Indigo Girl

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I’d been waffling about buying a Taisho-era indigo piece for a while when this came up on Ichiroya, and while it was a bit more than I usually pay for kimono, the colour, size, and condition of it were all worth the investment in my mind. This is a houmongi with era-typical long sleeves and a beautiful, multiseasonal floral design. It’s got branches of ume (plum blossom), iris, botan (peony), and bamboo around the hem, and a bold, graphic stem of tachibana, which is probably my favourite floral motif. I love how squishy and fun they look!

It also has some gorgeous, lush embroidery on some of the geometric designs

However, I think one of my favourite things about this kimono is probably one of the most subtle. Woven directly into the fabric, before the dyeing process was started, is a gorgeous red and gold windowpane plaid. You’d never see detailing like this on a modern houmongi, as nowadays that sort of design is considered strictly informal. Naomi wrote a great piece on the qualities of indigo dye, and the transitional phenomenon of putting stripes (which are very casual by modern standards) on more formal kimono. It’s a trend I think is beautiful and needs to come back into vogue.

I’ve worn this kimono once, but only inside the yard, as I’m a little worried about wearing such an old piece out and about. Maybe one day when the right time and place come up, I will do so. I chose to pair it with a late-Showa era obi, which may seem odd but the clouds, grasses, and colours just seemed perfect with it. The obiage and obijime were a gift from a friend, and bring out the soft blue and olive tones in the kimono perfectly. For a vintage feel, I chose some burnt paulownia geta instead of zori.

The not-so-itsy-bitsy spider

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As anyone who reads this blog regularly has probably noticed, I have a fondness for quirky, odd, or unexpected motifs. Flowers are pretty but unless they’re really bold or interesting, don’t usually grab my eye. Birds I could take or leave. Put a skeleton, or a jellyfish, or insects of some sort on a kimono and I am making obsessive grabby-hands within nanoseconds.

There is only one shop in Montreal that sells real kimono and obi, and the first time I went there I browsed and didn’t find too much that grabbed me. The owner, Mrs. Uchiyama, pointed me towards a bin of obi that were on sale, after she realized I was actually looking for kimono to wear, not “pretty brocade” to use as home decor. That’s where I found this baby.

As soon as I saw it, I had to have it. The spiders are just so adorable and goofy-looking.

The obi itself is a really interesting texture, it’s a single layer but definitely heavy weight, a sort of raw slubbed silk. The spider webs and leaves are painted on, and then the spiders are embroidered over top of that. It’s fukuro width, but doesn’t exactly feel formal to me, due to the rough nature of the base silk.

I’ve only worn it once, sadly. It needs to get more exposure and I’m hoping I’ll have somewhere else to wear it in the near future. I paired it up with my purple net pattern tsukesage, the same one I wore with my koinobori obi. It’s a great, versatile kimono that serves as a showcase for interesting obi.

Please forgive the blousy mess my kimono is making here, it shifted while I was setting up the camera and tripod.

So what do you prefer? Traditional motifs, geometrics, or like me, are you a sucker for the weirder things in life?

Home sick kitsuke time

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I’ve been wanting to put this outfit on for a while, since I bought the haori on my birthday and today I was feeling under the weather and didn’t go out, so I figured it would be a good time to see how it all looked together. BIG MISTAKE. Kitsuke and a fever do not mix, especially not when the obi is made of the skin of Satan himself. This obi is beautiful, but it’s synthetic and brand new, which means it’s both very stiff and very slippery. It would not stay put, and I ended up cheating on the obi a bit, since I knew I was not going out today.

Overall I am very pleased with the coordination of this outfit. It’s almost as though the haori was made specifically with this in mind.  I pulled out the pinky pastel tones with a pink obiage and pink and silver obijime, and then tied it all together with silver zori. However, my kitsuke (and the look on my face in the photos) makes me cringe. My ohashori’s a mess, my collar’s all over the place, and if you could see what I did to make the obi stay put I’d be hideously embarrassed! But let’s pretend everything is fine, and just admire the coordination some more.

So let that be today’s lesson – if you’re feeling like refried death to begin with, don’t try wrestling with kimono for no good reason.

Why being my friend is dangerous

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My dear friend Anlina was in town and came to visit me at work yesterday. We then went to dinner, and she came to crash at my place afterwards. We talked and got giggly and girly, and at some point the idea of dressing her in kimono came up. I’ve honestly never dressed anyone but myself before and thought this would be a great chance to practice. Anlina is lucky, she has a great body for kimono. She is not wearing any structural undergarments here, merely a snug tank top.

My only stipulation was that she choose an outfit involving a tsuke-obi (pre-tied obi) as I’d been working all day and was tiiiiiired and not up to tying anything. I think we pulled together something cute, even if the formality is all over the place.

And of course, Tribble had to get involved.

So, what do you think, good first try for dressing someone else? Outfit cute, even if it makes no sense? Isn’t Anlina adorable?

Book Review – Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan 15th-19th Centuries

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Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan 15th-19th Centuries, edited by Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere
ISBN-10: 0810967480
Amazon.com listing

A very kind and generous friend of mine recently sent me this book she found while tidying up. Knowing my interest in Japanese culture and arts, she figured I would appreciate it more than a used bookstore would, and I am incredibly grateful. While this may not relate directly to kimono (though there are some gorgeous examples in the book) I figured some of my readers might be interested in this.

This book is a beautiful, lush photographic catalogue of Japanese decoration from the 15th through to the 19th century. It collects all aspects of decorative items, from paintings to dishware to kimono and shares them in large full-colour photographic plates. The texts are in-depth and interesting without being ponderous or overly academic, and the author makes a concentrated effort to explain terms transliterated from the Japanese. There are essays for each category and further elaboration when these categories overlap.

As interesting as the text is though, it is definitely the photographs that make this book worth the value. It is a large, hardcover volume, similar to a coffee-table art book. The photographs are huge, sharp, and full of detail. The book is far too large and the spine far too stiff to fit well into a standard flatbed scanner, but I have scanned a few pages as an example. I apologize for the shadow and blur in the centre.

I would recommend this book for:


– Anyone interested in the history of decorative arts in Japan as a whole.
– Anyone looking to learn of the evolution of practical and graphic design.
– Anyone looking for some lovely Japanese eye candy.

I would not recommend this book for:


– Anyone looking for procedural how-tos for Japanese art.
– Anyone interested in books specifically about kimono.

 

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