Monday, June 27, 2011

Video Clips - Wedding Ceremony and Kimono

Today while surfing Youtube I ran across this great video showing a traditional Japanese wedding at the famous Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.

The traditional Japanese Shinto wedding involves the bride and groom taking sips of sake three times from the same set of cups, and I found it interesting to see the inclusion of Western wedding rings. The shrine maidens (miko) use bells to bring the gods' attention (and good luck) to the ceremony.

You can also check out Meiji Shrine's English wedding hall page. As this is one of the biggest and most popular shrines, I can't imagine how much it would actually cost to get married there. o_O

On a kimono note, the super-formal "shiromuku" 白無垢, which literally means "white purity", is the all-white wedding kimono worn by the bride. Here's a different bride getting dressed in one:

At the four-minute mark the dressing is done, and both the bride and groom pose for pictures.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kimono at the Royal Ascot

Just a quick post to share a couple photos of women in formal kimono at the recent Royal Ascot, the huge horse race/social event in England.

A woman laughing in the rain. So cute!

Scroll down to see three women in gorgeous kimono, the two younger ones in furisode.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tips for Artists: Drawing Women in Kimono

If you're reading this, you're probably either one of my regular readers (hi and thank you! :D ) or an artist who entered "how to draw kimono" into a search engine.

For the artists who typed that, you've won half the battle of drawing Japanese kimono accurately because you've taken the time to do research. Today's post is all about helping you render Japanese kimono accurately in your art without making the common mistakes I see all over the place. Here are the biggies:

- No contrasting. Outside of underwear, called juban, your average kimono does not have contrasting collars or sleeves. A kimono is made entirely from the same bolt of fabric, collar and sleeves included. If you think you're seeing contrasting collars, it's probably either the underkimono peeking out (as it should) or a fake "dickey" length of fabric worn under the collar to suggest a second layer of kimono that isn't really there.

- Left over right on the collars on both genders. Right over left is only for corpses (though even some young Japanese don't realize this, not having grown up with kimono as their grandparents did). A properly folded kimono looks like the letter "y", with the wearer's left panel on top of the right panel.

A bride and groom in full formal wear.

- No whiteface. While being pale is still considered beautiful in Japan (I loved finding foundation pale enough for me in several shades when I lived over there) the only people who wear whiteface on a regular basis are geisha and classical theater actors. Period.

- Smexy women's "kimono" nakedness (tiny bathrobe "kimono" hanging dangerously low/loose/"I can see all the way south to Florida"* on women). I realize not all artists are going for historical realism, but putting a girl in a skimpy short bathrobe and calling it a kimono (or worse, her a "geisha") shows more of your own fantasies than anything else.

(*We love you, Carrie Fisher!)

A woman performing traditional Japanese dance.

- Square sleeves. Kimono are not bell-sleeved. A kimono is a T-shape when hung on a line, the sleeves plain rectangles sewn to the rectangle body at the top of the shoulder seam. This makes it an approximate pain in the ass to draw, but a little practice and looking at photos can help.

- No cleavage. See "South to Florida" above. ;) Women's kimono are worn folded high at the neck.

- Formality. Whole books have been written on this topic, but here's a quick and dirty cheat sheet to get you started:

Young women in yukata.

Young or adult woman: summer festival? Cotton yukata-type kimono, short sleeves, simple narrow obi usually tied in a pseudo bow in the back. Geta wooden sandals, no split-toed tabi socks. No obiage scarf or obijime cord.

Young or adult woman: every other occasion?

This is a formal furisode for special occasions.

Young woman: long-sleeve kimono, wider obi folded in half to look narrow in front but at full width in back, with giant offset bow or elaborate knot in back, obi-age scarf tucked into top of obi, wide obi-jime cord around high-middle of obi, zori sandals, white tabi.

This adult woman is performing tea ceremony in a "komon" type of kimono.

Adult woman: short-sleeve kimono, wider obi folded in half to look narrow in front but at full width in back usually done in a short and boxy-looking taiko knot, obi-age scarf tucked more into top of obi, obi-jime cord around middle/low part of obi, zori sandals, white tabi.

For more specific looks, try searching for the terms komon, tsukesage, houmongi, furisode, irotomesode, kurotomesode, kakeshita, and uchikake to see how kimono types look different as they become more formal. Obi types begin at hanhaba and go up to Nagoya, fukuro, and maru.

So, fellow artists, if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a note and I'll help if I can. :) I know firsthand it can be intimidating drawing a certain type of clothing if you don't know much about it (one reason I have yet to draw anyone in traditional Chinese outfits).

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kimono Costumes: Geisha and "Samurai Darth Maul"

I'm sometimes asked what I do with the kimono I collect. The answer is usually "wear them when I have the opportunity" or "show them at educational panels," but as a costuming geek I also have fun working them into costumes when I can.

So a couple of weeks ago at Houston's Comicpalooza convention (awesome, can't wait for next year!) I wore these two:

Geisha "Ayame"

This costume has been a long labor of love as I kept an eye out for pieces in my price range, but I finally pieced together a decent "starter" geisha look! It involves a hikizuri (trailing kimono often worn during dance performances) in my favorite color, a hakata obi (traditional geometric weave pattern classically seen on geisha) worn in a style particular to geisha, two-color dance fans, and a human-hair katsura (wig) in a styling very similar to a geisha's.

"Ayame" 菖蒲 means "iris" and is a flower that fits me for a couple of reasons: it blooms in my birth month (May) and is often seen in my favorite color, purple. :)

My kitsuke (kimono-wearing) skills need a lot of practice, but I loved this costume and will definitely wear it again.

"Samurai" Darth Maul

This next costume comes from the fact I'm aiming for an eventual full Darth Maul (Star Wars) costume, because I love challenges in costuming, but due to funding and time only had half of it done by the convention. My choices if I wanted to do it anyway were a white T-shirt with "rest of costume goes here" worn over my linen black pants and Frank Thomas black boots, or my idea to do a nod to the awesome Star Wars "ukiyo-e" paintings I saw on the Immortal Geisha forums a long while back, which featured the characters as classical Japanese nobles, samurai, demons, etc.

So I bring you a loosely-inspired "Samurai Darth Maul" in punk black hakama by indies brand Qutie Frash, a formal men's kimono and haori, boken practice sword, men's geta, and a whole lot of paint!

It was well-received at the con (Darth Maul barely talks, so with binding and a silent swagger the costume seemed to work, as I was taken for a guy all day) and an artist actually came running up to me excited because he did a series of paintings, apparently, featuring Star Wars characters in "real life" and one was a Maul samurai. It was a lot of fun all around, though I will say to any guys reading that it was tough figuring out how to walk like a guy. ;)

I will also say that after all the prep time and work that goes into Maul (bald cap, handmade horns, full head of paint) the geisha makeup seems like a breeze in comparison.

So there are two of my own kimono-based costumes! If you've done any you'd like to share, any costume that involves a kimono, please send me a link or picture! I'd love to see them. :)