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.

Autumn Vintage

As fun as the Disney Princess Kitsuke Project was, I was definitely ready for something a little more straightforward. I lucked into a day off today, so I figured it was high time I did something with this amazing komon I got from Sayumi of Kimono Bijin. It’s a gorgeous vintage piece, really soft silk with a fantastic pattern of shishi and arabesque vines. Unfortunately, it’s also showing its age. A few of the seams are loose, and the lining is quite worn, but it’s so beautiful that it’s easy to overlook those problems. It’s a very tiny piece and I know it would never fit me even if I were to lose half my body weight, so after I take it off the mannequin it’s going to Naomi; she is much smaller than I am and loves all things magenta and teal and vintage and shishi, so I know it will be very loved.

My initial plan was to coordinate it with a black-based obi so all the attention would be on the kimono itself, but that choice felt very safe and a little bit boring. Then I remembered I had this gorgeous gold vintage obi with flowers, particularly some large botan. Shishi and botan are a very traditional pairing and the obi also has a really punchy Taisho/Early Showa feel to it, so I knew I’d found the perfect match. I did gravitate to black for the accessories though, which helps anchor the whole outfit and keep it from feeling too loud or clashy. I think it work

Review – Erstwilder “Nihon Journey” Collection

Erstwilder is a small Australian company that makes some of the most fun and funky accessories out there. So when I was presented with the opportunity to review some pieces from their new Japan-themed Nihon Journey collection, you can bet I was over the moon.

I selected three pieces; the Mysterious Maiko brooch, the Nishikigoi brooch, and the Noble Neko sweater chain/brooch. They arrived in beautiful boxes that serve as both protection and display, each one with a cute little card describing the design. The pieces are made out of layers of vivid, shimmering acrylic bonded together, and feel incredibly solid and secure without being bulky. They’d make excellent gifts for both kimono collectors and non-collectors alike. While these are all a fantastic way to inject a little Japanese flair into a non-kimono outfit, I thought they’d well and truly shine used as kitsuke accessories as well.

The polymath of the Japanese tea-houses across the land.
From serving to singing, dancing to dining. These girls do it all.

Mysterious Maiko is utterly lovely. She definitely has a hint of the vintage pin-up vibe Erstwilder does so well, but she’s still far more accurate than a lot of maiko and geiko imagery. It’s very clear that Carmen Hui, the designer of this collection, really loves and respects Japanese culture. The pieces are all quirky and unique, but still so undeniably Japanese in style and influence. The pattern detail on her kimono is gorgeous – I’d love one like this for myself. Her hairstyle is simplified, but definitely has the overall shape and volume it should. Her face, despite being reduced to a few graphic black and red swatches, still conveys a sense of coy playfulness. Since the pin back on this one is vertical, I just slid it around the obijime and I think she looks very at home here!

Koi ponds and water gardens are my habitat of choice.
Although I’ve often been known to appear in tattoo form.

Nishikigoi might be the stand-out for me. The colours used are so impossibly lush and deep and iridescent, and the photos I took barely do it justice. The water is rich and shimmery, the koi itself glows from within, and the blue and orange contrast each other perfectly. This brooch will need an obidome converter, unless you’re okay with the fishie being sideways. Honestly though, it works from all angles so if you don’t have access to a converter you could still make it work. I’m also absolutely going to be wearing this with western-style clothing too!

Never ignore my motion as I just might be attempting to divert you
from something dangerous on your intended path.

Noble Neko is absolutely adorable! I actually requested this one because I was curious to see how a traditional sweater chain would work as a haori-himo, and look how perfect it is! The two maneki neko are mirrored, which I think brings a lovely balance to the whole piece. Using it to hold your haori shut is the easiest thing, you can just slide the vertical pin backs through the loops on the haori, so there’s no chance of permanent damage. I honestly find it easier to do and undo than a traditional haori-himo or a chain-style himo. The neko are also small and subtle enough that they would work with a slightly more traditional outfit, while still injecting a bit of cuteness.

All in all, I am very impressed with this collection. The pieces are so well-made, and it’s clear this theme was designed with love and respect and just the right amount of whimsy. Far too often lately have we seen “Japanese” themed things released quickly and with no forethought, clearly designed to take advantage of a culture and aesthetic that’s not well-understood. That is absolutely not the case with Erstwilder. I am seriously debating adding a few more pieces from this collection as well as some from their other collections to my own stash!

If you’d like one of these for yourself (and I highly recommend them), the Nihon Journey collection is on sale as of today.

I received this item from the manufacturer for review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.

Taisho Blues

I know, I know, I said the last outfit I posted would be around for a while. Work continues apace on updating and redoing my visual catalogue, and when I took out this Taisho-era beauty I love so much, I realised I’d never coordinated her with this vintage orange hakata obi and that seemed like a crime. They feel like they were made for each other. But then again, I think hakata goes with everything. When I first got it, I paired it with an orange obi and while I loved the colour contrast, the obi was a metallic, Showa-era blingfest that felt incongruous with the soft vintage feel of the kimono. Springy green accessories were the perfect finishing touch, including a brand new obiage I’ve never used before.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that for whatever reason I’ve always had bad luck with tying obi in tsunodashi musubi but I was really in the groove after putting this outfit together and I figured I’d give it another shot. I’m really glad I did, because it worked out perfectly. The ohashori is quite puffy-looking, which is unfortunate, but sometimes it’s inevitable due to the shape of the mannequin.

Now this is definitely an outfit I’m happy to leave on the mannequin until I’m finished everything else I have in the works.