At a recent xmas dinner and dance that my friend went to, she went full on and dressed up as a Japanese Geisha. She’d done it to a T, including makeup so thick she could only eat through a straw. All the hard work paid off though as she came away with the top prize and had almost everyone in the whole company wanting to take a picture with her. (I’d love to post a photo of her here, but sadly she wouldn’t allow me).
Her secret to success, she tells me, was choosing and renting a better quality kimono and not going for those ‘costume’ looking ones that are easily rented from a ‘halloween costume’ type of shop. She also spent countless hours looking at Geisha makeup videos on YouTube and searching how Geisha outfits are worn.
Dressing up as a Geisha for your Xmas and New Year dinner and dance parties seems fun and definitely makes an impression amongst you colleagues and bosses. Now everyone in my friend’s company knows about her department and what they do. As in the spirit of Knowledge of Asia blog, here’s a few bits of information about the Japanese kimono as worn by Geishas. As you’re about to find out, choosing a kimono for dressing up is not as simple as it seems.
Origins of the Kimono
During Japan’s Heian period of 794 to 1192 AD, the Japanese adopted their own stylings to the garment. Then in the Muromachi period of 1391-1573 AD, the so called ‘underwear’ of the Kimono started being worn by the Japanese on its own and a belt (the ‘obi’) was introduced. Later, during the Edo period where Japanese fashion was thriving, the sleeves became longer and the belt became wider. Thus resulting in the kimono that we think of today.
Typical Cost of a Kimono
Typically, the cost of woman’s kimono may easily exceed US$10,000. Not surprising considering the amount of craft and workmanship that goes into making one of these beautiful garments. An entire outfit, including the belt (obi), shoes, socks, undergarments, etc can easily go over US$20,000. You can get cheaper ones from novelty stores, but the difference in quality and authenticity is a world, if not an entire universe, apart.
Renting a Kimono – Which kimono should you wear?
So S$20k might not exactly be your budget for buying a dress for your event (although you might still consider buying one for something extra special like a wedding). So renting a kimono presents itself as a viable option, which many people do these days.
As with most traditional oriental garments, the type of kimono worn usually reflects the person’s social status, age, marital status and. The kimono also reflects the formality of the event. There are actually many types of kimono. The most popular are:
Furisode: Characterized by much longer sleeves and vibrant colors that cover the entire garment, typically worn by unmarried women and appropriate for coming-of-age ceremonies. Maiko, or apprentice geisha usually wear furisode.
Hōmongi: A replacement of the furisode once a woman gets married. Furisode are usually given as wedding presents.
Iromuji: Iromuji can be worn by both married and unmarried women. They are characterized by having a single color. Traditionally, Iromuji are worn to tea ceremonies.
Komon: The komon is a more casual type of kimono that can be worn, by both married and unmarried women, around town or at restaurants.
Edo komon: Is a variation of the komon that has large designs comprised of tiny dots. It is similar to the iromuji in the sense that it is worn when visiting someone’s residence.
Mofuku: The mofuku is worn for mourning and can be identified by the fact that it is made from plain black silk. Hence you should avoid renting a mofuku!
Tomesode: There are two types of Tomesode. The irotomesode and the kurotomesode. Both are worn by married women.
Tsukesage: Similar to the Hōmongi but usually worn for parties rather than ceremonies.
Uchikake: This the the most formal of kimono, which are usually either worn by a bride or during a performance. Uchikake are usually heavily padded and either white or vibrant colors.
Susohiki / Hikizuri: The susohiki is typically worn by geisha or stage performers and can be identified by it being much longer than other types of kimono.
How to Wear a Kimono
Once you’ve gotten your Kimono, you can learn how to put it on by watching this instructional video. It seems tricky at first but spending a tiny bit of time figuring out how to tie it. The lady in the video manages to do it on her own, but I’d recommend getting a friend (or husband) to help you with it:
Kimono Rental for the Holiday Season
If you’re thinking of renting a kimono or even getting one of your own made, then why not check out Kaede NYC for kimono rental at their website: http://kaedenyc.com/.
Kaede NYC is a unique fashion consultancy that specializes in Japanese Kimono rental and styling for both the Asian and U.S. markets.
The company can also take custom design orders from anyone in Japan and they have a dedicated representative there who can handle the delivery and customer service. Kaede also has representatives in Singapore and Taiwan.