Kitsuke Aids and Collars.

Generally we think of kimono as having changed little since the Edo period so I always get a little excited when new dressing gadgets come out (or are newly discovered) The basics haven’t changed much, but elastic has made a pretty big impact along with synthetic fibers. I noticed in this kitsuke mai (literally kimono dressing dance) the ladies are using what looks like a korin belt and a datejime had a baby and my eye balls very nearly popped out of my face. Maybe I’m just behind in the times, but this was the first time I’d seen this bit of gear! I wondered if maybe it was specific to a certain school of kitsuke, but was able to find it easily enough on Rakuten. I hope this is the general direction that kimono dressing is headed towards even though I’m not a huge fan of the whole ‘you NEED this thing to dress properly’ trend (you can call me old school; in my opinion you don’t need more than himo to hold your collars together unless you’re working with a kimono that doesn’t fit you). But if you’re the type that wants the extra support or you’re dressing for something formal… you’ve got a plenty of toys to invest in.

image from the rakuten listing

A little back ground info for terms; the datejime is a band about 10 centimeters wide that is often worn under the obi, but over the himo holding your collars shut. These were usually made of a thin hakata (woven) which was well known for gripping and staying in place, but you’ll often find ‘magic’ datejime made of a thick elastic and with velcro at the ends. A lot of these that I’ve ended up with were second hand and old so the elastic was quite brittle not to mention they’re often not long enough to stretch over anyone of a more… substantial build. The cheap modern ones are usually of a thin synthetic fabric with a section of reinforcement at the ‘front’ where it will best support the obi to lay nice and flat (but it does not replace an obi stiffener). If you splurge for a kitsuke kit, you’ll get the datejime, the obi ita (stiffener) and obi makura (pillow) all in the same pattern; these matching kits are pretty chic! I’ve seen some DIY’d sets out of very fun bold fabrics too (the mass produced ones are usually a soft pink color).

A korin belt is a length of adjustable elastic (like a thick bra strap) with two grippy alligator clips. They can be used on the juban collar, the kimono collar, or both (using two or like in this lovely video, 2 at once!) and can help keep your collars stay crossed, a common issue for us busty types trying to wrangle a too narrow kimono into submission. To use one, you clip one end to the right collar edge, run it counter clock wise under the left (outer panel), pulling it out from under the left sleeve to wrap around your back and attach to the edge of the left collar. It does not replace a himo, especially when you have a collar strap to pull the back of your collar down from your neck. Also something to consider is the depth of angle of your collars. A very wide, obtuse angle is appropriate for younger folks, but I think also helps balance someone like myself with a round face. A very narrow collar (by which I mean a very long skinny V)  is more appropriate for much older ladies, along with a narrower strip of haneri (juban collar) showing. When I see someone under 80 with narrowly angled collars, I assume their kimono doesn’t fit quite right, not that they’re intentionally dressing ‘elderly’. Check out this newly turned Geiko compared to the lady walking with her (possibly her Okaasan?) The Geiko’s collar is of course very exaggerated compared to how we would normally wear, but you can really see the difference.

The ‘datejime with clips’ as Microsoft translate calls it on the Rakuten listing combines the collar clipping action of the korin belt and the smoothing/securing action of the datejime, with clips at the right and left sides. I suspect there’s not enough give at the front where the elastic is to allow you to pull the clips far enough to give someone like myself enough cross pull on the collars. The more I think about it, the more this thing addresses a problem that doesn’t really exist… at least not for the people who really struggle with collar placement. Maybe I’m wrong and there’s a lot of ‘give’ in that elastic, but this thing doesn’t measure much different than the non-elastic version I use occasionally which I can barely get a decent knot out of. If you’re small busted and average/smaller built and wearing an ‘average’ size kimono, you’ll get a very nice clean look, but honestly it’s not necessary. Would I use it? Absolutely, I love these sorts of kitsuke tools especially when it’s part of a matching set and I’m giving a dressing demonstration. That stuff just looks cool and professional compared to a hodgepodge of self-made and mismatched items. I hope more of these fancy new dressing aids become available. But as a plus sized enthusiast I have my doubts I’ll be able to make use of this particular item. We do see more LL and larger sized kimono becoming available, hopefully it’s only a matter of time before obi and dressing aids will follow.

Fingers (collars) crossed!!

Columbus Kimono


Interview: European Obi Artist

Japanese kimono and obi are widely regarded as cultural icons of Japan, and the related arts and traditional crafts associated with them are most often found only in Japan. The kimono has declined in the past several decades, and the industry is struggling.

However, there is a push to save the kimono, which includes the globalization of the art and practice of wearing kimono. Around the world, a handful of artists have stepped forward adding their own spin and aesthetic touch to kimono. Three Magpipes Studio is one such artist. They recently launched a beautiful line of handmade obi that stand out. Located in Europe they are bringing a fresh touch to the world of kimono. We recently were able to interview them, and feel that they are worth getting to know.

What drew you to Japanese kimono? How long have you worn kimono? “I was thrown into the kimono world by accident – a friend of mine sent me a package full of vintage kimono from Japan, so I started reading about it and I fell into it completely. It was about a year and half ago, so not that long time ago – but I met so many people on the way that it seems like ages.”

What made you decide to start designing your own obi? “I am an illustrator and fabric designer by profession, I fell in love with classic Japanese dyeing techniques and kimono motives, and I wanted to make something inspired by it. In the end it drifted completely into my own style but still – I gained lots of knowledge along the way and I still have mountains to learn.”

What are some of your favorite classic Japanese themes in terms of symbolism? “My absolute favorite when it comes to wafuku motives is Ebi, I love the ‘old man of the sea’ – it’s something that would be considered funny here, definitely inappropriate for anything formal and yet in Japanese culture, it carries different meaning. I think all the themes I like are like this – something that shows us to look differently at the things we think we know.”

Other than your website, do you sell in person anywhere? “I have only the website/facebook for now. But if someone would be in Kraków (Poland) and would like to see my workshop – I am usually here to sit, drink tea and talk about kimono .”

How long does creating a design for an obi take? Are there any specific considerations that go into designing an obi? “The fastest design I made took me about a week from the idea to sewing – but I am still learning. Once I have the placement of the designs on the fabric drafted, the most important thing is how the colors will act on the fabric I’ve chosen. I am experimenting with different types of fabrics – from chirinmen crepe to thick weaved, heavy fabrics – the amount of details I can put into the design depends mostly on how visible it will be on it. The thicker the fabric weave the simpler the drawing has to be so it doesn’t disappear in the heavy texture.” 

Please visit the artist’s website, and look at their wonderful products.



Kimono in Summer Time; is it right for you? + Anime Convention Matsuricon

Hello, welcome to the never-ending summer of 2018! For our first CBUS post, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about wearing kimono during the hottest time of the year. Something I didn’t quite connect with when I first started wearing kimono publicly was the concept of fabric and structural seasonality. It wasn’t until I really understood the concept of kimono for summer vs. kimono worn the rest of the year that I actually noticed these hitoe (unlined) sheer, airy kimono floating around in the web shops I frequented.  I was that person who wore awase (lined) kimono and obi in 80+ degree heat. I’ll never forget the single time I attended Otakon and someone pulled the fire alarm forcing everyone to stand outside. Sweating. Profusely. Lined kimono + August in Maryland = misery.

A big hump people new to the kimono hobby experience is the financial input required just to have a couple basic outfits. At a bare minimum, I would have to say you need 3 full ensembles if you’re not planning to replace your formal attire with kimono. One aseasonal lined outfit for early spring, late fall and winter, a summer outfit (unlined and of an open weave like ro, probably with no specific motif or a very general summer design), and a yukata. If you really wanted to be spartan, you could use a single hanhaba for all three outfits and pass on a lot of the obi accessories. You could. I can’t stress enough that a yukata should be the thing you start with anyway, please please please don’t jump into this hobby by buying a furisode to wear right off the bat. Please. Should I write a post about why that’s a terrible idea? I should.

Your under kimono, juban and accessories (for the enthusiastic purists, me) all come in summer forms. Open woven and sheer materials, linen and linen blends, space age homeostasis materials, etcetera. I’ve fallen into the pit of ro polyester kimono which have the benefit of being easy to wash after a good hardy sweat. I can’t say they breath but I can attest that a good breeze feels amazing. If you happen to come across a yukata that’s constructed with of an open weave ‘ro’ cotton, I HIGHLY encourage that purchase. The point of all this is if you’re presented with the opportunity to go out in the summer in casual kimono you have to ask yourself; do I have the appropriate kimono? If all you have is synthetic lined kimono, will you survive? If all you have is a lined silk kimono, will you risk staining it with your body’s attempts to keep you alive? If you’re even considering wearing a vintage kimono with natural red dyed lining, STOP! That stuff will run and transfer like crazy, okay, just don’t do it!

Is it worth being miserable? Your kimono will be there for another day. Of course if you do choose to wear kimono, the usual things apply; hydrate well, rest frequently, avoid standing in strong sunlight and don’t forget your handy dandy fan! Can you imagine the worst case scenario? You’ve passed out from heat, someone calls for emergency medical services… those paramedics WILL NOT TAKE THE TIME TO UNWRAP YOU! YOU WILL BE CUT OUT OF YOUR KIMONO AND OBI. Absolute worst case, okay? It could happen.

Here are some basic examples of summer wear (you WILL need proper under garments and juban for light colored kimono like this!) A synthetic ro komon and a double sided hanhaba obi. (If the links are broken, the items are no longer available, sorry!)

This upcoming weekend, August 24th-26th 2018, Columbus Kimono will be at Matsuricon in Columbus Ohio. We will have one panel Friday night on the topic of Geisha in the modern world. I am planning to wear an incredibly boring drab brown summer kimono. But that sucker is some sort of natural magic fiber and is soooo comfy! Actually it’s kinda raw and itchy, but will keep me moderately cool in August in Ohio so please enjoy my ugly kimono (though we did order nice new geta made with bamboo mat so yippee new shoes.) In an effort to stay hydrated I’ll finish up my stamp card at the bubble tea shop.

Keep cool!


Columbus Kimono