From the Archives – Hydrangea ro komon

Unfortunately, life’s been both hectic and humid here lately and I haven’t had many opportunities to wear kimono. Hopefully the pictures of new items and book reviews and whatnot have been interesting to you guys. I am really enjoying the book reviews and I’m really hoping to do more in the future. However, this is afterall a kimono blog and it’s about time I posted some more pictures of outfits!

These pictures are actually quite old, from when I first got the outfit, nearly two years ago. However, they are of my first (and only!) ro summer weave outfit, so I figured they might be worthwhile to share at this time of year! I was saving them because I had planned to wear this outfit again to an art exhibit I attended recently (I will be posting an entry about that soon, don’t worry!) but unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating, nor was the knee I injured a few days beforehand. I ended up wearing a haori with jeans and a nice top. Boo.

The kimono itself is a deep navy, with bright white and pink hydrangeas printed all over. The obi is cream and hakata weave. When I bought it, I thought it was white, but the cream is a nice contrast against the navy. The accessories are a soft pale pink, to tie in with the hydrangea. I have also since bought a pair of pink lace tabi to wear with this outfit, but have no photos yet.

Please forgive the excessive amount of bosoms going on in this outfit – at the time I was using a bright lime-green rubber datejime to flatten my bust, and there was no way of hiding it under the kimono, since it’s semi-transparent. I had to do without, and this is what the girls look like when not sufficiently strapped down.

Hey, hey, wait a minute, Mister Postman!

Sometimes, I suspect the mail carriers in this area really dislike me. I’m constantly getting big packages. Today, I really surpassed myself with three separate deliveries! One, a book called When Art Became Fashion: Kosode in Edo-Period Japan, arrived in the regular post and I will be writing a review of it when I have time to read it properly. First impressions are very positive though.

The other packages were larger, and more unwieldy, and the mail carrier was kind enough to leave them with my neighbours since I was at the cardiologist. Getting home was like having an unexpected birthday, or Christmas come early! So much pretty stuff! Since there are so many things included here, I have used smaller-than-usual photographs. Please click on them to view big versions, they will open in a new window.

Black zori with red chirimen accents

One of the few things I actually truly needed was another pair of casual, comfortable zori. Nearly all the footwear I owned prior to this was very dressy, all in shiny metallic vinyl or silk brocade. These fit nicely and I absolutely love the colour combo and the little chirimen silk insert in the stacked heel. They were a total bargain at $10!

Grey purse with kiku and black trim

This purse, and the one below it, were being sold by one of the sellers I regularly buy kimono from. They’re modern, and made of heavy denim-like cotton, but the designs are definitely kimono-inspired. This one in particular I can definitely see using every day. I love the contrast of the soft, girly fabric and the hard leatherette and metal details.

Red purse with ume and cream trim

This purse was bought at the same time as the previous one. It’s much bigger than I anticipated (I suspect the measurements listed were off), but definitely no complaints there! It’s fun and bright and while I don’t anticipate using it every day, it will definitely be a way to add a splash of colour and personality to a quiet outfit, either kimono or western clothing.

Now comes the find of the month, a bundle of five vintage obi for a total of twelve dollars (plus S&H). They were listed as “scrap fabric,” but as you’ll see four of them are completely wearable as-is, and the fifth one I am going to attempt to salvage and turn into a two-part easy obi.

Vintage cream nagoya obi with fans, thread spindles, and flowers

This is the main reason I bid on the bundle in the first place. I am just head over heels in love with this obi. The colours and style of yuzen make me suspect it’s late Taisho or early Showa, and even if it’s not it still evokes the feel nicely. I plan to wear it with my indigo Taisho houmongi sometime soon.

Mustard obi with flowers

I openly admit I am not very fond of the base colour of this obi, it’s a sort of a strange gold/mustard, but the woven flowers are very pretty and versatile, so I’m sure I will find a good use for it.

Cream obi with orange and silver waves

I’ve wanted something with a smooth wave motif for a while now, and this more than satisfies my urge. It’s vibrant and graphic and I like it very much.

White obi with red and gold flowers

The auction photos really didn’t do this one justice. It looked like a cute but relatively boring obi with some gold weaving and round dots. In person, both the gold and the red have such a rich silky shimmer to them that they look like rubies set in gold filigree.

Blue obi with herons

This was dubbed the Narwhal Bird Obi by my friend Kansai_Gal and I can totally see why XD. Unfortunately, it’s also the obi that is severely damaged – the silk is shredded to ribbons right above the folded area where the main heron is. Hopefully, I will be able to carefully cut it and sew it into a two-part obi. I will record my attempts and write an entry about that sometime in the near future. If worse comes to worst, I will simply turn it into haneri and possibly an obiage. The fabric will get used, one way or another.

e-Shop ’til you Drop!

One of the questions I most often get asked when I go out in kimono is “Where do you get them?!” and nearly invariably, the answer is “the internet.” If you’re reading this blog, clearly you are familiar with this magical and wonderful tool, but over the years I’ve amassed a few useful tips and tricks that I thought it might be worthwhile to share. This will be a series of posts, each discussing different online vendors and shopping methods.

Today I’ll be talking about everyone’s favourite time (and money) waster, eBay. Please note, that link heads to eBay USA. Even if you’re elsewhere in the world, most sellers tend to list the bulk of their items here and they may not show up on international sites. However, don’t forget to factor in shipping costs and customs. That 99-cent bargain may not be so much of a bargain when you have to pay $40 in shipping.

“But Diane,” you might say, “I already know about eBay!” Aah, but do you know about all the weird places and terms to go by? If you’ve already looked around here, you’ll know that doing a blanket search for “kimono” will turn up myriad results, a lot of them being tacky toys, polyester bathrobes, and questionable personal hygiene products (I am constantly coming across a particular brand of prophylactic in my never-ending hunt for kimono online). Your best place to start is in the several kimono-specific category leaves eBay already has conveniently set up.

These categories are great if the seller knows what they have, but often times people inherit things or receive them as gifts, and have no real idea what they’ve got. Here’s a quick list of alternative spellings or terminology that I’ve seen turn up some real gems. Caveat emptor though – sometimes complete and utter garbage will be listed using these terms too.

  • Kimono: Kimona, Komono, Komona, Kemono, Geisha dress, Geesha dress, Japanese dress, Japanese robe (you may feel dirty and ashamed typing some of these out, but the potential bargains are worth it, I promise)
  • Obi: Obie, obe, obee, oby, Japanese belt, Japanese sash, Japanese table runner (this one made me cringe!). One person I know found an obi and a Biyosugata (obi-tying aid) together listed as “Japanese dress bustle.”
  • Obiage: Obi shawl, obi scarf, Japanese shawl, Japanese scarf
  • Obijime: Obi tie, obi cord, Japanese cord
  • Obidome: Obi brooch, obi clasp, obi jewelry, Japanese brooch, Japanese jewelry
  • Zori & geta: zohri, zouri, getta, gettah, getah, Japanese sandals, Japanese kimono shoes
  • Haori & Michiyuki: Kimono coat, kimono jacket, short kimono, hoari, haory, happi coat (Happi coat are actually another type of garment – casual cotton with short sleeves and often a logo or character on the back, but haori often get mis-listed this way)
  • Uchikake: Utikake, Uticake

If you’re still relatively new to the hobby and want to make sure what you’re buying is legitimate, there are a few “tried and true” sellers of kimono and related who are all based in Japan and have consistently good track records of making beautiful, affordable, and sometimes very rare items available to the western market.

Apr Japan does the majority of their listings as Buy It Now (BIN), with the ability to make an offer – don’t hesitate to use the Offer feature, they will generally accept fair and reasonable ones. They’ve got a ton of vintage pieces and are very thorough about showing any damage.
BabyMoti offer up lots of cute, casual kimono and yukata at great Buy It Now prices. Quality and condition aren’t always stellar, but the items are always wearable.
Ichiroya is probably one of the big heavy-hitters in online sales. They don’t sell on eBay as much as they used to, focusing more on their own website but when they list items, it’s definitely worth a look.
Japanese.Antiques offer up a good variety of vintage and modern items, both auctions and BIN. They also always have a ton of accessories up, usually as BIN sales, and they do really great combined shipping, so if you win an auction from them it’s definitely worthwhile to browse and possibly pick up a few extra items.
MKZStudio sells new yukata, geta, and casual obi. Prices are not the most affordable, but are still very competitive for brand new items direct from Japan.
RyuJapan is a seller who’s been around forever, always has amazing vintage pieces, and is a pleasure to deal with. He tends to post massive floods of listings all at once, so if you see a piece or two listed that you like, it’s worthwhile browsing the rest of his listings. (*UPDATE – RyuJapan has merged with another seller, Shinei, and there have been reports of a drop in service quality. I have not experienced problems with either of these sellers myself, but I thought it was worthwhile mentioning. 01/30/11)
Tokyo Trend has a lot of BIN items at very affordable prices. Note that their listing thumbnails only show a close-up of the item – these are not pieces of fabric, they are full kimono, so be sure to check the listings carefully!
Yamatoku Classic offer up a great balance of modern items and vintage ones for great prices (often lots of Buy It Now items), and have been in business for a very long time. My first ever obi was purchased from them.

This list is by no means complete or concrete. Sometimes amazing bargains are to be had by finding sellers other people aren’t familiar with, and being willing to take a risk.

Now that you know what categories to browse, and what words to search for, your best bets are to sort the results by Newly Listed and flip through there, and then sort by Ending Soonest and be sure to browse there – it’s a great way to snag some last-minute deals! If you’re on a budget, a great way to prevent getting too caught up in auction madness is to stick solely to the Buy It Now tab. There are often really affordable and cute items in there. I find a good way to prevent succumbing to silly impulse buys (“It’s a buy it now! And it’s cheap! I don’t care if it’s ugly!”) is to stick to the Buy It Now category and only look at the thumbnails. If something jumps out at you, then you can check the price and decide if you really want it or not!

I hope you enjoyed my first shopping hints post, stay tuned for the next one, where I’ll discuss the Japanese answer to eBay, Yahoo Japan Auctions.

*Please note that I am not affiliated with any of the above sellers, nor am I remunerated in any capacity for promoting them, but in the interest of fair disclosure I openly admit that I have occasionally gotten small free gifts from some of the above sellers. However this seems to be standard business practice for a lot of them to thank regular customers or people who spend a significant amount.*

Fun with kimono dolls!

Have you ever had the urge to make a kimono outfit or play around with coordination, but didn’t have time? Or perhaps your collection isn’t big enough and you don’t have a lot of pieces to play with? Maybe you’re just too tired, and want to do something fun and relaxing! Fear not, the internet’s come to the rescue again! There are plenty of very fun little interactive kimono dress-up dolls out there to play with.

Wabitas Simulator - Fun simulator with tons of colour and pattern options for the juban, kimono, and haori. Solid colour choices for obi, no options for obiage, obijime, or zori.
KainoaTec - Cute modern furisode simulator. You can choose the furisode, obi, obiage, obijime, date-eri, zori, and hair accessory. Hairstyle and face are not customizeable. There are also three different poses available.
DollDivine Kimono Maker - Slightly ukiyo-e stylized geisha simulator. You can choose the juban, hikizuri (long trailing kimono), haneri, and obi as well as tons of customization options for the hairstyle, face, and accessories. Plenty of skin tones, and lots of hair and eye colours, both natural and fantastic.
Yukata Girl - Modern yukataHIME style, with lots of crazy hairstyles, footwear options, three lengths of yukata, and plenty of customizable patterns you can layer for even more personalization.
Kimono Girl - Adorable chibi-style simulator, with tons of kimono options, as well as obi, obiage, obijime, footwear, and hakama! Skin tone, hair, and face options too.
Kimono Maker - Design a kimono. Choose the base colour and then choose patterns and accent colours. Doll itself (skin, hair, makeup) is fixed.

Have fun, and if you make any awesome outfits using these, please share! 🙂

Montreal Matsuri Japon 2010

I went to the annual Matsuri Japon last year and really enjoyed it, so when I found out it was happening again this year I was eager to head out. I wore my black ume yukata and blue and white hanhaba hakata obi to work all day, and after my work day was over my mother joined me and we drove down together. Since there are so many photos here, I’ve put smaller versions than usual in the post, please click on them to see bigger versions 🙂

Unfortunately, the festival had changed locations this time around, and it was in a much more cramped location in the middle of the busiest and most tourist-filled area of the Old Port of Montreal. The traffic flow was not ideal and the stage where the taiko drummers were was virtually impossible to get to. I was a bit let down. However, there were plenty of lovely yukata to see and photograph, and a few great bargains to be had.

At first I didn’t realize that the festival had moved, so I tracked down a guide and asked them where to go. This lovely gentleman then came up to me and asked me where to go, he was as confused as I was! After posing for a photo at my mother’s insistence, we headed off to the new area together.

At the gate, I saw the always-radiant Akane, who I generally run into at these sorts of events. She’s such a sweetheart.

And in the long-standing tradition of goofy photos of me with food in my mouth (if you have me on Facebook you’ve probably seen some others) I found some takoyaki! It was yummy.

This lovely young woman had the most luscious raspberry-red yukata with great shibori all over it, and a really pretty obi with some urushi-like flowers on them, she looked great!

Another beautiful young woman who was doing custom calligraphy.

She made me a very nice interpretation of Tsuki and Hana (moon and flower), on some beautiful Japanese paper.

Three little dolls looked absolutely adorable in their yukata and heko obi! Love the hats, too.

A beautiful family! The young boy on his daddy’s shoulders had the cutest “Chip & Dale” jimbei!

There was not much in the way of kimono to purchase, thankfully. However, I did manage to find some very cute obijime for a steal, $5 each!

And I couldn’t pass up this adorable origami crab jewelry! I will probably turn the pendant into some sort of obi-kazari, as I always wear one of my pearl necklaces, but I couldn’t pass it up!

There are plenty more pictures in my Flickr Account, if you’d like to see! I’d also like to give a huge thank-you to my mom for taking a lot of these photos!