Lobster Bisque

Recently, someone on the Kimono Tsuki facebook page reminded me of my incredible pente lobster obi. I decided it had been far too long since I’d done anything with it, so I went about putting together an outfit in my notes.

I took advantage of today’s holiday to actually get it up on the mannequin. It always makes me happy when the parts of an outfit look as good in person as they did in my head. I knew I wanted to the obi to be the star of the show so I used my ivory iromuji to make sure it really popped. It coordinates well with the shells on the obi and is the most neutral base I’ve got in my collection. From there it was a pretty effortless thing, pulling accessories out in colours that echoed parts of the obi.

Overall, the end result is a very simple and straightforward outfit, but I think that works really well. The obi is so fun and just quirky enough that balancing it with otherwise very simple pieces feels right. I’ve had fun doing more non-traditional outfits with it before, and it felt good to go in the other direction. In spirit, this outfit actually feels very similar to how I coordinated the stencilled obi I made recently, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Iromuji are always a great way to make the obi the star of the show.

Items used in this coordination

Feeling a little Crabby…

It’s been a long week! I was called in to work for two extra days, and as much as I love my job everyone has a limit before the start getting a bit crabby, right? Thankfully today I was able to stay home and work on some things that didn’t require leaving the house, so when time came to take a little break I decided to use that time productively and work with an obi I got recently and had no idea what to do with.

Naomi found this obi on Yahoo Japan literally years ago, and it had been sitting in a box ever since, following her around as she moved. She finally found the time to mail it to me and man, was it ever worth the wait. I love crustacean motifs, and this obi is no exception. It’s a gorgeous old chuuya obi with crabs and lobsters on the purple side. The other side is more “normal”, featuring a design of flowers and drums on solid black. It’s a nice bonus, to be certain, but this obi really is all about the pinchy sea creatures! It’s in rough shape, and the design placement is very odd, which makes it hard to tie. Eventually I’m going to turn it into a reversible tsuke-obi but until then I figured I could find a way to make it work on the mannequin.

The kimono is one of the first casual-style kimono I ever purchased and to this day it remains one of my favourites it work with. It’s a thick, woven silk which makes it slightly rough and a dream to tie because it grips and stays where you put it. The pattern has always reminded me of fishing nets, so it seemed like a match made in crustacean heaven! I decided to run with orange accessories to emphasize the pattern, and realised afterwards that the shibori obiage is also vaguely reminiscent of fish roe, which was an accident but works perfectly. Unfortunately, I now have the Big Bag of Crabs song from Weebl’s Stuff stuck in my head. Things could be worse, I suppose!

Have a Very Hime New Year!

Right before Christmas, my sweet mother tried to help save my sanity at work by finding scans of a few volumes of Kimono-Hime and sending them to me to read. Clearly, this was a horrible mistake. When I got the adorable lobster tsuke-obi mentioned in the previous entry, I decided I’d do a really non-standard coordination inspired by the Kimono-Hime magazines. I decided to have some fun with layering, and rather than use a juban, I used my yabane komon and arranged it to be visible at the hem and sleeves as well as the collar. I hiked my hems up and used some of my favourite pumps and silver-and-black striped knee socks. While I certainly wouldn’t wear this outfit in any “normal” context, I’m actually really happy with how it came together. It feels more like a dress than kimono, and I sort of love that!

Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi

Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi

Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi

My mom also got me this gorgeous hand-blown glass lobster, and I couldn’t resist posing with it. Of course, Vinnie had to get in on the action too.
Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi

Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi

I went a little overboard with the photos for this one, and rather than make this too image-heavy, if you want to see the rest please check my Flickr :)i

Tsuke-obi – cheat or genius?

Sorry for the lack of updates! Sometime between Christmas and Boxing day I received the heartwarming and thoughtful gift of gastroenteritis. I’m starting to feel better, but still don’t have a lot of energy for kitsuke. Since I’ve acquired a few new ones lately, I thought it would be a good time to discuss tsuke-obi, or pre-tied obi.

There are a few camps when it comes to tsuke-obi. Some people are staunchly against them in any situation, some people have to rely on them because they’re not confident enough yet, and some, like myself, think that well-made ones have their place in any decent kimono wardrobe. They’re a godsend when you’re not feeling well and don’t have the energy to deal with an obi, or if you need to dress a bunch of people in a hurry. They’re useful for fancy furisode musubi that would otherwise require two people to tie. They’re also great for dressing people who don’t have a lot of experience wearing kimono, since they don’t need to be tied as tightly as a “real” obi would be.

Some of them definitely look cheap and are obviously pre-tied. The brightly coloured polyester types with a large butterfly bow that often come with yukata sets are a prime example of these. Except in the direst of situations, I’d never recommend going out and getting one of those, because nothing says “I can’t be bothered!” more than one. Especially if worn with anything dressier than a yukata! However, there are definitely nicer examples. Often times they’re made with solid old obi that have been damaged, or were owned and loved by someone who may have gotten too old to tie her obi efficiently. Some of them are also mass-manufactured, but in a way as to look more like “real” obi. They come in several different musubi, or bows, such as otaiko, niijudaiko, and some larger and more elaborate ones for furisode. Often times, once these are tied on properly and an obiage and obijime added, it’s virtually impossible to tell they are pre-tied. I’ve got a few of them, and two of them are probably some of my favourite obi in my collection.

Pente Lobster obi
Pente Lobster Tsuke-obi
Pente Lobster Tsuke-obi

This is such a stunning piece. I found it on eBay right before the holidays and my folks encouraged me to go ahead and get it and it would be a gift from them. I’m so thrilled. I’ve mentioned my fondness for lobster motif before, and this is not my first lobster obi, but it felt different enough from the one I had that I felt fully justified in buying it.

Pente is an interesting and relatively uncommon technique – it’s a thin layer of paint daubed onto the surface of usually solid black silk. It was popular after WWII when there were a lot of damaged pieces floating about and people generally didn’t have huge budgets for fancy embroidery techniques or high-end dye methods. It was also used to re-work mofuku (funerary wear) into something more useful for everyday, stretching the wardrobe budget further. Unfortunately, due to the nature of most paint, it’s incredibly fragile. It sits on the surface of the garment rather than sinking in, and decades of tugging and pulling on the obi while it’s being tied leaves most vintage pente obi in states of disrepair, paint flaking off or peeling in huge chunks. Because of this I generally avoid anything pente, but because this was a tsuke-obi there was virtually no stress on the paint and it’s in flawless condition.

One of the other interesting and relatively unique things about this particular obi is the way it’s tied. Like most pre-tied obi, it’s in a standard otaiko musubi, but unlike more mass-market ones, it’s tied on a quirky, jaunty angle. This really helps make it look like a “real” obi, and definitely gives it a lot more personality than a perfectly level one.

Black and white hakata obi
hakata
hakata-2
I make no secret of my ridiculous love affair with all things hakata, but somehow I’d never managed to acquire a standard black and white weave. When I found this one I fully expected it to go for more than I was willing to spend, but I figured I’d throw out a bid and see what happened. Imagine my shock when nobody else bid! This is another variation of an easy obi, it’s not really pre-tied, just separated into a narrow waist bit and a wider bit to tie the actual drum with. It requires a bit more time and effort than a fully tied one, but also allows for more leeway in tying.

Cream tsuke-obi with navy, ruby, and silver foliage
White Tsuke-Obi
This is the first tsuke-obi I purchased, and was really the one that made me a convert. It’s a heavy almost silk blend that almost feels like parchment or canvas. The majority of the vines and leaves are dyed, but the red and silver ones, and a small selection of the navy ones, are embroidered over top, which adds a depth you don’t usually see in mass-market pre-tied obi.

Red synthetic with black flocked irises
Red Tsuke-Obi
This one is a synthetic, washable faux-tsumugi in a bright fire-engine red. It also has the strangest inflatable obi-makura (obi-pillow) sewn into it. I bought it mainly because of the flocking, which I loved, but it’s become a mainstay for a quick hit of colour.

It wasn’t a rock! It was a rock lobster!

This weekend I was invited to a holiday party at a friend’s. Initially, I’d planned to wear kimono but the bottom dropped out of the thermometer and it was nearly -15 so I scrapped those plans. I waffled about what to wear for nearly an hour, had a mini-breakdown, and decided to go with the kimono anyways, since I’d be in a warm car and a warm house for the bulk of the evening. Boy am I glad I did!

I decided to pair my awesome spiny lobster nagoya obi with my red and white yabane komon. I added a black and gold haneri, a red obijime, and a black obiage with red polka-dots. Unfortunately not visible in any of the photos are black tabi and red and gold zori. I pulled together what I feel is a rather Mamechiyo Modern style outfit.

Closeup of the awesome obi:

And my hamcat:

To keep warm, I put on my huge ridiculous snowboots and an adorable brown fleece wrap with pompoms. It looked cute, fit over the kimono, and kept me toasty warm. I think I am going to need to invest in more of these!

The outfit got a great reception from many of the party guests, including someone who had recently attended a Japanese wedding and said my outfit brought back fond memories for him. I also matched the hostess’ decor!

The coolest part by far though, was meeting a couple of awesome fans of Japanese culture and chatting with them. Emilie is interested in getting into kimono and I hope to help her along with that, and Nick already owned a yukata that he ran home to change into when he saw my outfit! In the freezing cold weather! We couldn’t resist geeking out for a few pictures 🙂

When fandom hand-gestures collide! Turns out we’d both watched the new Star Trek movie the night before. Clearly, this kooky kimono meeting was fate XD. Pardon the wonky Vulcan gesture on my part – my pinkies have been dislocated so many times due to my own clumsiness that they don’t move correctly.

All in all, it was a great evening. It’s one of the first times I’ve worn kimono out to a large gathering of people unfamiliar with my hobby, so I’m quite pleased with the positive reactions! Expect more pictures of social events in the future!