"From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru" courtesy of the Textile Museum of Canada

“From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru” courtesy of the Textile Museum of Canada

The adventure with Helen and Sorlie continues.

My friend Elizabeth was going to visit their studio for tea and I was invited to join them as Helen was going to demonstrate how to wear a kimono. I had never seen anyone go through the long and complicated process of dressing in a kimono. We aren’t talking about whipping on a bathrobe, folks!

First, I learned the difference between yukata and kimono.

Yukata was originally worn as we would wear a bath robe. Now it is fashionable to wear them out in public but only during the summer months! They are made from thin cotton and adjusted to end at the ankle bone.

Kimono are worn year round and can cost more than a luxury car, which can be problematic since you can’t wear the same one year round. There are traditional colours, patterns and motifs for every season. If you wear your cherry blossom kimono in December… well, you just wouldn’t! This would be a good time to have a talk with your bank manager about a loan.

Helen demonstrated how to put a plastic stay through the collar before donning her undergarment. By pulling down an elastic at the back of the collar she can decide how much of the nape of her neck she wants to show.

Geisha, neck

A young maiko, as distinguished by the red collar. She will wear a pink collar when she becomes a geiko.

I was fascinated to see the number of cheats: clips, ties, padding. The goal is to create a flat shape: no bust, no hips, no waist. The kimono is always closed left over right. Right over left is only to dress the dead. I looked down at my kimono styled sweater – it was right over left… big oops!

A lot of care was taken to make sure every seam, every edge was straight and perfect.

Then comes the obi! Helen demonstrated both a formal obi to wear with kimono and a casual one for yukata. She tied the obi in a formal bow shape then jazzed it up with a contrasting colour and fabric: a green gauzy bow draped over top. Fabulous!

obi, yukata

Once Helen finished tying her obi she shifted it to the back.

obi, yukata

She adjusts the front. A younger wearer will wear the green band towards the top, an older wearer towards the bottom and those who are sitting on the fence will leave it in the middle.

The art of dressing was followed by a traditional tea ceremony. We talked for ages about being makers of things, appreciating the craft and skill and appreciating one another. I’m tempted to make a return visit to the studio to make own tea bowl.  A bowl that fits my hand just so…

That thought makes me happy!

Helen Serving Tea