Subtly Spooky

Happy Halloween, everyone! I had tons of fun last year doing a month’s worth of various Halloween coordinations but this month was too busy to devote myself to anything like that. I knew I had to do something though, and that’s where this suitably subtly spooky outfit came from!

The starting point was unsurprisingly the obi. Obi with seasonal, spooky, or gothic motifs tend to be quite popular, and as such, also quite expensive. This one cost me nearly nothing, since it’s the reverse side of an obi I already owned! I found this gorgeous iridescent gemstone skull sticker at a craft store. It’s actually a Martha Stewart brand product, of all things. Once I had the skull, I knew I wanted to decorate an obi with it but I was worried it would be too plain, but then I found a spool of adhesive ribbons and trims and I was all set.

I knew I wanted a fairly plain kimono so that the focus would be on the bling-tastic obi. I waffled over a few choices, debated buying something, and then I remembered I had this little beauty, a gift from the same dear friend who sent me the vintage kakeshita a while back. This piece is quite old, and quite fragile. The silk itself is very clearly sun-damaged, faded in spots, and has several tears and frays where the seams are coming apart. It’s also one of those odd hybrid kimono that we hardly ever see anymore. From a distance, it is (or was, before the fading) a solid uniform purple shade with a single crest, which would place is straight in iromuji territory. But up close, it’s shot through with gold stripes, which is not something you’d generally see in a modern iromuji. Whatever you want to call it, I’m so glad I finally found a way to use it!

The finishing touch for this outfit is a brooch I made a while back with supplies from the very same craft store. It wasn’t made with kimono or any particular event in mind, I was just feeling creative. But it works so well with this outfit, you’d think I’d done it on purpose! I tied everything together with black, red, and dark raspberry pink accessories and came up with what I think is a very spooky but also very wearable coordination!

Are you dressing in kimono this halloween? If so, please share photos!

Review – Modern Sakura Kanzashi

Modern Sakura is a fairly new US-based kanzashi brand. I’ve been following them on Instagram for a while now, and when I saw they had created a Kickstarter crowdfunding camp aign to get established, I knew I wanted to back them. The campaign was understandably successful and I chose the purple and blue Summer Breeze kanzashi.

I received mine yesterday, and I’m very impressed. The first thing I noticed was the custom mailer boxes. It’s a really nice little touch that makes receiving the product feel very special. Inside the customised box was two adorable printed glassine bags, another sweet little detail that while entirely unnecessary adds a level of thoughtfulness to the finished product.

There were two pieces in the box, which I was not expecting! The tiny blue flower clip is so adorable and subtle, and will be great for everyday wear. As far as I know, these are exclusive to folks who backed the Kickstarter.

The pièce de résistance though was the Summer Breeze kanzashi. This piece has a unique combination of ume blossoms, a charming little fan, and flower and bell dangles. Admittedly, this style is quite juvenile for someone of my age, especially with the little bells, but when has that ever stopped me before? The piece is very well-finished, even the back is smoothly covered with fabric to ensure quality and durability. There is a small metal alligator clip on the back, which was an excellent choice in my opinion, as it tends to grip even fine hair like mine. It also makes the piece suitable for a wide variety of hairstyles – kanzashi mounted on traditional wire pins are really only going to work with fairly voluminous updos but this style of clip means the piece can be worn on long, loose hair as well.

If this is a sign of things to come, I expect to see and hear a lot about Modern Sakura in the future. If you’re interested in some affordable, modern kanzashi that will work as well with kimono as they will with western-style clothing, check them out!

You can find Modern Sakura on their website, as well as their Facebook page and Instagram.

I received this item as a backer perk for a project or product that was crowd-funded (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc)

Furisode Dress Tutorial

Several months ago, some photos started making the rounds of an awesome way to temporarily modify a kimono to wear over a Western-style dress, as a sort of reversible fusion of traditional and modern. I was determined to figure out how to do it, and I think I succeeded quite well back then. While commonly suggested for a wedding, these would also be a really special and unique outfit for a prom, ball, sweet sixteen, quinceañera, or any other event where a ballgown would be worn.

Since then, several people have asked me for a tutorial and I kept getting sidetracked by other projects and my own squirrel brain. The original photos, as well as new ones, are now making the rounds again so it felt like a good time to revisit it and do a proper step-by-step breakdown for you all.

This can be a bit tricky, so if you’re hoping to do it for an event I’d absolutely suggest practising a few times and having someone to help you out.

You will need:

  1. Dress with voluminous skirts
  2. Kimono (furisode work best)
  3. Fukuro obi
  4. Obijime
  5. Obiage
  6. Koshihimo (several)
  7. Kasane-eri (optional)
  8. Accessories (optional)

Other dressing accessories such as an obi-ita, obi-makura, dressing clips, etc, are optional but helpful, depending on what kind of obi musubi you have in mind. Make sure you have everything near at hand, because once you start tying and bustling the kimono it’s not the sort of thing you can pause and walk away from.

Step 1 – A naked mannequin! How scandalous! Seriously though – if you’re dressing a mannequin this is your starting point. If you’re dressing yourself, put on whatever traditional foundation garments you’d wear under your dress. Forget kimono underwear now, just wear something comfortable that won’t show under your gown (unless that’s what you’re going for, in which case, you do you. A harness bra would add a really fun gothic element with the right kimono)

Step 2 – Put your dress on, make sure it’s fully secured and done up. It will be carrying some extra strain, so you want to make sure it fits you properly and won’t go sliding around when you adjust the kimono over top.

Step 3 – This is where things get fun. Pick up your furisode and hold it up in front of you, with the back facing outwards. You’ll be putting it on backwards. Find the centre point of the collar, align it at your sternum. If you want to add a kasane-eri for a bit of colour and contrast, now’s the time. Once you’ve got your kimono arranged across your bust, wrap it around your torso and hold it snug while you tie everything in place with a koshi-himo. Make sure to leave the sleeves free, you will be adjusting them later. This is where a second set of hands definitely helps. If you have someone to hold everything in place for you while you tie the kimono in place, it will be much easier.

Step 4 – Once you have the kimono tied snugly in place, you can start pulling up the excess and folding it over the himo tied at your waist. If you’ve worn kimono traditionally, this part is very similar to adjusting your ohashori. You can have some fun here; there’s no specific length that the kimono has to reach. You can hike the kimono up far enough to show the hem of your dress, or you can have it almost dusting the ground.

Step 5 – Once you have the length determined, arrange the sleeves behind the dress and snugly tie everything in place with another himo. You can arrange the sleeves in the back like this, and it almost forms a train. You can also have them draped around the front like I did with the previous furisode dress, which gives a more youthful vibe, almost reminiscent of an apron or jumper. Have fun and experiment.

Step 6 – Smooth everything out with an obi-ita, and take the time to smooth everything out. If you need an extra koshi-himo or two don’t hesitate to use them. Make sure everything is snug and secure, especially if you’re dressing yourself (or another person) and not a mannequin.

Step 7 – Once everything is good and tight, you can begin wrapping your obi. This part is going to be essentially the exact same as when wearing kimono. Wrap twice around the torso and use the rest to tie your musubi. You can have fun here too; this outfit is so non-traditional you can really go wild with how you tie the obi. For simplicity’s sake I did a sort of bunko variant but there are really no rules here.

Step 8 – Secure the obi with an obijime, make sure it’s good and snug. If you used an obi-makura, hide it with an obiage. Even if you don’t need the obiage, it’s a nice way to add a little more colour and texture to your “dress”. Again, have fun! We’ve broken so many rules by this point there’s no real reason to worry about the others.

Step 9 – Voila! Your new ballgown is ready for the runway, with no modification or damage to the kimono.

I hope this is easy enough to follow along. Feel free to ask for clarification if you need help, and if you attempt this I would love to see photos!

Courage – A Canadian Farewell

I found this kimono on eBay a few weeks back and fell in loved with it. Last thing I need is another tiny kurotomesode, but it was too beautiful to let it escape and my folks said it could be my birthday present from them, so I took the plunge. It arrived yesterday and it was more gorgeous in person than I could have imagined, the auction photos did it no justice. So I knew right away that I was going to do something with it today, on my day off. My initial plan was to do a fairly straightforward traditional kitsuke, with a formal obi with lots of metallic, white accessories, something clean and simple.

All that went out the window this morning, when I woke up to the news that Gord Downie had passed away. He was the frontman for a group that nearly all Canadians are familiar with, the Tragically Hip. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma just over a year ago, and rather than withdraw from the public eye, he fought back with everything he could. The band went on one last tour, big and loud and loving. He continued to work tirelessly for justice and equality, speaking loudly for Canadians whose voices had been silenced over the years. Everyone knew he didn’t have long for the world, but he filled that time with so much love and passion and brightness that it still hurts enormously. All day I’ve seen people whose jobs require them to be professional and detached (news anchors, radio announcers, even our Prime Minister) lose their composure and break down while talking about Gord.

What does all this have to do with my kimono? Well, as you may have noticed I have a strange coping mechanism of coordinating outfits to deal with grief. Maybe it’s not the healthiest thing, but it works for me. So to deal with this, I decided to throw caution and tradition to the wind and coordinate it in a bright and bold way that makes me happy. I’d like to think that someone who wore brightly coloured holographic suits and fantastic hats during his farewell tour would appreciate that. A vintage chuuya obi with maple leaves felt appropriate for someone who took so much pride in his Canadian heritage, and the accessories brought a vibrant punch to the outfit.

I’ll leave you with some of the lyrics from Courage (for Hugh MacLennan), one of my favourite songs of theirs.

So there’s no simple explanation
For anything important any of us do
And yeah the human tragedy
Consists in the necessity
Of living with the consequences
Under pressure, under pressure.
Courage, my word, it didn’t come, it doesn’t matter,
Courage, it couldn’t come at a worse time.

Harvest Gold

Does anyone remember harvest gold appliances? Thankfully we never had any in my household but we did have an avocado green dishwasher for a very long time! It’s funny how colours go and out of fashion, isn’t it? And how they can look so lovely on a kimono but so ghastly in a kitchen!

This kimono was actually the emergency back-up I purchased for Belle’s outfit, after it seemed like the one I wanted had got lost in the post. Eventually the first one did show up, so I got to use it as I’d planned, but it seemed like quite a shame for this gorgeous vintage piece to languish in storage so I vowed to do something with it today.

My initial plan was a gold obi, but since I wasn’t doing the Belle outfit anymore I figured I had more freedom, but for some reason I had a heck of a time finding a coordination that did the piece justice. Most of my obi were either too flashy and metallic or too dark, and the soft, delicate quality of the yuzen around the hem would have been completely overwhelmed. Then I thought I could use the yellow nagoya obi I used last week but that seemed repetitive and overly monotone. Then I debated an orange hakata and a grey masculine-feeling nagoya that both didn’t quite work either. Then I found this beautiful dusty taupe nagoya with a subtle bit of gold. It perfectly balanced the kimono, pulling out the grey-brown tones of the flower cart and helping anchor it. Simple green accessories and one of the charming new subtle haneri I bought rounded things off.

The outfit feels very soft and elegant to me, stylish in a very understated sort of way that looks fantastic on a mannequin but I could probably never pull off in person! It also feels very seasonal right now, despite having more spring and summer flowers on it. The colours reflect the changing leaves outside, which makes me very happy.