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20 March, 2005

Japanese Costume Creation

I occationally do Traditional Japanese costume creation for the dancer of my local taiko group.

Elemental Concert #1
After much deliberation, we decided upon an Oiran-ish type outfit for the Water element….and for the fire element, we needed a Japanese costume that would react very well to black lights – and allow her to easily work with poi. We had originally decided on doing a Shiyabyoshi outfit – as we felt the white of the top would react fantastic – and the look of the sleeves flowing, as she twirled the poi would look beautiful. Unfortunately though, due to insane time constraints for sewing and budget restrictions…we had to come up with a costume that we could create using items we already owned….so the next idea was to mimic the formal summer costumes of noble women from the Kamakura era.

Oiran Costume:
I had to create both the red kimono and the blue uchikake – along with the obi. I was originally going to either paint or appliqué on the uchikake…but we ran out of time….so we left it plain colour for this time round. This was my first time sewing a kimono of any sort…so it was an extremely daunting, insanely frustrating but highly satisfying experience seeing the end result. As for the hairstyle ….the dancer was going to use my maiko hairstyle book and style it, whilst I concentrated on the sewing…or at least – that is what I thought! It turns out that we both had our wires crossed. She thought I was going to style her natural hair – and I thought she was going to do the wig. Hence – the wig was never styled – and I had to style her hair from scratch that very morning. Now, being as sick as a dead dog on Saturday morning (it was NOT a wonderful time to come down with an extremely nasty cold :[) I tried my best in styling her hair. By the last show on Sunday though – I had it down to pat. Well, as down to pat as I could with a gazillion bobby pins and tins upon tins of hairspray. I was even complimented by a Japanese dancer/tea ceremony instructor on how good it was (I’m sure she was being polite though!).

Back of Costume
On Stage

Kamakura era Costume:
This costume was very easily created from my juban and existing kimono I had in my collection. The fact that the kimono itself glowed fantastic in black light was a pure stroke of luck! Visually – this entire costume had the most impact and “wow” element to it. It was amazing….and also the main photograph they published in the local papers. When I had styled the Oiran hairstyle, I made it easy to remove all the shibori ribbons and take out the mage and turn it into a straight pony tail….so for the Kamakura era costume – she had the front and sides pulled back still – but her hair hung down straight at the back, with white silk tied at the base of the pony tail. For the grand finale…we replaced the white silk with the shibori obi-age to add a bit of oomph and differences to the costume.

What the costume looked like outside of the black light

Close up of Oiran hairstyle
Close up of back of finale hairstyle

Elemental Concert #2
This time, I created an Ancient Japanese costume for my friend - for her to wear at the opening - the water element. I didn't make the wings of the costume - but I made the rest of it, along with styling her hair. I was very lucky that the lady who was asisting the koto player and the dancer with getting dressed in kimono had done Japanese hairstyling when she was younger in Japan. She was very surprised, and impressed with my efforts - and gave me some GREAT tips and showed me a few tricks with styling. I learnt a lot from her :] She offered to invite me along to more traditional Japanese cultral events to help out, as she wants me to watch how things are done, as she feels it is the best way to learn!

I also styled the top part of a katsura for the traditional dancer that was performing that night. The top part had fallen out a while ago and was just a long messy pony tail (although the sides and back were still in good condition). I tried to style it based on shimada mage hairstyle. She was very happy with how well it turned out (although, being my first time styling a katsura - I was very nervous, and didn't do as good a job as I could have - if I had time to practice) and has already asked if I can do another hairstyle for her. I also have another one of her katsura here, which I will be styling in a maiko hairstyle for her. I also was lucky enough to watch her apply traditional make-up, and to assist her with her make-up for her back and nape of neck :]

Anyhow - enough boring talk: Some photographs of the night!

My friend's hairstyle, with Rumi-san showing me how to pin certain parts:

Kyoko-san's katsura - I styled the top part and placed the ribbon and kanzashi in:

Yoshiko-san (koto player), Kyoko-san and My Friend:

My friend practicing backstage, before concert:

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  • Unique Kimono Fabric Kanzashi, Fashion Accessories, Chirimen Zaiku and Craft Supplies inspired by the Traditional Arts and Culture of the Japanese Geisha, Maiko and Kimono.
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