Tuesday, November 29, 2011


From Kimonos (365 Series) by Sophie Milenovich
A “thing to wear”. “Clothing”. Beguiling simplicity. When it comes to feats of tailoring, kimono might not be up there. The modern kimono (a version dating back to 1600s) is made from a single strip of fabric commonly 38 or 40 cm wide. The long strip (13.5 m) is for the most part cut along its width to create two long rectangles that will drape front-to-back (or back-to-front, take your pick), two relatively shorter rectangles of the same width as the long ones that will drape over the arms as sleeves, with only one strip cut lengthwise for the collar and front facings. Nothing goes to waste. Straight line stitches. And hey presto! Simple, ha? OK, simplicity like that can be unforgiving to a messy stitch that gathers the fabric… I know where I am coming from with those flashbacks of childhood sawing classes… So from whence comes the magic? It’s not just the furi (the sleeve below the armhole), especially when they are as long as in the kimonos of the young unmarried women. It is the entire spectrum of fabric design from the most subtle selection of single color, weave pattern or print, or the demureness of the white wedding day kimono worn by the bride for the religious ceremony to signify her “death” to her family, to the grand extravaganza of weave, print and embroidery of uchikake (a highly formal kimono worn only by a bride later in the wedding day game, or at a stage performance). See it in the flesh and you will know how fabrics can enchant. Although the kimono shape hasn’t always been as we know it now, the fabric was the key in the kimono fashion world no matter the kimono shape. Back in late 700s, the sodeguchi (the sleeve opening) was wider and layering de rigueur. The ladies of the court would wear as many as twenty-five kimonos to achieve the right look and needed to mind their color choices. The latter was not solely a function of each fabric layer complementing another, but an observance of a strict status code. Some fabrics were more equal than others… Still, “the association of colors became an extremely sophisticated art that despite the tight constraints subtly reflected seasons, virtues, or sentiments, in addition to a taste or talent for demonstrating one’s personal sensitivity.” (ref.Irome no kasane. And good luck moving in all that exquisite garb! Then again, what was a lady to do, but to sit tight and inspire? Sei Shōnagon was inspired – to dispense some Fashion Police advice. She “numbers among her list of depressing things a "red plum blossom dress in the Third or Fourth months," a gaffe on the order of wearing white shoes before Easter.” (ref.) Tragic indeed…

Recommended reading:
Trusty Wikipedia: Kimono (here); The Book of Kimono: The Complete Guide to Style and Wear by Norio Yamanaka (here); Kimonos (365 Series) by Sophie Milenovich (here); Kimono at JapanZone (here)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cats in kimonos

A birthday card from my parents. Perfect!

Photograph by Satoru Tsuda
© Group B / Satoru Tsuda and Group B Company Ltd.

Kill Bill O-Ren Ishii Scene

This blog would not feel complete without it.

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