It was Sunday night, and I was thankful to be in the comfort of Yumiko’s warm apartment in Toronto’s west end.
“I can choose anyone? “
We were standing in front of a large chest of drawers in her living room. The second drawer down was open and filled with layers of beautiful textiles ranging from black and white hounds tooth, to deep denim, to printed silks and cottons. Had I not known better, I would have thought I had found a kindred fine-fabric collector in Yumiko, but I did know better. I knew that stacked and folded neatly in the drawer, was a lovely collection of kimonos.
You see, Yumiko is a professional Kimono Dresser or a Kitsukeginoshi, who has brought her business to Toronto after four years of Kimono dressing in Japan. I was over that evening to act as her kimono “Judy” of sorts, so she could give herself a little refresher in dressing, for some upcoming gigs she had booked.
I have always been a fan of the kimono, so when Yumiko mentioned that she needed a little practice, I was more than willing to help out. In fact, I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to try one on, especially since until that moment in Yumiko’s living room, I had only seen a full kimono in either movies or photos; and seriously, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to get fully decked out in such a wicked outfit!
“So which Kimono do you want to wear?”
It wasn’t an easy decision, but in the end I chose a vintage silk, wine colored kimono, that Yumiko matched with a beautiful hand painted purple obi. The entire dressing took around fifteen minutes, and I must have been her worst customer ever, since I kept squirming around every other second to try and see what she was doing. There were so many more steps than I had imagined: under dressing that added accent colour to the kimono near the neck and under the sleeves, padding to smooth out curves, and tons of belts to hold everything together.
When all was tied and tucked sufficiently into place, she brought out the mirror so I could see the finished product. I was totally taken aback. It was awesome! Admittedly a little tight around the diaphragm area and I had to take much smaller steps to dance about, but the obi kept me sitting and standing very straight. My posture has never been so perfect. I felt extremely elegant, and feminine. Yumiko had done a great job!
Getting out of the kimono was much quicker, and while Yumiko was folding all of the pieces back into a pristine pile, I had a chance to talk with her a little more about being a kimono dresser and her love of kimono in general.
Yumiko took her Kimono dressing classes in Kyoto, Japan, and then found an agent who would find her dressing jobs around the city. The reasons you might hire a Kimono dresser is to dress you for more formal occasions, such as weddings, funerals or the Seijinshiki, a Coming of Age ceremony, celebrated in Japan, when you turn twenty. To her own Seijinshiki, Yumiko told me that she wore a green Kimono that had intricate embroidered embellishments.
I was curious to find out if there were rules to follow when dressing someone in a kimono. Yumiko explained that there were not as many when it came to more “casual and modern” styles, but the traditional kimonos worn for more formal occasions, especially for weddings and funerals, came with many important steps to remember. She told me that as a Kimono dresser, one of the biggest mistakes she could make would be to fold the kimono collar in the wrong direction; a kimono that is folded with the right side over the left is for the dead, and the left over the right is for the living, to mess up this detail would be very bad.
She pointed out that the kimono style would also vary for seasonal reasons, for example a summer kimono or Yukata is made of much lighter material than a winter kimono and is usually worn with a thinner obi. Your marital status is another variable that might affect the style of kimono you wear. Single women wear a kimono called the Furisode, which has very long sleeves. Once married, women wear a style of kimono called the Houmonji, which has much shorter sleeves the Furisode.
The dressing time varies greatly as well, from 15 minutes, which is the time it took to dress me, to a half an hour for a more ceremonial kimono with a fancy obi knot, to around an hour for a wedding or uchikake kimono, which can require up to two people, with someone also doing the traditional hair and makeup. As for rates, I forgot to ask what Yumiko charged per dressing, but when I later looked on line I found prices that dressers that charged between $150US to $1000US per dressing.
By now, Yumiko had finished putting everything away, and had brought out some books for us to look at. One book was full of hundreds of different ways to tie the obi, such as the cho-cho obi, which is in the shape of a butterfly, or the “O Taiko” obi, that Yumiko had tied on me, which looks like a drum. She told me that as a kimono dresser, tying the obi is where you can sometimes take creative liberties, folding and sculpting them into incredible pieces of knotted art!
Yumiko also showed me a couple of books that demonstrated the differences between traditional and modern kimonos. The traditional kimono’s were indisputably gorgeous, covered with classic Japanese patterns
, but it was the modern kimono’s that really made my head spin, especially those by kimono maker Ms. Mamechiyo. Mamechiyo has designed a whole new spectrum of prints for her kimonos and obi’s, using retro 60’s kitsch patterns like poodles to simple patterns of playful polka dots. Her updated and less formal kimono look, has begun a whole new resurgence of young people wearing kimono’s for fashions sake rather than just for the traditional occasions. Yumiko showed me her very own Mamechiyo obi, that had a fun pattern of a cat printed along it, and then let me borrow the Mamechiyo book
Yumiko let me see a few more of her own personal kimono’s and explained that she really loved simple patterns and muted shades for her kimono’s, preferring the snaps and accents of colour to fall out from underneath the inside sleeves and to pop up from the collar. Choosing which colours and patterns to combine is one her favorite parts of putting together a kimono. She has already been out a few times in Toronto, sporting some of her stunning creations. When asked why she likes to wear Kimono’s so much, Yumiko replied that when you wear a kimono you can not be hurried, you have to relax, you experience time in a whole new way, since everything takes longer to do.
This statement really hit home for me, especially with the rush-rush pace of Toronto life. I love the idea of choosing an item of clothing from my wardrobe that would physically slow me down, making a Saturday stroll an even more splendid occasion.
It was at this point in the evening that I realized I was officially hooked on Kimono (especially since in my head, I was already scheming how I could get one of my own) and that I had completely lost track of time, and I had to be heading back out into frigid night, towards my own home.
“Hey is there such thing as a down Kimono, because I could certainly use one for the Canadian cold.”
Yumiko said she had never seen one. Hmm…maybe the Monster Factory can collaborate with Yumiko in designing some heavy-duty winter kimono’s, wouldn’t that be excellent? But I until that happens, I look forward to this spring and my Kimono date with Yumiko, where we will both be hitting the town fully decked out, right down to the tips of our zoris (a kimono sandal), and hopefully helping spread a little Kimono fashion fever right here in Toronto.
Yumiko's collection of zoris and getas, the sandals that are worn with a kimono. I did a little research and it seems that the difference between the two is that the geta sandals, which were named after the "clack clack" sound they make, have a separate heel, where the zori sandals have a flat sole.
A collection of padding and Koshi-Himo belts, used for shaping and tying the obi into place.
Yumiko folding up the Koshi-Himo belts.
Yumiko's favorite pair of zori.
The sleeves that are attached by hand to the Hanjuban, which is like an wrap around undershirt worn under the Kimono.
The light sandy green coloured fabric belongs to the Susoyoke, which is the wrap skirt that is also worn under the kimono.
One can also wear a Nagajuban, which is essentially the Hanjuban and the Susoyoke combined.
The collar attached to the Hanjuban.
The hand painted detailing on obi done by Yumiko.
A close up of the vintage wine coloured kimono fabric, I wore.
Yumiko folding up the obi-age, a sash that ran along the top of the obi.
Obi-jime belt that is tied on around the obi.
Hint of colour peeking out of the kimono sleeve.
The O Taiko Obi.
Mixing it up.
Officially hooked on Kimono!
An example of Mamechiyo modern spin on the kimono.
Another example of a Mamechiyo kimono.
The Kimono has a very rich and full history, which is well documented on line and in your local library, but here are a few fun links I found interesting:www.mamechiyo.jpwww.japantimes.com/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?fl20050918x3.htmwww.japanesekimono.com