Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kimono Season

Tea lessons are done for the year, and we’re on our annual New Year’s break, visiting family and preparing for our first tea of the New Year (Hatsugama), which we hold in late January.

One of the things I’ve been trying to do during this time is get caught up on altering my kimonos. I’ve talked before about wearing kimonos for tea ceremony, how the tea ceremony was designed to be done in kimono, and even today we practice certain moves and hand positions specifically to accommodate the wearing of kimonos. At the Urasenke head school in Japan (either Midorikai, which is for foreigners, or Gakuen, which is for Japanese), even beginning students are required to wear kimonos every day. Outside of Japan, customs vary by tea group; in our group, students are not required to wear a kimono to class (although some choose to), and those who have kimonos will usually wear them to gatherings like Hatsugama. I always wear a kimono when I teach, and of course to gatherings and demonstrations, so I need kimonos for a variety of different occasions.

This is one of those occasions where theory and practice collide. In theory, every kimono I own should be custom-made for me so that it fits properly. In practice, to get a kimono custom-made for you costs anywhere from several hundred dollars (if you have a friend in the business who gives you a huge discount) to several thousand dollars (middle range; of course, a high-quality kimono can cost a lot more). On the other hand, you can buy a used kimono with little or no visible signs of wear for under a hundred dollars.

Now I am – shall we say, a tad cubby? Pleasantly plump? Or, as my sensei never hesitates to remind me, in need of some serious dieting? Let’s just say that my body type is far different from most Japanese women. So while I’m short enough that I have little trouble finding a kimono long enough for me, anything I buy needs to be widened before I can wear it properly. This is actually not difficult at all; in fact, kimonos are designed to be easy to widen, and when they’re made there’s usually plenty of extra fabric in the side seams. However, it’s pretty time-consuming, especially with lined kimonos, because they’ve got an extra layer of fabric on the inside that also needs to be resewn. It’s a good winter activity, with it being so cold and dark outside, and it’s always nice to be able to add another kimono to my “wearable” pile. (I probably have about 40 kimonos at this point, but a lot of them still need to be altered.)

Hope you’re enjoying your winter projects too!