Yukata – Tips & Tricks

I’ve been surprised about how much attention my short piece on yukata hairstyling is getting, so why not put a few more tips and tricks on the table.

Unfortunately, yukata season is just about over, but that only leaves three seasons to figure out how you want to dress yourself up next year!!  Maybe you have a yukata, maybe you have an obi – maybe you don’t have either.  Maybe you don’t have the tools, or want specialized summer ones.  Maybe you want to dress your hair differently, or find a better ornament.  Maybe you want to play with more modern obi decorations, or try a heko obi.  There are so many reasons to start now, and even more so if you only wear kimono a few times a year.  Don’t get rusty and make everyone wait while you frantically struggle to tie the right knot!  …You’re going to miss the fireworks!

With all that said, this is not a comprehensive guide.  There are quite a few out there, and I don’t mean to compete – my attempt could not be any better.  I merely want to outline some of the easy points that can be missed.

This will be kind of wordy, so I’ve divided sections by topic:

  1. Selecting the right yukata
  2. Selecting appropriate accessories
  3. Selecting the appropriate tools
  4. Putting on yukata
  5. Minding your manners
  6. A little known truth

1. Selecting the Right Yukata

Some people will say, as long as you like it, there is no wrong yukata.  Kimono were designed to be one-size-fits-all garments to an extent, and so this statement is not inherently false.  You have to consider of course that women in Japan used to be more or less the same size, and for the most part still are.

Perhaps many of you in the audience may now be realizing, that size is nothing like your size.  Maybe you’re tall, maybe you’re fuller figured, maybe you’re both.  And fortunately, that’s OK. Even though getting a custom sized yukata has always been an option, albeit an expensive one, tall sizes are now available and will probably fit your needs no matter what category you fall in.

Another thing to consider is that Japanese women have been getting progressively taller.  My kimono teacher also says that even compared to 40 or 50 years ago, fashion now dictates skirts to fall longer.  In other words, if you put on a vintage yukata, it may be too short even if you are built small.  One way to check the size of a kimono if you are small or medium build is to hold it up compared to your height.  The kimono should be at least your height in length, and ideally about 1 head taller.

2. Selecting appropriate accessories

Once you have your yukata, you need to select matching accessories.  Personally, I tend to select basic colors and prints for accessories to make them more versatile, allowing me to pair them with various yukata and kimono alike.  At the very least, you will need an obi, shoes, and a purse.  A few additional but optional nice touches are (but not limited to)  a hair ornament, obi ornament, collar ornament, tabi, and fan.

There are two basic rules to follow when choosing accessories.  First, when wearing a colorful patterned yukata, choose accessories that highlight one of the background colors in the pattern.  Second, when wearing a very plain pattern or solid color yukata, choose accessories of a different color that will contrast with the yukata.  I’ll take some pictures of my combinations another day.^^

Your purse should ideally be hand-held.  Avoid any purse that interferes with your sleeve or collar – this will look sloppy and could possibly disshevel the garment.

Matching shoes and purse is a common element of formal kimono – but yukata are anything but formal.  Most girls I see nowadays wear Western-style sandals or heels.  When choosing shoes, select something clean and comfortable with an open toe.  Japanese style geta are of course a great choice, too, but don’t limit yourself if they’re uncomfortable or hard to find.  Geta should ideally match your color scheme in some way, but Western shoes can literally be anything you like.

As for other accessories, I recommend going easy at first to get a hang for what you have and how you want to dress it up.  There are a lot of choices out there, or you may opt to make your own, reuse a necklace or belt, or many other things.

3. Selecting the appropriate tools

So you have your yukata and all the accessories to match – let’s get dressed!  The basic tools you need are: a slip, 2 koshi-himo, 1 date-jime, and 1 obi ita.  However, there are many ways to get dressed.  Choose the tools necessary for the method you prefer.

Underneath you will need a slip or something similar.  You can get a special one, or wear something you already have, even a camisole and bike shorts are OK.  This is to protect the yukata and keep you covered should any accident happen.  Be sure though that your undergarment is significantly shorter than the yukata – around mid-calf to knee length.  This will prevent it from showing unintentionally.

Instead of 2 cloth koshi-himo, there are a variety of elastic choices.  Please look into them on your own – as I said there is no one right way.  For date-jime and obi ita, there are “summer versions” designed to be lighter and allow for better circulation.  Comparing the two in my own experience, I cannot discern a significant difference.

This section is as short as it is necessary.  If you have a beautiful kimono and obi, you want to try your best to wear them properly.  Don’t just put them on and expect the magic to happen – use the tools to keep everything in place and looking good!  In the summer, a set of starter “tools” costs about 2,000 yen.

4. Putting on yukata

As  I mentioned before, you should consult a another guide or video for comprehensive study on how to put on yukata, but here are a few pointers.

  • The image to aim for is “tube” – If you’re busty or thin and curvy, fold a face towel and wrap it around your waist, over your slip.  Keep it in place with a koshi himo, kimono fonde, etc.  This will allow your obi to sit better.  Another good idea is wearing a sports bra.  There are also other Japanese-style bras available, but avoid wearing a Western bra.  If you got it, flaunt it – but not when you’re wearing kimono.
  • Skirt length is key – too short and you look childish, too long and you look sloppy.  Go for ankle-length, riding just a smidgen above your feet.
  • Always have the left side on top.  When buying my first yukata, the elderly woman dressing me said this first and foremost.  Only corpses are dressed the other way; please be careful!
  • Don’t open the collar more than your collarbone.  Be sure the collar is pulled tight.

5. Minding your manners

You’re wearing yukata and looking beautiful – keep it that way!  There are a lot of manners and mannerisms to consider when wearing kimono, but at the same time don’t feel intimidated or restricted.  You’re probably going out to have a good time, too, so there’s no need to overdo it.  I’ve ordered them by personal priority so you get a feel of what I think is most important.  This will of course vary between individuals and teachers.  Keep in mind that most points are designed to help keep your yukata and obi in place, and will become easier the more you wear yukata.

  • Try to walk with a smaller gait, around 10-15 cm.
  • Sit and stand up straight as much as possible.  This will keep your collar in place.
  • If you need to use the powder room, lift your skirts straight upwards without opening, folding them at the hips.  Be sure to smooth everything back down, checking in a mirror or with a friend if possible.
  • When carefully getting into a vehicle, sit down smoothing your skirt, and then swivel your whole body to face forward.
  • When sitting in a chair, keep your knees and feet together.  Don’t lean back as this will crush your obi.  Sit on the edge and incline your calves and feet to the left or right if necessary, keeping your thighs on an even plane with the seat.
  • When standing at rest, keep your feet together and turned inwards, one foot slightly more forward.
  • Try not to let your elbows or upper arms show.  If you have to reach upwards, grab the outer part of the sleeve with your free hand.

6. A little known truth

After you’ve successfully put on yukata for the first time, there is reason to rejoice.  It’s something of a dying art; not even most Japanese women can do it.  Everyone will tell you you look great.  They’re immensely impressed, proud of you and your effort, and want you to keep it up.

Now for a bit of harsh reality:  you probably look not so good.  Did you put the right side on top?  Is your collar too far open?  Koshi-himo showing?  Obi coming untied or completely falling off?

And you know what?  It’s perfectly OK to look “bad.”  You didn’t perform a pirouette with your first steps, and you will probably not be a yamato nadeshiko the first time you go out, even if someone else dresses you.  But every time you try, you will do better.  People who compliment you mean no harm; they intend only to encourage you and are probably genuinely happy.  Accept compliments with the same sincerity, and when you see someone else learning to walk in those same shoes, be sure to return the favor.  Never tell someone they look bad, and only fix a friend’s kimono if they ask for help.  Remember, until you get that Level 1 Kimono Exam Licence, we’re all learning together!

I hope you found this useful!  Please feel free to write to me with any questions.  Good luck!

Batsu

Level 8 きもの知識検定

Level 1 きもの着付け免許状

Internationally Certified Kimono Lecturer

Boom – Edogawa Fireworks Festival

Of the twenty or so fireworks festivals in Tokyo, Edogawa is simply the best.  There are no buildings obstructing the view.  There is plenty of seating along the cool riverbank. It usually has the second most fireworks for a single show in the Kanto area.  And probably best of all, I can get there by cab for a reasonable fare.

In other words:

*14,000 fireworks

*perfect view

*1,000 – 2,000 yen and I can arrive any time in a splendid yukata

Most of these points will apply to you, so if you find yourself in Tokyo one August, choose Edogawa.  Of course, there will probably be close to a million people there, and like any fireworks display, things will be quite crowded.  But even if you arrive late to Edogawa, you’ll still be able to see the show!  No ducking around buildings, straining to see through trees.  No need to pay for a boat or helicopter ride.  That may sound like a joke, but I assure you it is not.

This year was my fourth time attending the show in Edogawa, and even though many parts are remarkably similar from program to program, I honestly anticipate this day all year long.  BOOM!  I like to sit as close as possible, reveling in the light and reeling in the shock-waves from each explosion.  Camera vaguely pointed at the sky, I more or less hold the shutter to take a continuous stream of photos – as if the majestic awe of the moment could somehow be captured.

Here is a video, documenting my favorite part of the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVHRMZwMvao

No one ever photographs me… save for the local bar visited on the way home.  And usually, no one photographs the food I prepare; however, this year someone managed to capture some it.  Even though it’s not a great picture, it makes me happy.

So now, though there’s not much to do but wait for next year, I can still take a look at these photos and know without doubt that Edogawa could beat the pants off of any other fireworks display.  Since I alluded to living in the area, let me admit that these are my proud tax monies at work.  BOOM!  I hope you all take to time to enjoy this spectacular evening; don’t worry, it’s on me.

Yukata and Summer Kimono – Hairstyles

Wearing kimono or yukata would be a lot easier were it contained to one or two simple garments or points of coordination. But this is simply not the case – even at most basic levels, appropriate accessories, make up, and hair arrangement are at once a part of kimono style. As the pressure increases, seasonal factors, body types, speech, and mannerisms all come into play. The days of everyday kimono wear have passed, and with them much of the nonchalance that probably once encompassed the garments.

Then again, this is why it’s fun to wear kimono and yukata in the summer. In recent years yukata has become a form of women’s semi-formal attire, but in hand with this popularity has come accessibility. Most everyone wears yukata sometime in the summer – well, mostly women – whether it be for dates, shopping, festivals, or fireworks.

To increase public appeal and meet demands, various new forms of yukata styling have flourished, with most every fashion sect staking a new and unique claim. In this sense, summer kimono and yukata are perhaps the most quickly evolving forms of “traditional” Japanese clothing. They are available to everyone, and are open to the most liberal interpretation while still maintaining a degree of social acceptance.

So – what a lengthy introduction. Today, I’m going to talk about hair.

Basically, you can style your hair anyway you want for yukata. But, (if you care about fashion points) the important part is for it to look styled. This comes with the whole “semi-formal” status. In the most recent kimono eras, women generally wore their hair up to show off their necks and collars. You’ve probably seen some wood-block prints from the Edo period detailing elaborate coiffures. Yeah, well, no one wears there hair like that now; but they do generally wear their hair up. Younger and more youthful styles tend to have a rather messy look, with the uneven ends of twisted hair shooting everywhere or falling in abstract curls. Older, more sophisticated styles tend to be more smooth, with either no ends showing or the tips neatly curling in formation close to the head. For both styles, the most popular hair accessory is something seasonally loud – often a huge flower or corsage, sometimes worn with other jewelled or jewel-like ornaments.

Personally, batsu is rather terrible when it comes to styling hair. I like to have one hair style and wear it like that everyday – just adding some accessories when I wear yukata. But this year, as I mentioned, I bought a book to learn more about styling hair for yukata. Let’s take a look… (click images to enlarge)

(Just in case you were wondering, style your hair before putting on your kimono. Don’t do like the girls in these photos.)

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This is a cute style for medium length hair that doesn’t seem too crazy. The caption says, “A simply style, dressed up with a sparking tiara-like hair band. Using a hair band will accent your hair’s volume, but you can also use an ornate hair pin to glitz it up in the back.”

1. First, twist the top portion of your hair and secure to get out of the way. Now, leaving hair at the top, bottom and both sides, section off the hair on the very back of your head and braid, twisting into a bun. Secure firmly with pins as this will serve as the base for the rest of the style.

2. Take the bottom portion, twist once and secure to the braid. Repeat with top and sides, making sure not to secure the loose ends.

3. Take the top portion of your hair and tease the underside. Uniformly twist once, and pin to the bun. Arrange you bangs and accent with hair band at the part. Stick with ornamental hair pin.

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“Straggling tresses of hair give this elegant up-town girl style a more retro feel.*” (*”Retro” is up for your own interpretation.) “Pay attention to the amount of hair trailing on either side – have neither too little or too much. For hair accessories, choosing something sweet and lovely will add a naturally innocent feel.”

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1. First, twist the top portion of your hair and secure to get out of the way. Now, leaving hair at the top, bottom and loose hanging tresses on both sides, section off the hair on the very back of your head and braid, twisting into a loose bun. Try to secure the end inside, on a point intersecting a line between your ear and chin.

2. Twist sides inwards, securing near the end of the braid.

3. Let down your bangs and twist the top portion of your hair once, securing near the end of the braid.

4. Use 3-4 pins to secure any dangling ends, distributing loosely but evenly, creating a scattered shape. Finish by adding hair accessories.

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“Lots of fluffy volume gives an air of romance.” This is a style for short hair, which is nice in that it has a real classic feel without using any fake hair. “Curling around the collar of the kimono transforms short hair into a refined bob-like look.”

1. Section off part of the top and then curl all of your hair inwards using a curling iron. Accentuating the collar is first and foremost.

2. Part your hair from the bangs and French braid both sides, securing with pins.

3. Section off the bottom of your hair into 2 or 3 parts, twisting each piece upwards and securing with a pin.

4. Twist and spread the remaining portion of your hair to cover the pins used in steps 2 and 3. Finish by affixing a clip to the braided portion.

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A more punky and youthful style for short hair. “Cool and cute style using sharp vertical lines. Smooth and clean on the sides with lots of volume from the top and down the back giving a boyish feel, paired with cute hair accessories.”

1. Twist back your bangs and pin, forming a pompadour.

2. Split each side into 2 parts and twist firmly all the way back. Secure with pins starting a the back and moving forward through the twist.

3. Create volume in the back and top by pulling out chunks of hair and setting with hair spray. Finish off by securing small clips to the twisted portions.

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This was my favorite style. It’s for long hair, which I don’t have, but I seemed to make something that worked anyway. “An air of ennui – or is that eroticism? A slightly sophisticated style for a young lady.” Oh, my! That was my first time to read the caption – lol. Perhaps this style was made for me!

“The trick is to start off by fixing the ends with a curling or straight iron. You want curling tresses peeking out here and there to give the illusion of movement. Stick with a small hair ornament to make the foundation of this natural look.”

1. Section off your hair as shown in the diagram, taking note of the diagonal part. Leave loose tresses on either side at the collar.

2. Split the left side into upper and lower portions. Twist the upper portion to the left, and the bottom portion to the right, then twist them together.

3. Secure the end with a rubber band.

4. Use your fingers to pull chunks here and there, giving a loose look.

5. Create a bun like shape using the dot in diagram 1 as the center, securing with pins. Let the ends hang playfully loose. Repeat steps 2-5 for the right side. Stick with the hair ornament of your choice.

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It was secure without any product all day, which included walking around in the wind to test stability and baking a pie… to test my endurance.

In the non-styling portion were also quite a few examples of simple hair suitable for yukata.

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The caption said something like, “Instead of getting all fancy, why not just do your bangs differently?” Simple is good.

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Cute and simple. There’s not such thing as “too old for that” in Tokyo right now. Maybe all of Japan.

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It looks like she just curled her hair a little bit and then pulled the top section back.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the pictures with translations and commentary.  Feel free to ask questions if anything is unclear.  And if you try any of these, please let me know how it turns out!

Yukata and Summer Kimono

Batsu just finished a big project, and went out yesterday to celebrate.  The festivities included paying the rent, submitting bills, printing invoices, visiting the cleaners, grocery shopping, and basically all the other chores that had been on postponed due to the urgency of the work at hand.  However, it also gave me a chance to look around – the seasons are changing, the hydrangea are blooming.  My landlord was working with her daughter to prune the plum tree, gathering the newly formed green fruits to make liqueur.  Summer is not yet here, but the intermittent rainy season is soon upon us.

I like to wear kimono whenever possible, and summer provides many opportunities for doing so without looking or feeling out of place.  So, while I was out, I picked up a book on modern summer kimono and yukata stylings without hesitation – even a book for beginners.  Having attended formal kimono class, I feel rather comfortable with the basics, but often lack the sense (and/or finance) to assemble a cohesive look.  Besides pointers for establishing harmony between kimono and accessories, there were bits of advice about styling for your body type, unique obi arrangements, and hair styling tips.

If I start now, there should be enough time to practice before all of the summer festivals.  I particularly need to work on hair styling… but a more thorough review certainly wouldn’t hurt.  I’d also like to work more on creating an EGL or loli inspired yukata look.

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Majolica Majorca

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Around 7 years ago, Shiseido came out with a unique style of make-up brand targeting more eccentric girls.  Covered in luscious Victorian-style frills and alluding at many quaintrelle pleasures, most of the products and images used in Majolica Majora campaigns have a distinct loli flavor; the current Ch. 26 – “She was a doll,” no exception.  I’m particularly captivated by the doll sculpt and stop animation, woven into an interactive story-book like presentation.

It’s fun to look at and play around even if you can’t read Japanese: http://www.shiseido.co.jp/mj/index.html

Cheap Alice

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A small cosmetic pouch purchased on clearance at HusHush.  They don’t usually have loli stuff, but came out with an Alice-style series of tote bags last fall.  Other prints included cards, hearts, whatnot in golds and pinks.  The zipper-pull is especially nice.

all hallows’ eve

for halloween every year, aside from the small festivities in their rabbit hutch apartment, batsu and maru usually attend a birthday party.

it is a grand spectacle full of wonder, thrown by a truly talented and entertaining individual (rather, individuals including sankaku’s 2 roommates).  you can tell that preparations were underway months in advance.  the deposit on their house was forfeited in this spirit long ago, as the remnants of bloody hands can be seen in the entrance way year-round.  every room always holds untold horrors – spiders, skeletons, bats, cobwebs, and an ocean of blood.  awesome candy, seasonal drinks, thematic food, horror games, and horror movies, of course.

the last two years we’ve been given costume assignments – which i actually admire at some level.  seeing half-assed costumes the year prior (myself included), i hold no grudges.  this year, we were all to come as bats.  not sure how to start, lilith from the dark stalker (vampire savior) series came as inspiration one sleepy night, and the hat project began.

maru’s hat used a classic fedora base, with wing and rose attachments (removable).  batsu’s hat is hand-sewn from felt, with lace and ribbon trim.  the small bat is also made of felt, with metalic bead eyes.  reversible capes were layered over dark formal wear completing a “neo-victorian” look, as delightfully stated by the host.

the capes, from last year, were part of a good-witch/bad-witch act, during which we continually flipped capes and exchanged hats to become the “dark one” and the “light one.”  they tie in the front via burgundy satin ribbon, hence the burgundy ribbon accents on the hats.

tama @ vanilla

It was a while ago, but batsu got the opportunity to meet tama at Vanilla Gallery in Ginza.

I arrived about 30 minutes until closing on the last day, wandering about the gallery forever deciding which paintings I liked best, and what I wanted to say to tama as she signed my book.  All of her work is so breathtakingly perfect – not a drop of water out of place; even the frames are gorgeous.  The time really flew, so after my purchases there were about 5 minutes left.  One more person was standing in line, and the timing seemed great.

But immediately following, a friend appeared to help her pack up.  I hesitated for a moment before embarrassingly approaching her for an autograph, thanking her for her beautiful art and the time she had spent.  Whilst I cleaned in her stead, she gave me a “simple sign” (ie “just a signature”) – better than nothing, but it seems everyone else got a personal drawing.  Indeed, all my fault – it was a bad luck day.

I picked up her new book Amairo Romance, some postcards, and – my favorite – a small vanity mirror.  There were a few designs to choose from, but as I generally feel a bit broken and distorted looking at my face in public, this one seemed the most appropriate.

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Shooing the Fit

Batsu went to a couple of gothic and lolita fashion exhibits at Parabolica-bis.

The first was billed as “Sawada Tomoko & Baby, the Stars Shine Bright.”

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The upper gallery was covered by photos of Sawada Tomoko, taken by Sawada Tomoko.  For those unfamiliar with her artistic vision, Sawada makes digital collages of herself, altering her make-up, hair, and clothing styles to give the impression of multiple individuals.  Quite a few of the goth and loli types that I met as a maid at @home cafe seemed to fit into a snide, self-important mold, so seeing this sort of drama reenacted just struck a note of irony.  Though I respect both Sawada and Baby, it’s like the Louis Vuitton of lolita fashion.

Having visited the lower gallery many times and growing accustomed to the dark and somewhat somber air of the space, it was quite shocking to open the door only to be bombarded by an explosion of pinks and pastels.  It had been made-over to resemble a Baby shop, complete with wide full-length mirrors and mock dressing areas.  Every wall was lined with clothes racks, upon which every Baby design dress, skirt, shirt, bloomers, and pannier hung snugly together.  A show case displayed all accessories ever made.  Intermittently stood mannequins modeling various fashions, paired with matching shoes.  Every inch of the wall space was taken, draped with fabrics, spotted with hats, or strung with night wear.

My personal favorite areas were the dolls and stuffed animals.  I can’t list them all, but they included Super Dollfie, Blythe, Dal, Koitsuki Hime, and even a Living Dead Doll in Baby, the Stars Shine Bright fashions.  There was also a table laid out for pretend tea (all Baby cups, etc.), stacked with books.  Some of the books were just general fashion history, but others included fashion sketches and ad shoots.

Let me just say that in my experience, it’s best not to touch anything at an exhibit, ever.  There are signs everywhere, even if there are no people.  Being foreign layers on an additional paranoia for me, as I’m often targeted for doing things everyone around me is doing, even things that seem legit.  So, walking into this “shop-like” showroom I was too paranoid to touch anything.  On the way out, after a visit to the gallery shop, other visitors had assembled in the gallery.  I watched as girls hanger-modeled dresses in front of the mirrors and thumbed through the literature on the table.  Only then did I find the confidence to examine some of the pieces more closely, but I felt a bit cheated, really.

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However, that was soon rectified at the next exhibit, “Victorian Lolita: Takemoto Novala and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright.”  Again, I visited at an unusual hour, having the gallery to myself, only this time all of my favorite dresses from the Baby collection were displayed together.  Indeed, a fortunate coincidence.  This also provided ample opportunity to flip through the various scetch books and fabric samples.

Trevor Brown, an idol of mine who mentioned he sometimes takes the time to read my rantings, will be pleased to know that his “My Alphabet” book lie in the middle of all the frilly lolita goods available for purchase in the gallery shop.  On the other hand, the “component tarot” cards produced for the second exhibit were absolute rubbish.  I purchased Miura Etsuko’s “Bride Doll of Frankenstien” and a couple TB Alice series postcards as a gift for a friend.  Seeing the other related goods for sale at seemingly ridiculous prices just fueld the fire to make my own stuff, though the exhibits alone were inspiration enough.