On Being a Behemoth – Size challenges and how to work with what you’ve got

Part I – Shop Smart

The subtitle of this blog, as you may have noticed, is A giantess’ adventure in tiny vintage silks. What you may not be aware of though, is how giant I really am. The photos I post are typically alone, and don’t offer much to scale against. I’d like to take a few entries to discuss the challenges of size in the hobby of kimono, since one of the regular excuses I hear for awkward or sloppy kitsuke is “Oh, I’m too big” or “Oh, I’m too curvy.” This first entry will focus on the kimono themselves, and shopping smart.

To start off, how big are we talking here? I am five feet ten inches tall. That’s 1.78 metres. I weigh roughly 175 pounds, or 79 kilos. My bust measurement is a cumbersome 46″ (117cm) around at the widest part. My bra size is currently averaging a 34F, though I recently bought a bra in a G-cup. Yes, you read that right. My waist is a reasonable 28″ (71cm) or so, and my hips are just passing the 40″ (104 cm) mark currently. My inseam when purchasing jeans is just over 35″ (89cm) high, from floor to groin. While this sounds like a figure most women would kill for (tall, long legs, big bust, small waist, rounded hips) it s by far the worst possible scenario for kimono.

So how then, do I manage to pull off wearing garments from a country where the modern national height average for women is 5’2″, or 1.58m, and a bra cup size of B is considered “large”?

The first, and easiest answer is to “buy big”. Modern everyday kimono are being made larger, to accommodate the fact that even women in Japan are significantly taller and wider than they were 50 or 100 years ago. However, this is not always an option, especially if you’re looking at older, one of a kind pieces. My best advice for this would be “don’t compromise.” That Taisho-era piece at a great price is still not a worthwhile investment if it’s so narrow at the hips that you can’t walk in it. If you truly have your heart set on vintage pieces, try looking for hikizuri – kimono meant to be worn trailing by either brides, geisha, or stage performers. Older ones are generally about the right length to be worn “normal style” by taller, modern women. In this outfit, I am wearing a vintage bridal hikizuri, which should have been worn without a fold at the waist and left trailing behind me. However, it’s just the perfect length for me to fold and wear normally.
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When buying a kimono, the length should be the same as your height, the wingspan should be from wristbone to wristbone, and the hip wrap should be your own hip measurement multiplied by nearly 1.5 to get a full hip-to-hip overlap. Since I know there is no way I will ever accomplish this, I aim for kimono a minimum of 60″ or 150cm long, a wingspan of 50″ or 127cm, and a hip wrap of 45″ or 114cm. There is no sure set of measurements that are acceptably “too small”, it’s always going to relate to how comfortable and familiar you are with kimono to begin with, but for me, those dimensions are workable.

With tall height comes the all-important question – is ohashori truly necessary, if you find a kimono that’s wide enough but possibly too short? Nowadays, especially when it comes to wearing vintage pieces, the general consensus is that it’s not entirely necessary, especially for casual, everyday wear. So long as the rest of your kitsuke is entirely impeccable, and you’re ready and willing to back up and explain that it was a conscious descision, very few people (aside from perhaps notoriously fussy author of the Book of Kimono, Norio Yamanaka) are going to fault you.

Naomi has taken the time to scan some wonderful instructions on how to put on a kimono that is too short for full ohashori. Please click the small images for a link to her Flickr, where the full-sized ones are contained.

So there you have it – even Japanese kitsuke books are giving explicit instructions on how to dress, proving it’s not vital. Personally, I would not feel comfortable in a formal kimono (anything above an iromuji & fukuro obi combo) with no ohashori, but for everyday wear or going out to a casual dinner, it’s perfectly fine! A well-fitting kimono is ideal, but that’s no reason to leave things in the back of your closet or tansu. Work with what you’ve got! As soon as I get a few things in the mail I am going to be posting an outfit I’ve got planned out with a too-short kimono.

Since this is the first entry in a series, feel free to leave suggestions on how you accommodate a larger figure, or mention other things you’d like to see me discuss. The next entry I’ve got percolating is going to talk about foundation garments and padding, and why they’re so important.

Home sick kitsuke time

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

My dear friend Anlina was in town and came to visit me at work yesterday. We then went to dinner, and they came to crash at my place afterwards. We talked and got giggly and silly, and at some point the idea of dressing them 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, they have a great body for kimono. They’re not wearing any structural undergarments here, merely a snug tank top.

My only stipulation was that they 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?

Items used in this coordination

It wasn’t a rock! It was a rock lobster!

This weekend I was invited to a holiday party at a friend’s. Initially, I’d planned to wear kimono but the bottom dropped out of the thermometer and it was nearly -15 so I scrapped those plans. I waffled about what to wear for nearly an hour, had a mini-breakdown, and decided to go with the kimono anyways, since I’d be in a warm car and a warm house for the bulk of the evening. Boy am I glad I did!

I decided to pair my awesome spiny lobster nagoya obi with my red and white yabane komon. I added a black and gold haneri, a red obijime, and a black obiage with red polka-dots. Unfortunately not visible in any of the photos are black tabi and red and gold zori. I pulled together what I feel is a rather Mamechiyo Modern style outfit.

Closeup of the awesome obi:

And my hamcat:

To keep warm, I put on my huge ridiculous snowboots and an adorable brown fleece wrap with pompoms. It looked cute, fit over the kimono, and kept me toasty warm. I think I am going to need to invest in more of these!

The outfit got a great reception from many of the party guests, including someone who had recently attended a Japanese wedding and said my outfit brought back fond memories for him. I also matched the hostess’ decor!

The coolest part by far though, was meeting a couple of awesome fans of Japanese culture and chatting with them. Emilie is interested in getting into kimono and I hope to help her along with that, and Nick already owned a yukata that he ran home to change into when he saw my outfit! In the freezing cold weather! We couldn’t resist geeking out for a few pictures 🙂

When fandom hand-gestures collide! Turns out we’d both watched the new Star Trek movie the night before. Clearly, this kooky kimono meeting was fate XD. Pardon the wonky Vulcan gesture on my part – my pinkies have been dislocated so many times due to my own clumsiness that they don’t move correctly.

All in all, it was a great evening. It’s one of the first times I’ve worn kimono out to a large gathering of people unfamiliar with my hobby, so I’m quite pleased with the positive reactions! Expect more pictures of social events in the future!

Back in black, birthday-style.

In my entry about my birthday purchases, I mentioned that I’d gotten one other special piece that I was going to devote an entire entry to. Well, I finally had some free time today to devote to putting an ensemble together and dressing in that piece. Without further ado, allow me to present my kurotomesode/houmongi hybrid mystery kimono!

At first glance, it looks like a subdued kurotomesode, and that is where it was hanging at the kimono showroom. At first I was going to skip over the whole rack, having no real need for more formal items, but I can never pass up a good ogle. While I was rummaging, I noticed something a bit out of the ordinary about this particular piece – there were designs on the sleeves! Kurotomesode, the most formal kimono for married women, is typefied by several things. They are fully black, they have five white crests (three in the back, two in the front), they often have a white second layer known as a hiyoku, and they have designs on the hem only. This one fit all the criteria, but was thrown off by the decorated sleeves.

For the ensemble, I was inspired by the subdued, chic look of geiko in their formal outfits. I paired it up with a warm gold fukuro obi I received as a birthday gift, a white obiage with red shibori clouds, a green and gold obijime to highlight the green in the kimono. Underneath it all I wore a red juban with a lushly textured white and silver haneri. I also put my pearl necklace on, since it was a birthday gift and I felt it was subtle and classy enough not to look out of place.

Full view of the kimono

Close-up of the hem designs

Inside the hem, and the white hiyoku

Design on the sleeve