The recently formed Chicago Kimono Club had a kimono-wearing event on Sunday, February 21st, from 1-3pm. I’ve invited people and advertised it to the JETAA community and on IG, but I was the only attendee who was not Japanese. That’s okay! I’ll keep at it; it’s good experience.
I was debating all day Saturday and Sunday morning if I’d wear kimono, but I decided against it and even forewent haori. I didn’t want to put on kimono there due to the sarashi being a bit of a hassle and requiring no modesty whatsoever (for the uninitiated, a sarashi is a 10m length of white cotton wrapped around the body, often under kimono; it can be seen on some taiko players, wrapped around their middle). I tried to find a picture of one on a person, but I could only find a picture of sarashi in a package.
A few people dropped by to say hello, but there were 6 or 7 people who stayed for the entire time. Aside from myself, there were the founders of the NCJAA (New Chicago Japanese American Association), Youko-san and Sugano-san, another woman who wanted practice with obi only, and two women in their 20s who were in the US for school. They were the ones mostly learning to wear kimono, and one of them takes koto lessons as well (but I forgot which one). One girl had the cutest haircut, and it really suited her and the kimono look. It gave her a modern retro look.
[Don't mind the glasses, it's for anonymity.]
Halfway through, Sun-san showed up. Sun-san was instructing at the last seminar. She was a kimono dresser at a salon, and can do it very quickly. I asked her this time how she learned, and she said that first she was a hairdresser, but expanded her services. She practiced by dressing people every day for a year, and so got good that way. I understand now why she said she wasn’t licenced or from a particular school; she just had to learn as a matter of course.
She showed some quick-dressing when she arrived. She had the juban and the kimono already together, held by a clip. Instead of a chikara-nuno (an extra piece of fabric sewn to the collar to help keep the back of the collar down), she had a himo sewn to the midline of the juban, about one stretched-out hand distance down the back from the collar. It came though the arm holes and tied in the front. When the himo ends were equal in length, she knew it was straight. To get a V-shape in the back, you sew it once, in the middle; for a U-shape, sew it in the middle and 2 sides, to hold those down (under the shoulderblades). You can also do this with safety pins in a pinch.
Once that was tied, she tied the himo which had been sewn to her nagajuban, and quickly aligned her collar and tied it. She had it on in a minute or less; it was truly impressive! (She was waering it over her clothing, but it still was quite smooth.) On this, she wore the kimono. Instead of holding the front and grabbing the back seam and lifting up like I was taught, she holds the ends of the collars out in each hand, lifts up, and lowers it down until it’s the right length. Following this, she does the usual alignment of the skirt seams and ties her koshihimo.
Making her ohashori was different, and a snazzy, fast trick! It looked nice and smooth, too, and it was something I’d never tried. She aligned the kimono collars, showing 1.5cm of juban collar on each side of the cross-point, and tied a regular himo just under her bust. Then, she reached in from the right and folded/pushed the inner layer out of the way, so the ohashori was one layer, and then used a rubber/polyester datejime (but you could use a non-polyester one) and placed it low, just a few inches above the ohashori. It didn’t cover the upper himo at all, and held the inner fabric out of the way. I tried this on a girl who I was helping teach kitsuke, and it works! It’s so easy. Maybe hard to explain, but one day I should get pictures or a quick video to show what I mean.
Following this, she put on the hanhaba obi, tying it in a bunko/chocho (butterfly) variation. The whole thing, even with her talking, was about 5 minutes. Ahhh, I love learning different ways to do things!
As for myself, I was paired up with one of the young Japanese women, and I taught her how to tie bunko obi, as she was young (and honesty, I can’t tie bunko without a lot of practice… one crutch of always using a biyosugata). When Sun-san came in, she complimented it, and the girl had tied it herself, so that was nice.
Afterward, we cleaned up, had tea, and chatted. Sun-san is doing a kimono show at the Japan Festival 2010 near Mitsuwa Market on June 26th and 27th. I hope to be in Canada by then, so I can’t go, though the festival looks like a lot of fun and they were hoping I’d show up. They want to have another event in May, before I leave, sort of as a farewell. How sweet! I’m supposed to pick the day based on my schedule, but I think anytime but AN weekend is okay.
All in all, glad I went. It was nice to see my Japanese friends again, try out my poor Japanese, and pretend I was in Japan (being in a back corner of a building with only Japanese people will do that).