Something old, Something new…

Kimono, like any other garment out there, is subject to trends and changes in fashion. Usually, this just impacts the colours and patterns used, since the shape of a kimono is so fixed. Every so often, however, someone comes up with something really different and unique. Traditionally, brides in Japan will wear a special type of furisode called a kakeshita on their wedding day. The colours and styles and motifs of these can vary greatly, but they’ve always been the same basic garment. However, modern women are looking for ways to wear more modern dresses but still retaining a bit of that traditional feel. For a while now, there have been designers such as Aliansa who will convert a kimono into a western-style dress, but this requires irreversible changes to the kimono. This isn’t ideal for family heirlooms or treasured gifts. So what’s a bride to do?

Enter The Oriental Wasou, a bridal studio that’s figured out a fantastic way to temporarily convert a furisode simply by folding it carefully and draping it over a western-style ballgown! They claim it takes only ten minutes, and after the event all you’d need to do is give your furisode a good steaming, fold it carefully, and store it away. When I first saw these adaptations, I knew I wanted to give one a try. However, I am not the sort of person who has ballgowns or wedding gowns just lying around, so the idea went onto the back-burner until I was at the thrift store a few weeks ago and found this utterly beautiful mauvey pink gown with a sheer black overlay. I knew right away it would be the perfect complement to my favourite furisode.

This furisode and I have had a colourful history. I bought it years ago while visiting my best friend at the time, even though I knew I’d never have a valid or justifiable reason to wear it. It didn’t matter, I was in love with it. I dressed myself in it a few times for photos, I had a lot of fun with it, and then a few years ago my friend and I parted ways. There was a lot of silly emotional baggage whenever I looked at the kimono, and I stopped doing pretty much anything with it. Fast-forward to middle of last year, and not only have we reconciled, it feels like we’re closer than ever. I knew I had to pair this outfit with the pearl necklace he’d given me for my birthday one year. The other accessories were chosen to help emphasise some of the colours in the kimono. The obiage and obijime perfectly mirror the shading in the peonies, and the obi helps draw out the gold flecks in the background. Since this is such a non-standard outfit, I had fun making up a big flashy obi musubi. It also helped to hide the draping and folding in the back of the kimono.

Overall, I think this experiment was quite successful. It’s definitely a departure from what I’m used to, but everyone needs to step out of their comfortable rut now and again, right?

A most beautiful gift

For someone who has no plans to get married in the remotely near future, I sure do seem to be amassing a lot of wedding items. This one comes courtesy of an online friend who has a heart of gold. She’d had this piece – as well as two others that will be making appearances soon – for quite some time and felt that it was time to pass it along to someone who would genuinely appreciate it. I am beyond touched that she felt I would be worthy of them.

The package arrived in the mail today, and while she had sent me photos of the pieces they did this piece in particular no justice whatsoever. The silk is lush and heavy, the embroidery is stunning, and there’s a full secondary red lining. Despite the fact that I was hot and tired from work, I was determined to see how this piece looked on the mannequin. It took far longer than it should have and I’m not thrilled with the tidiness (or lack thereof) of the kitsuke but I love the combination of warm gold of the obi with the orange and dark, chocolatey, almost-black plum of the kimono. I would very much like to revisit this coordination in the future, once I’ve got a proper set of bridal accessories. I also think this kakeshita would be absolutely stunning combined with the uchikake I acquired not long ago.

Here Comes the Bride

The bride is not me! Let me get that out of the way! But if you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen this uchikake already. If you’re not following me on Instagram, now’s a great time to start.

I found this beautiful vintage uchikake on a local classified listings site, and contacted the seller right away. We managed to arrange a meeting, and I’m very glad. The gentleman selling it was lovely, very friendly. The uchikake was passed down in his family, originally belonging to his step-mother’s mother, and he seemed very keen to make sure it would go to someone who would really appreciate it for what it is. I hope I’m giving it a good home!

It’s a bit hard to age, but based on how it looks and feels in person combined with what he told me of its history, I’d put it somewhere in early Showa. The metallic bits are synthetic, but the lining and base fabric look and behave like silk. It’s a really interesting combination.

I knew I wanted to do a bridal-style kitsuke with it, and my Taisho-era kakeshita seemed like a good place to start. Even if they’re not the same era, they really work together. Unfortunately, I don’t have a proper set of bridal kitsuke accessories yet, so I had to make do using a normal furisode obiage and obijime, and a shigoki obi beneath the obi, along with a normal kimono wallet in lieu of the traditional decorative wallet known as hakoseko. Overall, though, I think it looks beautiful. Obviously, this is not something I’m ever going to wear personally (except for a lecture or display at some point, I suppose), but it’s so beautiful I have a feeling I’m going to be leaving it on the mannequin for longer than usual.

Uchikake-cuchi-coo.

Have you ever come across something that you knew you were never going to use or wear, but for one reason or another had to have anyways? Yeah, that’s how I ended up with Japanese wedding attire.

Uchikake are technically any sort of ceremonial decorated over-kimono (not to be confused with things like haori or michiyuki, which are everyday outerwear). They were commonplace with the upperclass as well as high-class courtesans up until the Edo era, and started losing popularity from then on. At this point, they are pretty much exclusively worn by a bride on her wedding day, over top of a full trailing furisode and obi ensemble. They can be white, as mine is, or brightly coloured with celebratory motifs. Their primary characteristics are the heavy, padded hem and long length (as they are meant to be worn trailing) and often a front decorated with knots or other ornamentation. They are worn over the kimono and obi, and so are not overlapped or folded at the waist. This allows for much more elaborate decorations.

I have no plans to get married any time in the remotely near future, and even if I did I would not wear this piece. I may consider wearing a dressy kimono for the reception, or part of it, but this is too ornate for my tastes, and too “thematic” for any sort of ceremony I’d feel comfortable with.

However, when I was working in the computer lab at a college several years back, one of the professors overheard me discussing my collection, and told me his wife had purchased a kimono as a decoration while they were vacationing there in the 80s, and had tired of it. It was currently living in a garbage bag in their closet, and would I be interested in seeing/buying it?

I said yes, expecting it to be some sort of tourist trappery with hideous embroidery. Imagine my shock when he pulled this poor baby out of the bag!

I offered him a price that to this day I still feel guilty for. If I’d purchased this online, the money I gave him would just about have covered the shipping costs, and nothing else.

This is a modern piece, I’d guess 1970s or later, but it’s still lovely.

The base is a pattern of peacocks and art-nouveau style flourishes, which is a refreshing departure from the typical crane motif.

The peacocks themselves are rather smug-looking, which always makes me chuckle.

It also has some beautiful knotwork at the wrists, and a lovely false-layered effect that evokes the twelve-layered Juunihitoe of Heian court outfits.

Maybe one day I’ll do a courtesan-inspired photoshoot or something and get a chance to drag this beast onto my shoulders again, but for now I am content to simply admire it.