Saturday, October 9, 2010

Japan at the Ren Fest

Our local "Texas Renaissance Festival" is one of the biggest in America and is 36 years old this year. My parents first took me as a little kid, and I fell in love with it and have gone more or less ever since, barring the times when I was out of the state or country.

Over the years, the costumes seen there have shifted somewhat into a broader spectrum. Nowadays in the crowd you're as likely to see a fairy or bellydancer as you are a more traditional medieval outfit, and you're starting to see more historical fringe elements (what was the world like in other places during the same time span?) appear.

The historical fringe costumes include Japanese outfits, a handful of which I saw today and were mostly men in martial-arts hakama and tops: nice, sedate outfits that blended in well.

The fun part about going back in Japanese history is that, more or less, kimono and related items have largely looked the same since the 1600s, so fudging an outfit from "long ago" is a lot easier with authentic Japanese clothes than Western ones. It won't be 100% historically accurate, but your modern kimono will be far more on target (especially to the average American eye) than your modern Western shirt or dress would be.

I'm actually putting together what I hope will be a reasonable facsimile of a Japanese oiran (high-level prostitute) costume myself, and will wear it and post some photos in November when it's cool enough to go back wearing several layers of kimono, whiteface, and a proper wig without melting into a puddle.

Why not go as a geisha? They actually didn't exist "yet", coming into being in the 1700s. Oiran and their predecessors are on the edge of the technical time period (1600s) to begin with, but for me geisha are too far out on the timeline to take to the Ren Fest.

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