I’m a twenty-something living in the southern part of the United States who loves to wear kimono.
Sometimes people will ask why I wear kimono, since I’m clearly not Japanese. To me, this is a simple answer, but I do know that there are times when myself (and others who wear kimono) doubt themselves or have a hard time explaining the why of it all. What does one say to those who are curious (or just plain rude)? I don’t know about others, but I tell those that ask that the kimono is in essence, a textile art. I’m wearing it because I appreciate it as a piece of art. One can appreciate and support art, no matter it’s ethnicity. (People would never tell you that you can’t enjoy Picasso’s work just because you’re not Spanish, that’d be silly!) Since kimono is also a form of art, and since textiles are meant to be worn, there is no reason for me not to wear it just because I’m not Japanese. That is the way I see it.
My interest in kimono started when I was a little girl. I do not remember the exact moment that I was introduced to the world of geisha and kitsuke, but I do remember that I once I was, I loved the way these ladies looked and dressed. My first kimono was a child’s furisode that I bought when I was 16, when I first discovered Ebay. Once I figured out that I could actually own one of the garments that I had admired for so long, there was no stopping me! At the time, I had no idea about the different types of kimono, formality, or that there was even such a thing as sizing. (I admit that I fell for the “one size fits all” myth spouted by internet salesmen) What I did know, however, was that I desperately wanted one. I suppose that, in hindsight, the old adage to “look before you leap” would have served me well, but I wanted a kimono so badly that I didn’t bother to do my research. I now know that I could never actually wear my child’s furisode. (although in the early days, I did try!) Nevertheless, it holds a special place in my heart as my first kimono. It is currently in storage, and I plan on giving it my daughter, if I have one in the future.
My next brush with kimono didn’t happen until almost two years after that original purchase, when I bought a yukata that actually fit in 2008. It was one of those mass-produced garments that was cheap and came with a pre-tied obi. I wore it on my 18th birthday (I had a costume party with all of my friends), and I did so many things wrong….(I’m pretty sure that I ran around barefoot with no padding or binding, and had those silly “chopsticks” in my hair)
My first “real” kimono kitsuke experience, however, did not come until 2009, when I first tried dressing in a full outfit…juban, otaiko musubi, and all. I had by then acquired all the necessary accessories needed for dressing, and had also discovered the amazing folks over on the Immortal Geisha forums. However, even with all that I learned from both books and internet tutorials, it still took me 3 hours to dress and another 2 to figure out how to tie the obi properly. I had actually given up on tying the obi once before, but I was determined to figure it out and finally managed it after several hours of failure. It was also my first experience in wearing zori, date-eri, and how to make a too-small kimono fit. (It was terribly tight, and way too short wingspan-wise) I can no longer fit in this kimono, (at least, not without some serious effort haha) but it was my first successful time putting on a kimono.
Today, I am still far from perfect (so far away that you can’t even see it, actually) but I am pleased to say that I am making progress. Each time I wear kimono, I improve as I learn what not to do, where this should go, etc. I still struggle with the obi, (It took me almost a half-hour last time to get it right) and am still nowhere near where I’d like to be kitsuke-skill-wise, but I am steadily improving. I have recently started to come into my own “style” as it were in kimono wearing (I love Taisho-era pieces and bold funky designs, as well as meisen kimono and long sleeves), and my kimono collection is expanding exponentially now that I have a steady income from my job. I am proud to say that wearing kimono has not only helped to define myself as a person, but has taught me valuable lessons in patience, individuality, and not giving up.
It is my hope that this blog can help inspire and encourage you to enjoy kimono and their beauty as well.