Tsumugi and omeshi additions

March 2nd, 2004 by Anna

Two new gallery additions today:

o Pastel peony tsumugi

o Woven stripes kimono (most likely omeshi)

The first is a lovely spring kimono in my (tall) size and with graceful longer sleeves, a happy find for me. The silk has a wonderfully crisp yet soft feel to it. The second kimono is, well, weird! I’ve never seen anything quite like the motifs in the stripes on it. It’s done in a rough silk crepe that’s probably a type of omeshi.

Hopefully I’ll have time to try them on soon and see how they look. Kimono always take on added personality when worn, one of their many charms.

Review: “Symbols of Japan”

February 27th, 2004 by Anna

o Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design, by Merrily Baird

An encyclopedic volume that covers, in order: the cosmos, heaven, and earth; trees and their fruit; diverse plants; birds and insects; land and sea animals; demons, deities, and figural groups; religion and good fortune; objects of everyday life; music, board games, and cultural pursuits (taken from the table of contents).

The book is written in an academic style, meant as a reference rather than something to be read from start to finish, and serves this purpose very well. Although, like encyclopedias, it covers a very broad range of subjects and thus pays the price with some lack of depth, it is nonetheless an excellent reference. There is a great deal of hard-to-find information all in one place, such as background on wolves in Japan and the Japanese view of ghosts and goblins (for instance, human ghosts in Japanese tradition usually have no legs or feet, their lower halves “portrayed in a tapering, smokelike form”; and most are female).

As relates to kimono it is a good foundation for those who would like to interpret designs, although it’s best used in conjunction with something like one of the online references on symbolism, motifs and colors, since the book does lack some seasonal specifics and doesn’t particularly address kimono in detail.

About the site owner

February 25th, 2004 by Anna

name: Anna (also known as fraise on the internet, which is French for strawberry).
date of birth: Spring 1976
originally from: Oregon, USA
currently: On the French Riviera (among the less monetarily endowed :) ) with my compagnon
profession: Freelance editor and translator (French to English)

An “interview” follows.
Read the rest of this entry »

Woodgrain shibori kimono

February 20th, 2004 by Anna

This latest find has me very excited! I managed to win a woodgrain (mokume) shibori kimono on my meager budget:

There’s also a closeup of one of the hexagons. The flower seems to be one of the seven autumn grasses, and as it’s a hitoe (unlined) kimono, it would probably be worn in September. (You can see when lined/unlined/etc. should be worn on this page.)

The woodgrain shibori is likely to have been stitched rather than pale-wrapped (arashi). The main evidence of this are the horizontal lines of slightly different color, which follow where threads would have been. These wouldn’t be present in arashi:

The flowers are done in hon hitta kanoko, dots within squares. The amount of handwork it must have taken is mind-boggling.

Update: I had time to verify that the flower is specifically kikyou, Chinese bellflower, one of the seven autumn grasses. According to the Japanese Haiku Dictionary kikyou is an early autumn flower.

“Kimono” by Ito and Inoue

February 18th, 2004 by Anna

This book was discovered on ebay by fellow kimono fan moonblossom, and can be found on:
o Amazon.com: Kimono (currently unavailable, sometimes used copies will appear)

o Amazon UK: Kimono (Special order. £7.95, or about US$15)

Front cover.

Originally published in 1979 by Hoikusha in their Color Books series (which includes such titles as Katsura, Sumi-e, Tea Ceremony and Kyoto Gardens), this book is a bit like a time capsule. Despite its age, it is without a doubt the best English book I’ve read on kitsuke and kimono types.

There were a few things that I hadn’t heard or read before: on page 4, they say a kurotomesode can be worn with a pink kanoko shibori obiage and nagajuban of vermillion, red or pink by young women. I had always heard that kurotomesode were to be worn with white obiage and nagajuban, and wondered what they meant by “young women” since I’d always thought they were worn by mothers of the bride and groom. This mystery was solved on page 98, where they mention that kurotomesode are “worn at weddings or any formal congratulatory occasion.” Concerning kitsuke, for wearing a nagajuban, the book says that “the datemaki” (datejime) “is wrapped around the body from the chest down to the waist.” I’d never seen this before: you start at the chest and wind down, rather than crossing over at the back to keep it at the same level. They do the same when putting on the kimono. After trying it out myself, it is indeed a great idea, as it makes for a thinner and yet more solid base.

The kitsuke directions are excellent. They show how to wear a furisode and houmongi (the model uses a chuburisode – furisode with mid-length sleeves), tie a fukuro obi in Mandarin duck bow (oshidori musubi, looks just like a fukura suzume), wear two types of yukata, and tie two hanhaba obi musubi (ichimoji kuzushi, which looks like a bunko musubi, and chô musubi). Then there are directions for an otaiko musubi tied with a fukuro nagoya obi, and two drum bow variations done with nagoya obi, which look quite original.

In addition to that, the book goes into all the different types of kimono and describes their different levels of formality, has sections on summer weaves and regional weaves, dyeing techniques etc., and is filled with wonderful photos. I found their explanation of houmongi and tsukesage to be especially informative, so would like to quote it:

There are all kinds of houmongi, from formal kimono that are embroidered, tie-dyed or yuzen-dyed to informal batik and sarasa prints. [Sarasa are printed patterns inspired by Indian and/or Indonesian motifs.] There are also various types of tsukesage from informal hand-painted kimono to those with embroidered patterns placed at random over a large area of plain fabric. The latter have a dyed or embroidered crest at the back and usually can be worn like houmongi.

[Regarding tsukesage komon] Even though it is a komon type, it is a ‘good’ kimono and can be worn for theater and informal social events, as well as for town.

Books on kimono and kitsuke

February 18th, 2004 by Anna

A new category has been added: books! As I obtain more books related to kimono, and not just kitsuke, I thought it would be best to create this separate category.

Previously reviewed books can be found at:
o Basic kitsuke books

o Advanced kitsuke books

o English-language books on kimono

If you’re looking for directions on how to wear kimono, make the most of online references and my own directions: from juban (underkimono) to kimono.

February design update

February 11th, 2004 by Anna

I updated the site’s “innards” today. Most visitors won’t notice any major changes, although those using Mozilla/Netscape may notice that there are no longer problems with the images and the contact page. On that note, if you’ve emailed me through the contact page in the last month or two and haven’t got a response, please try again. Sorry for any inconvenience.

I also plan to add an “about” page soon.

Technical stuff: The previous design was mostly CSS, with tables used for the basic layout. This seems to have been what caused minor display oddities (images not showing completely, although they loaded properly; text area in the contact page not being interpreted correctly) in recent Mozilla/Netscape browsers, although it worked fine in Opera and IE. Today I finally had time to get into the code and replace all the tables with CSS columns. The entire site is now done completely in CSS, apart from the one table on the contact page! As always, coded by hand with only a text editor, memory and a CSS reference. (Have I mentioned I’m a bit weird when it comes to coding web pages by hand? No particular reason, I just enjoy doing it that way.)

Kimono make a comeback

January 22nd, 2004 by Anna

While skimming kimono sites today I came across an interesting article, which inspired me to do a sort of press review. I’m glad I did, because it lead to even more interesting finds!

Kimono makes a style comeback in Japan (Market News Express)
The first article I came across. It’s good, but contains at least one oddity. The photo of hair accessories (kanzashi in Japanese) bears the caption “Clip-and-go: wearing gets easier.” I’m not quite sure how kanzashi could be confused with kimono clips… Nonetheless, the article is, overall, quite interesting and gives some nice insight on how things are in Japan.

Japanese tie into tradition as kimonos make a comeback (JS Online)
This is a great article, very “human interest”. It also serves as a nice kimono primer, explaining how terms are pronounced and their meanings. I can’t help but clarify a misstatement in it: at the end they say “obi age (a decorative tie, pronounced ah-gay, for the center of the obi) and obi dome (the sash band, pronounced doe-may, on the center of obi)”, but the obiage is a sort of scarf worn at the top of the obi, whereas the obi dome is an accessory somewhat like a broach, but which is slid on to the obi jime (an accessory they overlooked). They probably confused obi age with obi jime, since the obi jime is a decorative tie (braided) worn in the center of the obi, plus or minus a few centimeters.

University student chooses kimono as his everyday attire (Daily Yomiuri)
My absolute favorite. If I lived in Japan, I would do exactly the same as this student! “The reason that Shiratori dons kimono is simple – he loves them.”