Book Review – When Art Became Fashion: Kosode in Edo-Period Japan

When Art Became Fashion: Kosode in Edo-Period Japan
by Dale Carolyn Gluckman & Sharon Sadako Takeda
Language: English
ISBN-10: 083480266X
Amazon.com listing
(nb: This volume may be found on eBay for significantly lower price)

I found this book while browsing the “ending soon” section on eBay. I’d never heard of it before, and wasn’t sure if it would be worth the $25 it was being sold for, so I looked it up quickly on Amazon. There was a glowing review by KimonoMomo, whose opinion I greatly respect when it comes to Japanese textiles, and the least expensive used copy available was priced at roughly $65. Based on those factors, I figured it would definitely be worth the investment. Unfortunately, I did not think to ask the seller – shopenjapan – about shipping costs from LA to Montreal, and had a bit of a case of sticker-shock when they sent me the invoice. They did everything in their power to get me the lowest price, were very patient while I tried to find an alternate shipping solution, and when the final shipping to me cost less than anticipated they refunded me the difference. In the end it was still less expensive than buying a used copy on Amazon, and the service was great. I’ll definitely buy from them again if they list similar books!

So, was it worth it? Absolutely! It is actually an illustrated museum catalogue for an exhibit of the same name, much like Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan 15th-19th Centuries, which I reviewed earlier. It is divided into essays about many topics, from the evolution of the kosode to calligraphy as a motif to the cultural and social impact and relevance of red “beni” dye. Each essay is complemented by many lush full colour photographs and multiple page spreads, as well as smaller inserted black and white and detail shots. When I first got it, I spent several nights simply ogling the photos.

The essays themselves are written in a fairly dry academic style, but they are not difficult to read or alienating to people unfamiliar with the terminology. Any Japanese terms are italicized and explained in clear plain English the first time they make an appearance. There is a very useful glossary of terms in the background that is a huge asset to anyone interested in kimono either as wearable clothing or as historical costume, as well as many fascinating and well-organized charts and graphs documenting the flow of Japanese historical eras, common kosode pattern layouts, and garment dimensions. It is not something I’d suggest for light bedtime reading, but it makes an excellent addition to any kimono-specific or Japanese cultural reference library. Several of the kimono in the book are also in the Kyoto Shoin, Yuzen edition book, but I found this to be a good thing – it was very interesting to see that some of these garments are so historically famous and relevant that they appear in multiple texts.

The layout of the book is also very lovely, the text is clear and the images are crisp and beautiful, with vivid colours and plenty of detail shots. Captions are always large enough to be legible but small enough not to be obtrusive. There are also some very charming touches, such as the text on the first page of each section being in the shape of a kimono. This may not seem like such a big thing, but it really adds to the cohesive feel of the whole book, and as someone who studied document layout in college it really tickled me.

I would recommend this book for:


-People interested in the history of Japanese textiles.
-People studying historical fashion or evolution of fashion and trends.
-People interested in Edo-era Japan.
-People looking for beautiful photos of kimono.

I would not recommend this book for:


-People looking for how-to-wear guides.
-People looking for coordination ideas.

This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site.

Fun with kimono dolls!

Have you ever had the urge to make a kimono outfit or play around with coordination, but didn’t have time? Or perhaps your collection isn’t big enough and you don’t have a lot of pieces to play with? Maybe you’re just too tired, and want to do something fun and relaxing! Fear not, the internet’s come to the rescue again! There are plenty of very fun little interactive kimono dress-up dolls out there to play with.

Wabitas Simulator - Fun simulator with tons of colour and pattern options for the juban, kimono, and haori. Solid colour choices for obi, no options for obiage, obijime, or zori.
KainoaTec - Cute modern furisode simulator. You can choose the furisode, obi, obiage, obijime, date-eri, zori, and hair accessory. Hairstyle and face are not customizeable. There are also three different poses available.
DollDivine Kimono Maker - Slightly ukiyo-e stylized geisha simulator. You can choose the juban, hikizuri (long trailing kimono), haneri, and obi as well as tons of customization options for the hairstyle, face, and accessories. Plenty of skin tones, and lots of hair and eye colours, both natural and fantastic.
Yukata Girl - Modern yukataHIME style, with lots of crazy hairstyles, footwear options, three lengths of yukata, and plenty of customizable patterns you can layer for even more personalization.
Kimono Girl - Adorable chibi-style simulator, with tons of kimono options, as well as obi, obiage, obijime, footwear, and hakama! Skin tone, hair, and face options too.
Kimono Maker - Design a kimono. Choose the base colour and then choose patterns and accent colours. Doll itself (skin, hair, makeup) is fixed.

Have fun, and if you make any awesome outfits using these, please share! 🙂

Book Review – Kyoto Shoin, Yuzen edition

Yuzen Dyeing
by Nobuhiko Maruyama
Language: Japanese and English
ISBN-10: 4763670409
Amazon.com listing

This was a risky impulse purchase off eBay. The listing did not give the title, did not give dimensions, and only had a few murky photos of the interior. However, it was a very good price so I figured I’d throw caution to the wind and go for it. I’m very glad I did, because when it arrived in the mail I was shocked to find one of the out-of-print and generally very pricey Kyoto Shoin ‘s Art Library of Japanese Textiles books, specifically the one about yuzen which is one of my favourite techniques.

The book is one of a series, and my only regret about buying it is that now I very much want more of the books out of the series. I’d heard that they were great resources, but never having seen one for myself  I didn’t really know what I was missing.

The book is filled with gorgeous full-colour plates of vintage kimono, often pairing up a full garment shot with a detail. The text is sparse, but concise. It doesn’t go into huge amounts of depth, but does not leave me desperate for more information. The majority of the book is devoted to photos, but there is also a basic explanation of the techniques involved in yuzen dyeing in the back. It is by no means a full tutorial, but it helps the reader to understand the process and effort involved in making these beautiful garments.

I would recommend this book for:


-People interested in traditional dyeing techniques.
-People looking for pictures of beautiful vintage kimono.

I would not recommend this book for:


-People looking for in-depth tutorials or lessons on yuzen dyeing.

 

This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site.

Book Review – Okimono Kimono

Okimono Kimono CoverOkimono Kimono
by Mokona CLAMP
ISBN-10: 1-59582-456-1
Language: English
Dark Horse Comics listing
Amazon.com listing

I had been lusting after this book for quite some time. I was initially planning on buying the original Japanese version and looking at the pictures, but then a friend alerted me to the news that they were working on an English translation so I held back, keeping an eye on the release date. For whatever reason, the date got pushed back. And pushed back. And pushed back again. From mid-March straight through to early June. But the wait is over, and a copy is in my grubby little hands! Well worth it, too!

The book is divided into sections, including photoshoots with art kimono painted by Mokona, outfit inspirations and suggestions, an adorable interview with Ami of PuffyAmiYumi where they discuss kimono, photographs of her collections, an interview with Katsumi Yumioka and some lovely outdoor photoshoots.

Mokona’s style is a great blend of vintage and modern, and she always encourages injecting your own personality into outfits, and to relax and have fun. This sort of book is a refreshing change from the austere regulatory style of things like The Book of Kimono or magazines like Utsukushii Kimono.

There are, however, no how-to guides, no tutorials, and no listings of what is necessary to wear kimono. There are selections of accessories and photos of kimono, but this is not a book for people learning how to dress in any manner. It is for people who already know the foundations and are looking to inject new life into their personal look.

I would recommend this book for:


-People looking for cute and unique outfit inspiration.
-Fans of CLAMP.
-People looking to experiment and have fun with their kimono.
-People who appreciate vintage kimono and are unafraid of colour and pattern.

I would not recommend this book for:


-People learning how to dress in kimono.
-People looking for traditional or formal kimono style.
-People who prefer understated looks.

 

This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site.

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

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.

 

This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site.