Under where?! Nagajuban and undergarments.

One of the most frequently misunderstood garments in a kimono wardrobe is the nagajuban (長襦袢, long juban, also referred to as nagajyuban, or sometimes simply juban). They are often so lovely and well-decorated that people might mistake them for proper kimono, which can be embarrassing and incorrect. It’s not uncommon to see attendees at anime conventions flaunting their “amazing kawaii new kimono” actually running around in these in-between garments. I have seen them worn as over-jackets (Angel Adoree does this quite often), and with proper styling choices this can be a fun look, but if you’re aiming for accuracy it’s quite awkward to be caught out and about in one with nothing over it.

They’re not quite “underwear” as we’d think of them in Western terms. When wearing a kimono, you typically start with either a kimono bra (that helps to flatten and smooth the bust line) and comfortable panties or a traditional wrapping cloth known as sarashi. On top of that layer, there is another fairly plain layer known as hadajuban (肌襦袢), though I admit – in very hot or muggy weather I often forgo the hadajuban and just wear my nagajuban over my bra and shorts. The nagajuban goes over these layers, but they are not proper outer garments either. They’re meant to be seen in very minute amounts – at the collar, at the sleeve edges, and occasionally at the hem while walking. Anything more would be kind of indecent. They also add shape and structure to the kimono, to help achieve that ideal columnar figure. Between these layers, there are often towels or small pads used to help smooth out the body line. It always gives me a good chuckle when people imagine a woman undressing and simply slipping the kimono off her shoulders and being essentially naked underneath. The reality is far less sexy, and is illustrated spectacularly in this comic by @nyorozo on Twitter. Fantasy on the left, reality on the right!

There are a few giveaways that can help you differentiate between a kimono and a juban. Kimono for women are meant to be worn with an ohashori (fold at the waist) and so are typically quite long. Nagajuban are typically much shorter, since they’re not meant to be folded. They also often have a white or contrasting collar over which a decorative haneri can be attached. Lastly, they also tend to be more narrow, without the diagonal okumi panel attached between the front and collar pieces.

There is also a variant called hanjuban (半襦袢, half juban) that is much shorter, and typically paired with a wrap-style skirt know as susoyoke (裾除け). These are easier to adjust to your height, tend to be much more convenient to wear. Many modern ones are available in a combination of breathable cotton and washable polyester. Together, they are sometimes referred to as nibushiki (separated) nagajuban.

Vintage undergarments were often red or other vivid colours, back when kimono in general were much bolder and more vibrant, and people wore them more often and could justify getting ones that coordinated with specific kimono. Naomi no Kimono Asobi has a lot of very amazing examples of brightly-coloured vintage undergarments. These bold patterns an vivid reds are also a throwback to the sumptuary laws of the Tokugawa shogunate, which prevented the merchant class from wearing fabrics that were showier than the samurai and aristocrats. To get around this, they would often hide flashy designs and bright colours on their undergarments, a trend which continued on even long after the sumptuary laws were rendered defunct.

Nowadays, nagajuban tend to be white or pale pastels, since those are much more neutral and versatile. When you don’t wear kimono every day it’s not really worthwhile to invest in a large collection of undergarments; it makes much more sense to buy one or two that you can wear with everything.

That being said, my collection is a combination of versatile modern pieces, vibrant vintage nagajuban, and a few home-made or modified items. Because I’m so tall, I often have to rely on the two-piece variants and even then sometimes have to lengthen the skirt portion. If it’s cool enough, I might also wear a full juban with susuyoke, but that can begin to get quite thick around my already not-insubstantial waistline. Another handy aspect of a two-piece is that if you’ve got broader hips and the front hem of your kimono flaps open sometimes, you can tie the susuyoke so the split is in the back. This way if your kimono hem spreads too wide, you’re assured of the under-skirt keeping you decent.

Hopefully this will help alleviate some of the confusion about what these garments are and how they’re traditionally worn!

Snow White – Disney Princess Kitsuke Project

🎵 With a Smile and a Song 🎵

Snow White – the one who started it all, the OG Disney Princess. She’s kind and sweet and beautiful, and I wanted to make sure I captured all that in an outfit that still felt classic and simple. Her costume is very straightforward, and thankfully that converted quite well to kimono.

A simple creamy yellow iromuji serves at the base, echoing the skirt of her outfit. The blue obi has birds on it, but it’s in terrible shape and has really awkward pattern placement, so they’re not terribly visible. The outfit felt like it was missing something though, until I remembered the charming red capelet Snow wears for part of the movie. The red haori is a lovely call back to the capelet, and it ties everything together. For accessories, I absolutely needed a poison apple, and tying the bright red obiage into a bow reminded me of her adorable hair bow. The finishing touches were a sweet little bluebird keeping her company and a haori chain with seven sparkling stones on it to represent her the seven dwarves.

This is probably one of the simplest outfits so far, but I think it pulled together perfectly. It’s sweet and straightforward, much like Snow White herself. And with this, we’re now more than halfway through the project! Only five more to go. I hope you’ll keep coming back to see them. 🙂

Princess of Themyscira

This outfit was inspired by the strong and compassionate warrior whose name is on everyone’s lips these days – Wonder Woman! I’ve had so much fun doing geeky-inspired kitsuke in the past (Star Trek, Bitch Planet, and Star Wars) and I wanted to give Diana her due. My initial plan was going to be a blue kimono and red haori, but I realised the vaguely onna-bugeisha style of a hakama would be much more balanced and representative of her red top and blue bottom. I felt like the kiku motif of this vivid red kimono was reminiscent of the star motif of her outfit, and a navy hakama grounded the whole thing. Of course, I had to bring in gold as the accent colour of the haneri and obi. The sword seemed like a foregone conclusion once everything came together, and what would Wonder Woman be without her golden lasso (or in this case, her golden obijime)?

Overall, I feel like this was another ultimately successful cosplay-style kitsuke. I would love to wear this outfit to a convention or something at some point, along with a tiara and bracers. It’s the sort of outfit that would take a minute to “get”, but I think once people recognised it, it would go over really well.

This One’s For the Birds

Thank you all for sticking with me during my unanticipated little hiatus! Life is finally calming down, and I wanted to celebrate the new year with a new outfit on the mannequin.

I got this hawk obi on eBay a few months ago for a whopping $9. I certainly didn’t need a new obi, but I loved how flashy it was and it was too much of a bargain to pass up. I love how it looks with my blue embroidered irotomesode and red accessories. I feel like this is a wonderfully bright and auspicious outfit to ring in the year. The obi is also brand new and very stiff, which makes it a pleasure to tie. It keeps its shape beautifully. I can’t wait to see what else I can pair it up with in the future.

I hope this year brings you all plenty of joy, health, luck, and fortune. Last year was a bit of a wreck for a lot of folks, so let’s all keep our fingers crossed for great things to come.

I will be going out of town this week and next but when I get back I am going to do my best to stick to a regular schedule. I have more coordinations planned as well as some reviews and a giveaway in the works! Please check back regularly and if you want a quick and efficient way to be notified of updates, follow me on Facebook or Twitter!

Spookitsuke – We Can’t Giggle, It’s A Crime Scene!

Last week, I promised the next instalment of this feature would be creepier, and I’m fairly certain I’ve succeeded! It started with this bizarre haori Naomi sent me a while back. I’m assuming it’s supposed to be clouds or some sort of abstracted design but we both thought it looked like blood spatter. It seemed like the perfect place to start a Halloween outfit. I decided to run with the blood splatter and aim for a crime scene feeling. The kimono is another that Bonita sent to me, along with the gorgeous wedding kimono from a few weeks back. It is mofuku, and is in incredibly fragile condition. It’s tiny and several of the seams are coming apart, and between the fact that it’s funerary wear and the shape and size of it, I know it will never get worn. It seemed thematically apt for the outfit though, so I layered it over a red under-skirt. I found this crime scene tape ribbon and thought it would be interesting to use as an obi-jime. However, I misread the listing and ordered waaaaaay more than I actually needed, but I think it worked out in my favour. I love how it looks wrapped around so many times. The red shigoki obi evokes more blood, literally and figuratively tying it all together. I’d hate to run into the person wearing this outfit at the end of a dark alley!

We’ve got two coordinations to go, and they will both be more costumey than creepy. I hope you’ll check back to see! And yes, before anyone asks, the title of this entry is indeed a reference to BBC’s Sherlock.

Spookitsuke October 2016