The kimono boom

An article in The Japan Times Online goes In Skeptical Quest of a Boom, getting off to a depressing start in Tokyo, of all places (like me, those of you who follow kimono are probably going “Tokyo?! What were they thinking!”), and then finally being put on to the trail of, well, the rest of the country, and Mamechiyo. This is where the article gets interesting!

“The restricted movement it imposes forces you to slow down and think,” she said. “You have to watch your sleeves when you go to pick things up, for example.”

[…] Mamechiyo pointed out that the key to the boom is in understanding the difference between kimono worn to weddings or the coming-of-age ceremony, and kimono for fashion. Formal kimono are worn for the benefit of others, so they have to conform to accepted standards as a mark of respect. But when you wear kimono on an everyday basis, you do it for yourself, and then you can do whatever you want.

“All the strict conventions of kimono are relatively recent inventions,” she explained. “If you go back a bit further, people were wearing their obi tied at the front and all sorts of interesting things, so playing with kimono is part of the heritage.”
[…]
But despite having signed a deal with a yukata manufacturer and having her designs on sale in department stores across the nation this summer, this cutesy creator is wary of moving into mass production.

“We have a close relationship with our customers,” she explained, showing me an album of Polaroid snaps of them wearing her designs outside the 2-year-old shop. “I don’t want to lose that.”

I’m often skeptical of all the kitsuke schools that profess you have to get a “certificate” to dress in kimono properly, so seeing one of the reines du kimono herself say “all the strict conventions of kimono are relatively recent inventions” and “playing with kimono is part of the heritage” is simply wonderful. This is what I’ve seen in my years of observation and study, and really, when you know that women were dressing themselves in kimono for hundreds of years without “kitsuke degrees”, it makes perfect sense. Of course one should learn the significations and history of kitsuke, I’m not advocating throwing everything to the wind, but one shouldn’t be stifled by rules of a rigidity that never existed in the first place, either.

In parting, I’ll leave you with links to photos from my 1936 “Kimono” book, that show just how much variation there was:
o Finished taiko musubi (crooked by contemporary kimono school standards!)
o Bride dressed in hikifurisode (note wrinkly collar!)
o Bride and attendants (more “crooked” taiko musubi — at the most formal of events)
o Taiko musubi (yet another variation, this one plump)
o Front and back views of same kimono (note her “crooked” obi in front and how low her obijime is)
o Woman in haori sewing (lots of haneri showing)

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