Tuesday, October 4, 2011

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

This is part 4B of my series on dressing as a geisha or maiko for Halloween (or any other costume-y occasion) and will wrap up the bit of the series dealing with substitutes for authentic items. You may also be interested in reading parts 1, 2, 3A, 3B, and 4A.

  • Juban SUBSTITUTES: It’s kind of hard to substitute something for a juban. They’re rather essential parts of the ensemble, after all. If you can sew you might be able to make your own from scratch or you might be able to alter a premade juban to work properly. The most important thing is that the sleeves and the skirt from at least the knees down are the proper colors.
  • Footwear SUBSTITUTES: Again, this is something for which there really isn’t a good substitute. That said, zori and tabi are kind of like han eri in that they are a regular part of kitsuke for anyone who practices it, so decent zori and tabi are easy to find. You can even get okobo on eBay. Fortunately you can “downgrade” into a cheaper category for footwear, i.e. maiko can wear zori instead of okobo and geisha can wear geta instead of zori. However, for the most authentic look, you really can’t get away with substituting something like flip-flops for zori. Tabi are also hard to substitute, though you may be able to use the less-formal stretch tabi instead of the super-formal and therefore somewhat more expensive variety. Google searches for both split-toe socks and tabi socks turned up results for both traditional Japanese tabi and Western socks with a tabi-style split toe. If you go the sock route, just make sure you only get the kind with a split between the big toe and the rest of the toe, not the kind that have separate little spaces for each toe.
  • Kanzashi SUBSTITUTES: If you’re going for the geisha look, you might not even need a substitute, since nice and inexpensive combs are easy to obtain. If you do decide to try using a substitute, look for a larger comb that isn’t drowning in rhinestones. The maiko look is going to be much harder to find substitutes for, especially if you want an authentic look and especially if you want to remain seasonal. Part of this is because kanzashi for regular people aren’t always meant to be seasonal, and part of this is because maiko kanzashi are HUGE and even the largest meant for regular people aren’t anywhere near as big. That said, you could in fact substitute kanzashi appropriate for a furisode if you needed to (see, for example, many of the kanzashi on Maya Kanzashi). A large brooch might work well as a substitute for a kanoko dome. Just make sure you get a really really big one. You will also need a silver ougi kanzashi, which might be hard to find or make a substitute for, as well as some red shibori fabric or a reasonable substitute for use in the hair style. There will be slight variations on this if you should choose a style like ofuku or sakkou instead, but since wareshinobu is probably the easiest to fake I’ll leave it at that for now. Please note that maiko sometimes wear tortoise shell kanzashi for special events like their misedashi or Hassaku. Making substitutes for this look would be tough. If you are particularly crafty and use to working with things like resin you might be able to make your own. Wedding kanzashi sets might also provide a good (if expensive) substitute.
  • Wig SUBSTITUTES: If you can’t or don’t want to buy one, your only other real option is to make your own. You can find instructions on how to do wareshinobu or takashimada around the internet. Consider checking someplace like Immortal Geisha for some directions. In some ways looking for a wig substitute for a maiko might wind up making you more authentic, since you can get a friend to help style your natural hair just like a real maiko instead of using a wig. You should be aware that wigs like this one or this one that basically look like a giant bun or some kind of Gibson Girl-esque style will not work for a proper maiko or geisha look.
  • Makeup SUBSTITUTES: Your goal is to find something that will be opaque and matte without cracking or flaking. I have heard good things about Ben Nye and Mehron stage makeup for this purpose. You may be able to substitute regular Western cosmetics for some things, like colorfast lipsticks and certain blushes (for the pink), and things like black eyeliner and mascara are regular parts of geisha and maiko makeup anyway. If you want an even more complete list of things that make good substitutes, this thread on Immortal Geisha explains it all much better than I ever could.
  • Accessory SUBSTITUTES: Again, this category is hard to substitute. Either you have a paper umbrella/parasol or you don’t. You have a white and red uchiwa or you don’t. The easiest substitution you can make is using a decorative fan in place of maiogi (dancing fan). You should be aware that buying a decorative fan instead of a maiogi isn’t really a great way to save money, though -- both types of fans average around $50 and it is possible to find cheaper or more expensive versions of both. If you’re going to spend the money it seems to me like you would be better off just getting the maiogi. That said, you might be able to find plain white “blank” fans (of either the decorative or maiogi variety) to decorate on your own, or if you want to try your hand at fan making you might be able to make a decent maiogi or uchiwa yourself. Note that a regular folding fan (sensu) of the kind used to fan yourself in hot weather really doesn’t work as a substitute in this case. Also note that, like I mentioned in part 3B, these items are nice to have but are not required for your costume.