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!

Modern Monstera Ikebana

What first drew me to ikebana was the clean-lined simplicity of it all, the focus on a few sparse blooms without all the fluff and clutter that tends to be found in western-style flower deisgn. I’ve been experimenting a fair bit lately but I was itching to do a very sleek and low moribana-style arrangement, and when I found this gorgeous monstera leaf at the florist I knew it would be the perfect anchor for my next project. This interesting flower was all by its lonesome in a bucket in the flower fridge, and the texture and shape of it felt like a wonderful counterpoint to the glossy green foliage. I’m afraid I don’t remember what the flower is, but if anyone recognises it I’d love to know. The arrangement feels very heady and tropical to me, well-suited for to the oppressively muggy weather we’ve been having lately. I chose a very simple container to anchor them, in keeping with the clean and modernist vibe. I’m also quite pleased by how well the whole arrangement pops against the warm brown backdrop. This one might be incredibly simple, but it’s also incredibly effective.

Shape and Colour Ikebana

I bought this set of bud vases at everyone’s favourite enormous Scandinavian home goods store a while ago, with the intention of doing something with them, but I hadn’t decided on what. When I found a rose that was a very pale celadon green while out running errands today, I knew I’d found my project. I loved the idea of focusing on shape and colour here, and having three very balanced separate units forming one cohesive and harmonious grouping. I did debate using three different flowers to coordinate with the three different textures of vases, but in the end I felt that using the classic and neutral shape of the roses had the most impact. Thankfully, finding the pink and white ones was a breeze after the stroke of luck that was finding a greenish tinted one (I will be honest, I have no idea if it’s natural or if it was dyed for the florist’s, but either way it worked out quite well for me!) I think the soft, organic roses contrast the tactile and architectural quality of the vases perfectly, and the seeing the three of them together is like hearing three distinct notes coming together in one lovely chord. I arranged them simply on a dark surface to ensure all attention was on them without any background distractions, and I love the way they pop, pop, pop!

Merida – Disney Princess Kitsuke Project

🎵 Chase the Wind
and Touch The Sky 🎵

We’ve done a Renaissance-era princess and a Silver-era princess so it felt like it was time for one of the modern revival princesses. Merida is one of my favourite princesses. She’s snarky, she’s witty, she’s tough but still vulnerable, and she’s determined to be the architect of her own fate. I found a few kimono online that were close in colour to her dress, but nothing really jumped out at me until I found this utterly perfect vintage piece. Not only is the base of it nearly the identical colour to Merida’s dress, but the yabane, or arrow fletching, motif could not have been more appropriate.

I debated using a brown obi to echo her brown belt but it made the whole outfit feel too heavy and overly mature. Instead, I went with a plain white hakata tied in a very practical karuta musubi, and amped up the warm brown tones in the obijime and dusty embroidered haneri. The bow was my grandmother’s, and I have fond memories of learning to shoot with it as a kid. Using it was pretty much a given. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that it’s actually a bright candy-apple red, but that’s nothing a little bit of photoshop couldn’t fix.

I really feel like this project is just continuing to build momentum, and I couldn’t be happier! It’s really satisfying to watch these come together. Maybe one day I’ll try to coordinate a fashion show or something and see them all at once.

Fresh Green Ikebana

The rainy season is here, so of course it’s time for a lush ajisai (hydrangea) ikebana.

I actually did this one while I was in California last month; I’d had the bamboo-shaped vessel mailed to my friend there to save on shipping costs. I actually found the hydrangea while we were grocery shopping. I loved the refreshing pale green colour and the dense texture of the blooms, and thought they would be an excellent contrast to the stark white of the vase. I stuck to one plant material for this one to emphasise texture, contrast, and simplicity. It feels well-balanced and evokes a cool feeling to counter-act the summer heat and humidity. I do like the restraint of one type of plant material and suspect I will do more arrangements focusing on one type flower at a time.

However, I’m not sure this was as successful as I’d like it to have been because from a distance I think it looks like a bunch of cauliflower! I will have to try something different with this vase in the future.