back, not the front.

6. Left over right: Most newbies these days know about this one, but it's worth repeating that right over left is only for corpses. Your collar should always resemble a "y" to people looking at you, your left panel worn over your right panel. More seasoned wearers aren't always safe either: I catch myself doing it backwards every now and then if I'm not thinking about it!

7. Juban as outerwear: Juban, underkimono that only show in tiny bits at the collar, wrists and back of the kimono sleeves (on women), have a collar that is a different color than the rest of the kimono, usually white. Juban are underwear and should never be worn as a top layer.

8. Chinese brocade fabric used for homemade kimono: It can be tough for people new to kimono motifs to pick out Chinese motifs from Japanese ones, but a good rule of thumb is that shiny satin brocade, no matter the motif, is Chinese. Kimono are never made from it. And, as I've said elsewhere, China is a lovely country but it's not Japan (and both many Japanese and Chinese will be more than happy to tell you that. ;) ).

9. Collar against the back of the neck: Kimono are always worn slung back at the collar, on normal women from a few finger-widths back up to a fist.

10. Collar way too wide open: Cleavage is not a part of traditional kitsuke, as the chest isn't considered sexy or something to focus on. Your kimono should be closed enough the v of your bare neck stops around the hollow of your throat, and your collarbones are hidden.

Again, if you've done any of these, don't feel bad! It takes time to figure the basics out, especially if you're new to kimono. Feel free to email me if you have any newbie questions you might be too shy to ask elsewhere, and I'll help if I can. :)

No comments: