Monday, May 30, 2011

Plus-sized kitsuke tips and tricks

For folks like me, who happen to be plus-sized and still want to enjoy kimono-wearing.

I honestly have no idea if any of these ideas will work for anyone but me, but I figure it’s better to put them out there anyway. Maybe someone will get some use out of them!

For the kimono or yukata:
- Unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot you can do to force a kimono to fit and still wear it properly. A properly-worn kimono will close so that both of the front sides overlap completely, with the edge of one side reaching the side seam on the opposite side. In addition, the back seam should be even with your spine. You may be able to fudge this a bit. For example, if your kimono is just a couple of inches shy of closing properly you may be able to get away with that. You might also decided to pull and tug on things so your front left panel looks like it closes all the way. This will result in an off-center seam in the back and in the right front panel not overlapping as far as it should. Whether or not you are willing to do this is really up to you.
- Keep in mind that if your kimono or yukata only overlaps by a few inches in the front, that is not a proper fit and there probably isn’t much you can do to make it work properly. This really isn't just a matter of being a kimono purist either. A kimono with only a few inches of overlap in the front is at serious risk of flapping open and revealing...things I'm sure most of us would rather not reveal.
- If you trust your sewing skills, you might consider checking to see if your kimono or yukata has enough extra fabric in the seams to be let out a little. I have never tried this myself so I can’t vouch for this method or its results, and can only suggest that you try it at your own risk on a piece you could live without if things don’t go as planned.
- Depending on the resources available to you, you may be able to make your own kimono or yukata or to have one made for you.

For your undergarments:
- Consider using two-piece juban and slips instead of one-piece ones, especially if you often take different sizes on the top and bottom.
- If one susoyoke (the skirt of a two-piece juban or skip) isn’t big enough, consider using two (this may not be the best idea in warm weather if it can be avoided).
- Consider making your own undergarments. Kimono de Cheap has instructions for making your own two-piece juban. If you can buy a juban fabric bolt or an actual juban you don’t mind taking apart, you could use that fabric in addition to the fabric of your choice to make a comfortable juban that fits you the best and still has proper juban fabric in the areas where it might be visible (like at the sleeves)
- If you have a large bust (like me) consider using sports bras and/or wrapped Ace bandages or other similar strips of fabric to help make things more flat and event. I often wind up using a combination of the two to get the look I want. This may be less of an issue for you if you’re wearing a custom-made kimono or yukata.
- Be careful of padding! Depending on your shape, you may not need it or you may need it in unusual places. I usually wind up going without padding. However, someone with an hourglass shape might still need padding around the waist to even things out and give the proper kimono silhouette.

For the obi, obi age, and obi jime:
- Consider using two obi of the same or similar colors and patterns if a single standard-length obi doesn’t work for you. Wrap one around your waist twice, pull it tight, and secure the loose end so it won’t come loose during wearing (this may require some experimentation to find out what works for you). Wrap the second obi around your waist ONCE, then tie the musubi of your choice. This method works well with heko obi and with light hanhaba obi meant to be worn with yukata, but could also work with heavier heko obi as well. It also works best with two obi in similar colors, but you might want to play with things and see if you prefer using different colors. Please note that while I have tried this with heko and hanhaba obi I have NOT tried it with anything else and have no idea if it would work with, say, a Nagoya obi. I do intend to experiment with this at some point and will keep you posted.
- Make your own! You probably don’t even need special fabric, especially if you’re making a casual obi to use with your yukata. A heko obi would be particularly easy, since you would just have to buy a few yards of soft and light-weight fabric you liked and hem the edges a bit so they wouldn’t fray.
- I have found obi age to be fairly forgiving. As long as you can make a decent knot and tuck the ends in so they don’t show, you might be fine with just a standard obi age. If not, consider looking for two in the same color (or in colors that would work together! Many obi age are actually multi-colored) or substituting something like a longer scarf or a home-made obi age.
- I don’t know of any good obi jime substitutes. If you’re wearing one with an obi dome you might not have problems, as long as you can tie it firmly and the ends don’t show. If you’re tying it rather than wearing it with an obi dome and you can’t find one long enough, you might need to get two. As with obi age, you can use two of the same color or two of colors that go well together (some obi jime come in multiple colors).

For your footwear:
- It’s usually easy to see where the hanao (straps) of geta are tied on the bottom of the geta. If you need to adjust your hanao, don’t be afraid to untie them and loosen or tighten them as needed.
- It’s a little more difficult on zori, but many zori have a small panel on the bottom near the toe where it looks like a flap of the sole has been partly cut out and then stapled shut. See if you can remove the staple and open the flap. You should see the end of the hanao there, and you should be able to loosen or tighten it as needed. Close the flap again and re-set the staple (you will probably want a small hammer for this). This is something else you may want to try on something you could live without before doing it on your favorite pair of zori.
- I have not yet found a good way to adjust tabi to better fit larger feet. The good news is that you don’t need tabi with yukata, and you can probably find some stretchy, sock-like tabi to wear with other kimono. They aren’t completely proper, but I imagine it would be more proper to wear the wrong kind of tabi than to wear no tabi at all.

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