What have you been doing in lockdown? So many kimono events have been cancelled this year.
In more usual times, I would have been going down to Shimoda to celebrate the black ships festival, where I regularly participate in a kimono fashion show and a parade through the town. Many citizens of Shimoda and surrounding areas always enjoyed it.
The summer is a time of festivals throughout Japan, so many people who have kimono or other festival clothing are probably experiencing a sense of sadness about not being able to wear their gear and enjoy events that are essentially celebrating our togetherness and sociality. However, there are some kimono activities that can be done at home.
It is a good idea to air your kimono seasonally. So, when the weather is fine, you can spread them out in a sunny part of the house to give them an airing and check on their condition.
I have also been a bit of a guilty kimono buyer. My favorite online shop is Japan Ichiroya. They also have an international site available in English. They take a lot of care of their kimono, but you can also find many used kimono at reasonable prices on Rakuten or on Yahoo auctions. Even surfing the sites is a lot of fun.
For those who want to learn but not buy, the Victoria and Albert Museum have made several videos of their collection and the temporarily-closed kimono exhibition available online here. The National Museum of Japan’s textiles can also be seen online at their e-Museum here. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has images available from their 2015 exhibition, Kimono: A Modern History, here.
Creative at Home
I really want to do something more creative, though, so I decided to dye some of my older accessories that were no longer looking as white as they used to. I dyed a collar, a couple of obi age (the decorative cloth across the top of the obi), and also some white tabi that looked a little worse for wear.
I used Dylon, and have successfully dyed cotton and silk items into purple, pink, and yellow. It is also possible to use kitchen-made dyes — coffee, tea, or onion skins can all be made into dyes.
When I was in London for the Victoria and Albert Museum kimono show, I managed to source some beautiful African wax cottons, so I have been doing some sewing too. A piece of cloth 90cm x 15cm will make a collar for a nagajuban underwear, which only needs to be tacked into place. I also sewed some tabi, which is quite a complex process.
The most enjoyable experience was to sew a yukata in my African wax. I used a Japanese sewing book that I couldn’t actually read very well, but I managed to interpret the pictures. A very thorough English language guide on making yukata is available online here.
There are also several Youtube videos with varying degrees of authenticity. If you have time on your hands and like sewing, it is a great little project.
Kimono Learning Tools
There is a lot that you can learn online, and I have put up a few learning tools while being in lockdown. Thanks go to Nichole Fiorentino and Todd Fong for their great contributions.
I hope that these will be helpful if you want to learn to put on a kimono, or tie a half-width obi or a Nagoya obi in a taiko drumbow. How to wear a kimono is here. How to tie a han haba (half width) obi is here. How to tie a Nagoya obi is here.
There are many other tutorials available online to help you to learn to wear yukata, kimono and various ways of tying obi. I hope you can find something kimono and enjoyable to do, even if you are stuck in lockdown!
Stay safe, but have some kimono fun.
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Author: Sheila Cliffe