Thursday, September 30, 2010

Renting Kimono

Kimono can be quite expensive when purchased new, so some shops rent them out instead. Wedding kimono, furisode, and other fancy kimono can all be rented, sometimes the rental alone costing thousands of dollars but still less than if the entire package were purchased new.

On the other end of the formality scale, casual things like komon can also be rented, for much lower prices. Here's a rental shop, Obebe-ya, with everything from komon to men's ensembles to graduation outfits and more, if you're curious to see how much it costs to rent rather than own new (or you just like looking!). The different categories are the red links on the left, the top-level links the main type of kimono or outfit.

("Obebe" is regional//Kyoto slang for "kimono".)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Do You Call... That Alcove Thingie in a Room?

Japanese-style rooms will at times feature a recessed alcove where flowers, hanging scrolls, bonsai, or other items are displayed.

The alcove is called a "tokonoma" 床の間. A common misunderstanding is that it's a sacred altar of some kind, but it's actually for displaying anything beautiful or nice. I was told by a Japanese friend that, traditionally, the tokonoma of the house usually incorporated the main support pillar of the house into one of its corners. In my apartment in Sendai, I had a small tokonoma in my tatami-floor bedroom complete with a wooden mock pillar.

If the room is used for entertaining, protocol also states that the most honored guest will be seated in front of the tokonoma or near it, with his back to it. He doesn't get to see it himself, but every time anyone else looks at him he'll be nicely framed by the tokonoma and whatever is displayed there.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Real or Fake? Super-Short Kimono

If you see a kimono on Ebay or elsewhere and the measurements tell you it'll hit you about the knees or midcalf, is the kimono a fake?

This one is a little trickier to answer because it might be or it might not. If it's cheap, shiny polyester or very shiny satin, it's a fake. If it has belt loops, pockets, or geisha/pagodas/cranes cheaply printed all over it, it's a fake. If it's sold by Legg Avenue, it' s a fake. ;)

On the other hand, if it looks like a regular, nice quality kimono (cotton, silk, or high-grade matte synthetic) it's probably either a little girl's or boy's kimono, or a kimono for babies to be wrapped up in for their first shrine visit.

Here are a few legitimate kids' kimono from online dealer Ichiroya, two for girls and then two for boys. As you can see, they're basically mini versions of adult kimono in terms of designs and quality, though, moreso than adult kimono, the motifs tend to be very feminine for girls and very masculine for boys.

Images copyright Ichiroya and used with permission.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tips for Newbies: Halloween Geisha Costumes

If you're thinking of doing a geisha outfit this year for Halloween and are new to geisha or kimono, here are a few of the biggest mistakes newbies tend to make and mass-produced costumes tend to feature.

I'm not going for the strict, hardcore "OMG your seasonal kanzashi hair ornament is for APRIL, not MARCH!" level of critque, but rather eliminating the common elements of the ubiquitous and borderline offensive "geisha girl" costume to make it closer to reality.

1. Chopsticks in the hair - Japanese people don't wear chopsticks in their hair, nor do they wear ornaments in the giant X pattern you seem to see on a lot of the lower quality costumes.

2. Random multiple buns of hair piled on the head (you've seen this wig, you know you have!) - Honestly, the actual wig geisha wear is a complicated piece of work, but it definitely doesn't resemble a human-hair snowman. Aim for one higher-placed bun toward the back of your head and leave it at that.

3. Cheongsam - The cute satin dresses with slits up the side, high collars, and usually a diagonal line of buttons across the chest are Chinese, not Japanese. Wearing one with whiteface and calling it a geisha costume gives the impression you don't know or don't care that China and Japan are two very separate and very distinct countries and cultures.

4. Bad "geisha" makeup - Quarterback-heavy black eyeliner, defined red circles on the cheeks, or even kanji (characters) written on the face are not flattering on just about anyone or in the right ballpark for geisha. If you do whiteface, skip the grease paint red circles and instead apply a simple subtle pink blush on your cheeks, as you would do with your normal make-up, over the whiteface, and apply a bit to your eyes as well. Keep the eyeliner thin, just enough to define your eyes. For lips, red done in a smaller pout than usual is good but don't make the red, for example, only a half-inch across.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seasonality in Kimono

A big part of classic Japanese aesthetics is admiring and portraying nature, the seasons and the changes within them. From painting to poetry, the inclusion of certain motifs will suggest a time of year.

Kimono, while not always, often suggest through their motifs a time of year as well. There are a ton of motifs that fall into the different seasons, even specific months, but generally speaking they'll follow nature. So if you have a motif you can identify (dragonflies, for example) think about what time of year it shows up in nature or if it's tied to a specific holiday or big calendar event. For dragonflies, they appear in late summer/early fall.

Another example: Cherry blossoms appear in the spring, March-April, and so if you have a kimono with only cherry blossoms on it, it is only meant to be worn in spring or at the very beginning of spring (it's ok to "forecast" a little ahead). Wearing it in the summer or fall would be like wearing a Halloween costume in May.

Red maple leaves are a fall motif, bamboo covered in snow is a winter motif, the uchiwa type of fans used in summer are a summer motif, and so on.

The only exception to this kimono rule is yukata, summer cotton kimono. They're a free-for-all and any motif is ok, even thought yukata are only worn in the summer.

You will also occasionally see winter motifs on summer pieces above yukata in formality. I specifically remember seeing a yukiwa, "snow(flake) ring" fukuro obi made of summer-weave silk, which, I'm guessing, suggests the idea of coolness during hot weather.

Nowadays, with fewer people buying and wearing kimono, many kimono are pan-seasonal, with a mix of motifs from different seasons so the kimono is ok to wear any time of year. Also, not all motifs are season-specific, especially the more abstract ones like yabane (vertical, interlocking "arrow fletchings") or kikkou ("turtle shell", diamond-like hexagons).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Language: Japanese Cursing vs. English Cursing

How do you cuss in Japanese? This is one of the questions I sometimes get asked when people find out I can speak (some) Japanese and lived in Japan, but it's not a straightforward situation. (Please skip this post if you're at work or prefer your posts PG-rated.)

With English, cursing is pretty simple. You have certain words that can't ever be used in polite conversation, even if they're directed at life in general and not the person you're talking to.

Japanese isn't that simple, so if you're reading this looking for a laundry list of words that correspond to the English versions, you're SOL. (Sorry, I couldn't resist. ;) ) There are several that are like English curse words in that they are inherently rude enough they're bleeped on TV (I'll leave you to find those for yourself), but compared to English most are more fluid in their meaning.

In Japanese, sometimes a single word can be translated multiple ways into English. "Sugoi" is one of them (and not a curse word!): it can mean "great/awesome/wonderful/amazing/etc.". That's how you have to look at most Japanese curse words and cursing. One word can slide up or down on the "offend-o-meter" depending on how it's used.

"Kuso" (K'soh) is one of them. If you drop your wallet and everything falls out, you might mutter "kuso" to yourself. Here it would be roughly the same as "Damn."

 If you slap it in front of another word, it can become stronger. "Kuso-gaki" ("Gaki" here means boy or child), if you're shouting it at someone, it could in truth be fairly translated as "little bastard", "little shit", or even "fucking brat" if enough anger were behind it (though many anime translators will tone it down to, I imagine, maintain lower ratings?). If you were muttering it to yourself, it'd be closer to "stupid brat" or "damned kid".

Speaking casually when the situation requires you to be more formal is disrespectful enough to count in feeling as cursing as well. There are more levels of speech in Japanese than English, so shifting down a level or more when you're not supposed to shows definite disrespect. It's sort of like if you met the Pope and greeted him with "How's it hanging, Papi?", but several times worse.

This is a problem Japanese-to-English translators can run into when trying to accurately convey meaning in movies, books and anime. The character may literally be saying, for example, "I won't do that," but depending on the level of speech they use the feeling might be more like "The hell I'm doing that!" or "There's no fucking way I'm doing that." Which one do you go with, or do you try to strike a balance?

Anyway, the more you learn, the more you can pick up on these nuances when listening to subbed programs and the more you can enjoy the feel of what's going on.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thank You for 10,000! Yukata and Obi Giveaway

I began doing this blog in January, and I never imagined it would get 10,000 visits, especially in under a year. Thank you so much for your visits, comments and support!

To celebrate, I'll be giving away a free women's yukata and hanhaba obi.

How To Enter:

Email me at info attttt with a first name or nickname I can post, and title your email "Drawing". One email per person, please (unless you do the bonus points below). I will accept emails until midnight, the evening of October 22, 2010 and announce the winner on October 23, 2010.

(I solemnly swear on my Meiji-era furisode that your email will not be collected, spammed, sold to other people, and so on.)

Dress Up Points!

Send along a photo of yourself wearing kimono and you'll be entered into the contest twice. It can be an old or new photo: the only requirement is that you let me post the photo on my blog. If you don't have any, your own kimono-related art or craft works too. One photo or piece or art per person, please.

Good luck, and thank you again for 10,000!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tips for Newbies: How to Be Happy in Kimono

This may sound like an odd title for a post, but if you're new to wearing kimono here are some tips that will make you look more graceful and keep you more comfortable while wearing them.

1. Don't tie your obi too tight. It should be quite snug but not so snug that you can't breathe at all.

2. Wear a sports bra rather than a regular one: it makes a cleaner line and you won't have, for example, underwires pressed into you by an obi if you wear yours higher.

3. When you walk, take small steps so as not to billow the front of your kimono open. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the end result is that you'll glide along more gracefully and won't tug your kimono front out of place.

4. If you've never worn geta (wooden sandals) or zori (more formal sandals) before, bring regular sandals to change into so you're not stuck shoeless if breaking them in does a number on your feet.

5. Don't wear normal clothes under your kimono: underwear, bra, a tank top and slip or leggings/bike shorts are all you need. Remember, you're going to have at least one layer of kimono and another layer (the obi) wrapped around your stomach, where your body keeps a lot of heat, so you don't want to pile on too much under that.

6. Have fun! Don't obsess over your kitsuke (kimono wearing) if it's not perfect. Enjoy wearing it, and the more you do it the more practice you get and the more comfortable you'll be with your dressing skills. :)

7. Cell phones, cameras, and wallets can be dropped into the pockets on the sleeves if you don't want to carry a purse. I've never lost anything doing this, but don't put anything too light in there if you're a woman (as your sleeves are also open in the back and something could slide out if it's not heavy enough to stay in the front pocket corner).

8. Cheap casual folding fans (sensu, $5 or so on Ebay) are your friend. Weather or buildings that feel cool or comfy when you're in shorts and a T-shirt will feel a lot warmer in kimono, and folding fans tuck neatly into your obi when you're not using them.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ebay Find: Deep Blue Furisode

A quick post tonight... while surfing Ebay I ran across this pretty furisode in dark blue, a color I don't see very much on secondhand furisode, and listed at a very, very reasonable starting bid price of $29.99. Good luck if you decide to go for this one!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cosplay: Can You Use Real Kimono for Bleach Characters?

So lately I've gotten sucked into the anime Bleach. Yes, I'm amazingly late to the party, but you'll have to forgive me. I have a soft spot for stubborn heroes with giant swords (my favorite series ever is good old Berserk).

Now that I've seen a few episodes, I better understand some of the questions I've gotten from people at conventions and festivals about using kimono with Bleach characters. If you're curious, here's a quick breakdown of the differences between what your average Shinigami is wearing compared to traditional clothing.

 Main character Ichigo Kurosaki in the standard Shinigami uniform.

Kimono (top half visually): The collar and drape are similar to a real black men's kimono, but the entire front of the sleeve is open. On non-martial arts kimono the hole is only long enough for the hand to stick through, and is sewn shut the rest of the way down. The white you see along the sleeves and collar in the outfit is likely intended to be the underrobe (juban).

Hakama (bottom half, pants): These look to be largely the same, but traditional hakama ties are the same color and material as the rest of the hakama. The Shinigami have contrasting ties.

Tabi (socks) and straw zori (sandals): These look to be the same as traditional versions.

Captain's Coats (the white ones): The coats appear to be based on men's haori (kimono jackets) as they hang down the front rather than fold over, but the designs along the hems are not traditional, and the sleeves are wholly open again when normal ones are sewn shut below the wrist, like the above-mentioned kimono.

So, could you use traditional clothes to create a basic Shinigami costume? I think so. Here's what you'd need:

1. Black men's kimono and white juban (men's or women's, as women's are easier to find online in all white)- Use a seam ripper on the sleeve hole opening of the kimono and resew the hem along it to make it completely open.

EDIT (9/26/10): Having seen a few more episodes, it looks like the back of the sleeves are open too! Long story short, that means a woman's kimono is more accurate to the costume because men's sleeves and the body's side seams are sewn shut. In women's they're open (the side seam several inches), where you could physically stick your hand into the side of a woman's kimono under her arm and also into her sleeve from the back (the wider women's obi types normally cover up the side seam opening in normal kimono wearing).

Juban, the underkimono, shouldn't need any resewing as the sleeves on juban are normally open in the front, but you'll need a long, inch-wide strip of soft, non-slick fabric to tie it shut before you put the kimono on over it. Anything thinner will cut into your skin over the course of a day.

2. Men's obi-  This is worn over the kimono but under the hakama pants and is what keeps your kimono shut. The knot you tie in the back also helps create the bump seen under the pants in the back. As this isn't really seen except as a tiny line above the hakama ties (if you want to be traditional about it rather than hide it entirely), this could easily be faked with a cheaper substitute made of stiff fabric.

3. Men's black hakama- Cut off the normal ties and use them as guides to sew your own out of the white fabric of your choice.

4. Captain's coat- This gets trickier as men's haori don't often come in white. You'd probably be better off making your own than trying to find a vintage haori and altering it.

5. Tabi and zori- Check Ebay and online dealers for these as they're ready to go as is. Straw zori can be a bit tougher to find, however, as well as larger sizes.

If you assemble all or some of this down the road and would like to know how to traditionally put it on, there are some good videos on Youtube for dressing in kimono and hakama with a lean toward the martial arts angle (which I think the Shinigami definitely fall under!). My favorite is an easy-to-follow series by an Iaido practioner, which starts with this video on clothing basics and continues on with Part 2 (hakama), and more if you're interested in how to wear a katana. etc.

The sharp-eyed of you will immediately note he has white ties on his hakama, but he explains early on that he switched them out to a different color to make them easier to see. ;)

Kimono images courtesy Ichiroya and used with permission.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Culture: Yes, I Hear You vs. Yes, I Will Do That

This is a fine detail that can lead to big misunderstandings, so it's worth mentioning if you're going to be talking with anyone in Japanese.

In Japanese, to show that you're listening to someone, you'll tend to say, moving down the scale of formality, "hai" or "ee" (said "eh") all the way down to the "nn" grunt. All of these words mean "yes" normally, but here they just mean "Yes, I hear you." They do not mean the person agrees with you or agrees to do what you're asking of them.

It's sort of like the English "yeah" or "uh-huhs" you'll hear people use to show they're paying attention.

In Japanese, to show that you have heard and agree to do whatever is being asked of you, you'll often say things like "Wakarimashita" (wah-kah-ree-mah-shta, formal) or "Wakatta" (wah-kah-tta, casual), or "Sou desu"/"Sou da" ("Yes, that's true") if you're simply agreeing wtih their idea or observation.

"Wakarimashita/wakatta" usually means "I understand (lit. I understood or have understood)" but the feeling when you respond to an order or request with it is "I have understood and will do it."

For the anime or movie fans out there, listen carefully when big bosses are giving orders and you'll typically hear some "wakarimashita"s from the underlings.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yamatoku Classic: Wigs and Hair Ornaments

Kimono dealer Yamatoku Classic has a new "kimono goods festival" sale up, with some good prices (5 pack of obi-age scarves for $30, 10 pack of obi-jime cords for $40) and items they don't usually list, like wigs, shigoki obi and hair ornament sets.

The usual Yamatoku advice applies: ignore the word "geisha" in the titles as very little if any of it is actually geisha-related (trying to pump up their keyword search returns, I guess?). Enjoy the beautiful items for what they are (the hair ornaments are, I believe, mostly if not all for weddings, as an example) but if you're after items that are specifically geisha-related, I'd pass.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kimono Lily Update: Pre-Tied Taiko-Knot Obi

If you're intimidated at the thought of tying your own taiko knot (the drum-like box knot often worn with kimono more formal than yukata), pre-tied taiko knot obi are the thing for you. America-based kimono dealer Kimono Lily put up six of these obi today, for prices as low as $35.

"Pre-tied" obi, called "tsuke" 付け帯 or "tsukuri" obi 作り帯, come in two parts. One is the rectangular part to wrap around your waist, and the other is the knot itself that fastens to the rectangle. You can also commonly find them made out of hanhaba obi, in the bow-tie "bunko" 文庫 knot, for use with summer yukata.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kimono Hime: Vol. 10 Out Now

If you've been following this blog for awhile, you've probably seen me mention "kimono hime" style. "Kimono hime", or "Kimono princess", style has no firm structure (like street fashion Lolita) but the overall idea is to pair kimono with unique and non-traditional styling or themes, accessories, colors, and so on.

This style is named for the magazine that helped popularize it, "Kimono Hime." While not published very often, Kimono Hime just came out with its 10th volume, and features actress and "Nana" co-star Aoi Miyazaki on the cover. If you're interested, more volumes are for sale at Amazon Japan secondhand and new.

Be warned, though, that Amazon Japan charges over $30 to ship items to North America. o_O A better bet might be watching Ebay: volumes 3, 7 and 8 are up now for starting bids of $16 with only $5 shipping.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Language: Ne!

Even if you don't know any Japanese, you can start picking out the word "ne" pretty quickly in anime, movies, or real-life conversations. "Ne" usually appears at the end of sentences and gives the feeling of agreement (ne. ne!) or seeking agreement (ne?).

It's a wonderful short-cut, and once you learn it you may find yourself using it even when you're speaking English (I do with a couple of my fellow Japan ex-pats randomly).

"This is tasty, --isn't it?--" = "Kore wa oishii desu --ne--."

"X, isn't it?" = "X, ne?"
"X, are you?" = "X, ne?"
"X, would he?" = "X, ne?"

You get the idea. All of those cases and others like them in English become "ne" in Japanese. You can even answer with a ne in super casual situations.

"Atsui ne." (It's hot, isn't it?)
"Ne." (Yeah.)

Another easy-to-find example is what I call the "sou desu ne" girls on TV talk shows. "Sou desu ne." (soh des neh) means  "That's so, isn't it?", and these girls, usually young and pretty, sit next to older male hosts and seem to spend most of their time nodding and saying "sou desu ne" in response to whatever the male host is saying (Man: "Our next guest is very talented." Girl: "Sou desu ne."). It can be a bit grating on American eyes and ears, but culturally it fits well within Japanese media expectations.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gackt, Bunraku, and Kimono!

Gackt, a very talented and somewhat eccentric Japanese pop/rock artist (who I first heard upon moving to Japan in 2002, when his "Moon" album came out), appears in the new movie Bunraku, which showed at the Toronto International Film Festival just a few days ago. He's appeared in and used kimono before in photos and in his shows, and wore one to the Bunraku premiere, one from a collaboration collection he's done as an offshoot of a stage production he's in, Nemuri Kyoshiro, "The Sleepy Samurai" (thanks to reader Karadin for that detail!). You can see the yukata collection here and two examples below.

Here's a translation of their latest update, 9/13:

"At the Toronto International Film Festival, Gackt appeared in an elegant kimono, and was showered with attention by world media. That day he had donned his newest creation, "Dance" (this "dance" specifically refers to ancient, sacred Shinto music and dancing). The sensitive aesthetics and gorgeous design can be seen nationally (in Japan) in special exhibitions. Please check this site's exhibition schedule for more information."

For any Gackt fans who happen to run across this post but don't know much about kimono, Gackt's designs are a pretty cool spin on tradition. I've seen some concerned that they're made of polyester, but in recent years high grade polyester has become more and more common for casual kimono as you can hand wash it and it's much cheaper than natural fibers or silk to produce. The price does reflect typical Gackt tour good sort of prices (I haven't been to any shows since I returned from Japan but I can't imagine it's changed that much ;) ), but it's not that high if you look at the prices of brand-new designer kimono and very high-end yukata.

On the topic of yukata vs. kimono, another question I've seen floating around, the short and simplified answer is that yukata are cotton, only meant to be worn to summer festivals and events, and everything else is wool, silk, linen, or high-grade synthetic (a la polyester) and can be worn to everything else, the exact "everything" depending on the kimono type and occasion it's being worn to. I'm not sure why Gackt chose to call his designs "yukata", unless he wanted to emphasize they're casual and/or non-traditional approaches. Yukata and kimono are exactly the same construction, minus a few small details (longer sleeves for the "furisode" type of kimono, linings for non-summer kimono, etc.).

The transparency of some of the collaboration designs, which I love, could also be a nod to "ro" or "sha" kimono, semi-transparent summer-weave kimono worn traditionally between June and September.

For the kimono fans who have no idea who this guy is, if you like Japanese pop or rock music, and I had to pick just a few recommendations, I'd say check out his songs "Kimi no Tame Ni Dekiru Koto", "Redemption", the entire "Moon" and "Mars" albums, and, from his Malice Mizer days (the band before he went solo), "Le Ciel." I can't recommend any of his newer stuff as I sort of wandered off after 2006 and haven't heard any. ^_^; Feel free to make your own recommendations! :)

Getting back to his kimono collaboration, the collection is, to me, an awesome bridge between traditional and pop culture and I hope over time it sparks more interest in kimono from Gackt fans and others both in and out of Japan.

If you'd like a (much cheaper!) street-style yukata, check out these Goth and Lolita friendly options over on Amazon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mamechiyo's Cute "Black Cat" Kimono

Looking for some kimono inspiration? Fun and casual kimono company Mamechiyo Modern's fall collection includes an adorable kimono with a flocky black cat print. Too cute!

It makes me want to get a plain iromuji or toned-down komon kimono and start adding appliques. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Skin Tone and Choosing Kimono Colors

If you're going to wear a kimono, what color kimono will look best on you?

The good news is the answer to this is the same as it is for Western clothing and make-up: it depends on your skin tone. The bad news is, a lot of people don't really know what skin tone refers to and needlessly restrict themselves to either "cool" or "warm" colors when the truth is they can wear a lot more than they think.

Skin tone refers to the overall tone of your skin, which is going to be either warm or cool or in a few cases neutral. This is not the color of your skin: ivory, fair, beige, ebony, etc. It's the underlying tone that looks either olive or yellow (warm) or blue or pink (cool). A good way to tell, if you're not sure, is to look at the color of your veins on your forearm. If they appear greenish, you're warm. If they appear blue, you're cool. If there seems to be a mix, you could be neutral (if any color of any kind looks good on you, you're this elusive third category).

Here is where confusion sets in (and you see it in a lot of places, including mass media). If someone has "warm" tones, the conventional wisdom says, they should wear warm colors (red, yellow, orange, brown). If they have "cool" tones, they should wear matching cool colors (blue, green, purple).

However, just like your skin, every color has a tone too. There are "warm" browns (with underlying red, orange or yellow tones) and "cool" browns (ones with underlying true blue, purple, or green tones). You can even have warm and cool greys. Colors that seem to shrink into themselves or move back away from the viewer are "cool", and those that seem to pop out at you or move forward are "warm".

To bring this back into clothing and kimono (and make-up), if a "warm" person wears a "cool" red, they're going to look off. The same goes for a "cool" person who chooses a "warm" green.

For the non-artists out there, I may sound like I'm nuts, so let's do some picture examples. Your monitor may vary a bit, but here are some kimono that are the same color, but different tones.

I chose iro-tomesode, a step down from kurotomesode in formality, and michiyuki, as examples, as they haven't gotten much love here on the blog. Iro-tomesode are just like kurotomesode, with patterning only along the hem, except they are colors (iro) instead of black (kuro). Michiyuki are just coats worn over kimono when going outdoors.

Before reading the caption, can you guess which is warm and which is cool?

Purple: "Cool" purple, with undertones of blue, is on the left. The "warm" purple on the right has undertones of red.

Red: While both are red, the one on top seems to recede back away from you a bit, marking it as "cool". The "warm" one on the bottom seems to move toward or pop out at the viewer.

If you're having trouble determining which ones are which, don't worry! It can make you go cross-eyed at times, even if you're used to dealing with colors in art or other areas.

The next time you're out shopping for clothes, take several pieces that are the same colors but different tones and try them on (maybe three or four red shirts and four more blue dresses). You'll notice which ones make you look washed out, sick or sallow, and which ones look nice against your skin, and with the items all next to each other it should be easier to see which feel "warm" and which feel "cool".

Once you figure out if you're warm or cool, look at something across the shop and decide if it's warm or cool. Then walk over and place your arm against it and see if you were right. For example, if you're a cool person and the item is cool, it should look fine. If it doesn't, then it was a warm-toned piece.

After some practice, you'll be faster at picking out not only kimono that will make you look great, but clothes and make-up in general. :) Happy shopping!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Yamatoku Classic: $7 Ko-Furisode

Online kimono dealer Yamatoku Classic is having a "furisode and obi festival", with discounts on a variety of items. By far the best deal is on ko-furisode, which are these days most always worn as part of a graduation oufit under hakama pants (their shorter sleeves and simpler designs, usually on the top half of the kimono only, set them apart from other, more formal furisode).

However, they make great costumes and bases for fun, non-traditional outfits, and as they're synthetic, they're much easier to clean than silk ones: you should be able to handwash them yourself. At $7, they're also one of the best kimono bargains you'll probably see for months online.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Yukata and Obi Giveaway!

Hitting 250 posts seems like a good time to announce this: in the next few weeks The Kimono Lady will officially reach 10,000 visits. It's been the better part of a year since I began writing my daily posts and this blog has been a lot of fun for me to write.

I'd like to say thank you to everyone who's stopped by and visited. :) So I'll be giving away a yukata and obi from my collection to celebrate. I'm not sure on the details of how I'll have folks enter for the drawing, but I promise it will be easy and free. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bringing Trends into Furisode

As part of their efforts to make kimono more accessible and appealing to the younger generation, some kimono companies now have styling tips for making a kimono cuter, more gothy, and so on. Here are a couple of links to style pages with ideas for bringing popular trends into a kimono look. I like the Gothic looks best, myself. How about you?

Kimono Hearts Portal


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Colors: Tea, Mice and Peaches

While not every color in Japanese is named after a thing, as a languages geek and visual person in general I find some of the traditional words fun for the images they present. Today, you can also find modern names based on English words ("pinku" for pink, etc.), but they don't quite have the same flavor as the originals. Some examples:

Cha iro 茶色- Tea color - light brown
Nezumi iro 鼠色- Mouse color - grey
Momo iro 桃色- Peach color - pink

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What Do You Call... Those Drawstring Bag Purses?

Today's entry is about the small little purses you'll sometimes see people carrying with casual kimono like summer yukata. Sometimes seen with a square or circular woven basket bottom, the top of the bag is cloth closed with drawstrings and is worn held at the side or dangling from the wrist.

Girl wearing yukata in Kyoto, with kinchaku at her side. Image courtesy Paul Vlaar, from Wikimedia.

These little purses are called "kinchaku" (keen chah koo) 巾着. As these are traditional bags, you'll sometimes see geisha and their apprentices maiko carrying larger versions of kinchaku as part of their normal wardrobe.

Geiko (Kyoto geisha) Kimika, carrying the large style held in one's arms. Image courtesy Onihide and used with permission.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Language: "Moshi Moshi"

As I've mentioned before, Japanese has a lot of set phrases that are very handy as they're used all the time in certain situations.

One of them is "moshi moshi". I've noticed more and more Americans seem to know this word, but they're unaware of when it's actually used. "Moshi moshi" means "hello," but is only used on the telephone. It is never used to greet someone standing in front of you.

The history of this phrase is rather cool: way back when people used to say "moshi" (from "mousu" 申す, "to speak") to call out to someone and start a conversation. However, they would say it twice to prove they were living, warm-blooded people who weren't ghosts or ghouls.

Ghosts can't repeat the sound "moshi". So if you heard a single "moshi" coming from behind you, it was best to not turn around. If you turned and answered, the ghost would steal your soul.

With the invention of the telephone, this tradition carried over to it (if you think about it, being on the phone is like having your back turned in that you can't see the person).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ichiroya Update: Nice Variety

Ichiroya updates almost every day, but I thought today's update was noteworthy for a few reasons.

They have some cute and affordably priced kimono, including a beautiful true purple iromuji (non-patterned) one and a pink shibori tsukesage (just a tad below houmongi in formality) for $38 each before shipping. They also have, in the higher-priced division, a couple of "tall" size kimono and a gorgeous black furisode. :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Building Coordinates: The Basic Komon

When it comes to putting together a good kimono outfit, whether you're going for straight-up traditional or funkier looks it's the same rule of thumb as any other fashion: start with the basics.

For me, "the basics" in kimono terms would start with a komon. Komon, kimono with small and repeating patterns, are versatile in a few ways.

-If you're doing traditional kitsuke (kimono wearing), komon are casual enough you can wear them shopping or about town (with a thin hanhaba obi), but nice enough you can dress them up for a dinner out (with a Nagoya obi).

-If you're budget-minded, you'll be happy to know komon are some of the cheapest kimono out there that you can buy secondhand.

-If you're going for funky or experimental looks, a fair amount of komon come in abstract patterns and shapes that keep the kimono unique but don't overpower the rest of your look.

It's easy to fall in love with flashier types of kimono like furisode, but if you're interested in wearing kimono you'll find komon are like your favorite pair of jeans. You might wear a formal gown once or twice a year, but you get a lot more wear for your money out of your favorite jeans.

One note: Some might argue that "the basics" begin with summer cotton yukata (the ones you see at summer festivals) but I disagree. Yukata are great and beginner-friendly, but they can only be worn in the summer to festivals and such, so despite their simplicity they're as much a niche seasonal item as a pair of seersucker pants. I will say that they do make an excellent "gateway drug" to regular kimono, though!

Images courtesy Ichiroya and used with permission.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Real or Fake? Mirrored Designs

A short post today, one on a topic I'll probably expand on more down the road.

If you look at a fair amount of kimono, you'll notice after awhile that most of the ones with large designs or groups of images that flow across seams are asymmetrical, like this one.

 So what about one like this, which is a perfect mirror on each side?
These are also legitimate kimono, usually antiques. So if the kimono appears to be correct in every other way (fabric, construction, overall look, lack of belt loops ;) ) and has this sort of design, you should be able to buy with confidence.

Images courtesy of Kimonoya and used with permission.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lolita Brand Yukata Set on Closet Child

Fans of Japanese street fashion Lolita might be interested in a yukata set currently for sale over at secondhand shop Closet Child, as the set is made by top-tier Lolita brand Angelic Pretty. It's one of their more famous prints as well, Strawberry Millefeuille.

The kimono-and-obi set is 14,800 yen (around $175 USD), and international shipping is available. The obi is a pre-tied type that comes in two pieces for easy wear.

If you'd like (much cheaper!) street-style Lolita and Goth style yukata, check out these sets over on Amazon:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ebay: Family Crest Cell Phone Stickers

Those of you who have followed this blog for awhile probably know already about my love for the city of Sendai, and my fondness for all things from it. This includes stuff like sasakamaboko (bamboo-leaf shaped fish cakes), the Tanabata festival, and founder Date Masamune (now also a main character in the Sengoku Basara series).

I just ran across a Date Masamune family crest (kamon) cell phone sticker on Ebay. If I hadn't already happily spent all my September kimono money (yeah, I know it's the only the first, but more to come on that later), I'd buy it. Doh!

For those of you not on Team Sendai, the same seller also has the Shinsengumi and generic cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums. :)