Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So You Want to Be a Geisha for Halloween (part 4A)

Previous installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3A, and Part 3B.

Today, we will start discussing where to find or how to make substitutes for the various parts of a geisha or maiko costume. Since this too turned into a monster post, I will be dividing it into two parts like I did with Part 3 on buying authentic items. Today's part 4A will include substitutions for Hikizuri, Obi, Obi Age, Obi Jime, Obi Dome, and Han Eri.

4) Make or Buy Reasonable Substitutes
  • Hikizuri SUBSTITUTES: If you can’t find an authentic hikizuri or susohiki that suits your taste and budget, consider using a substitute. This is something most of the maiko henshin (maiko dress-up) studios do. Though it definitely will not produce a 100% authentic look, you may be able to substitute a non-hikizuri for your costume. For maiko, look for longer furisode with an all-over pattern or a pattern that is concentrated along the hem. Antique furisode are actually great for this sort of thing, but may not be long enough for a hikizuri look, especially on a modern body (not to mention that they might be fragile and/or in bad shape). If you are confident in your sewing abilities you can do what the henshin studios often do, and add some fabric to the body of the furisode to make it longer. You would do this by taking the piece apart at the torso seam (the one that runs parallel to the shoulders and is usually hidden by the obi), adding extra fabric, and sewing the kimono back together. The extra fabric thus winds up being at your waist, in the area that would normally be hidden by an obi. You might also consider adding shoulder and sleeve tucks. However, if you aren’t confident in your sewing abilities, I suggest skipping these alterations rather than running the risk of ruining a perfectly good kimono. It is often easy to find hikizuri/hikifurisode meant for weddings. While these will definitely be long enough and may also feature padded hems or false layers at the skirt, which are great for a fall or winter look, they tend to be way too gaudy for maiko kimono. For a geisha look, any kimono more formal than a komon will do, especially a tsukesage, houmongi, or tomesode. Kurotomesode (tomesode with a black base) are particularly striking.
  • Obi SUBSTITUTES: For maiko, your best bet is probably a maru obi, and your next best bet is a fukuro obi. Maru obi tend to be longer though, and that will help you imitate the darari obi look. For a geisha look, any obi that can tied in the otaiko musubi will work. A fukuro obi is probably going to look more authentic, but if you need to save money consider going for a nice Nagoya obi, since they tend to be a little cheaper than fukuro obi. You might also be able to get a pre-tied obi that would work for a geisha costume. If you can get the appropriate materials and you feel your skills are up to it, you could also attempt making the obi.
  • Obi age SUBSTITUTES: For a geisha, any obi age will do. Seriously. You might want to avoid full-shibori ones meant for furisode, and you might want to aim for colors like red or white (or white with red accents, which also seems to be popular), but there is no real need to be super-picky here. You could even substitute a nice scarf for an obi age as long as it was an appropriate material, didn’t have anything like bead or sequin embellishments, and you could tuck the ends in so anything like fringe wouldn’t be noticed. For a maiko, consider buying a completely red version and tying it for a more senior look. Technically a senior maiko’s tied obi age can still have the silver design, but you could probably get away without it. This would also be a super-easy item to make for yourself. If you want the junior maiko look, where the silver pattern is very obvious, you may have to purchase a plain red obi age or scarf or a length of plain red material and paint or stamp the design on yourself.
  • Obi jime SUBSTITUTES: This is a tough one, since it’s not like regular everyday people ever use anything like a maiko’s obi jime. You could (at least in theory) get a few regular flat obi jime in different colors and attach them together somehow. A particularly crafty person might even be able to make their own. For a geisha, like I said, any nice obi jime will do. You might be able to get a plain wedding obi jime to use if you want to try the thick-and-round obi jime look.
  • Obi dome SUBSTITUTES: Unfortunately, it’s tough to find a ready-made substitute, as most other obi dome and brooches aren’t big enough. However, you can probably make one, either from scratch or by combining existing pieces (e.g. several smaller brooches). While a real maiko obi dome typically includes some combination of precious and/or semi-precious stones on a metal base, your substitute could be carved or painted wood or some other material that you are comfortable working with. Many of the larger obi dome used by maiko henshin studios are wood or imitation wood and lack any gemstone decorations.
  • Han eri SUBSTITUTES: Since white han eri are so easy to find, you might not even need to find a substitute for one -- and if you like to wear kimono anyway, a nice white han eri could be a worthwhile investment. Maiko han eri are tougher to substitute since they usually involve a lot of embroidery. Depending on how picky you are about the authenticity of your collar, you might be willing to consider getting a red collar with colorful embroidery instead of a pure red and white one. This actually isn’t 100% inauthentic, since many misedashi han eri have colors other than red and white (though those colors may tend to be more muted than you might find on a regular non-maiko han eri). If you have the time and talent you could buy some red or white fabric and embroider it yourself. The idea of using white appliques or lace over the fabric popped into my head while writing this, but I have never tried either idea. If you do, let me know how it goes. Or if you want, you could mimic a look I have seen on some maiko in the sakkou stage: a pure red collar with gold threads worked through it.

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