Thursday, July 26, 2012

Common Thoughts/Myths/Misconceptions About Kimono

For the sake of discussion (and possible future ramblings on here), what are some common thoughts/myths/misconceptions/ideas about kimono that you have run into? They can be things you used to think before you learned more about kimono, things you run into when you try to talk to people about kimono, things you read on the internet, etc. Here are some I came up with off the top of my head:

  • Satin bathrobes or other kimono-shaped garments are authentic kimono
  • Kimono are always expensive. You can buy a kimono or buy a car, but probably not both.
  • It is difficult or impossible to buy a kimono if you aren't in Japan
  • Kimono are only for women. Japanese men's clothing must have another name
  • Only geisha wear kimono, so anyone in a kimono must be a geisha
  • White geisha-style makeup is the only kind of makeup worn with kimono
  • Nobody (except geisha) wears kimono anymore
  • You can wear a kimono however you want, there are no rules for wearing it
  • Kimono are Chinese/Korean/insert any Asian culture but Japanese here
  • Those "geisha" costumes sold at Halloween are an accurate representation of the authentic kimono look
  • Chopsticks stuck in a bun are an awesome, authentic, and total Japanese way to wear your hair, especially if you're wearing a kimono

Anything else important?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Aya's Opinions on Common Kimono Questions: I Have This Kimono I Want to Sell...

So, I've been gone for a while -- long enough that Blogger has made a ton of changes and I'm not sure how I feel about them. Eh, I think the old system was easier to navigate. But I'll figure this one out. Anyway, I was gone for a while for a whole host of reasons, but now I'm hoping to start posting again. Maybe not 1-2 times a week like I did before, when I was most active with this blog (I will run out of pictures and topics to talk about eventually, after all), but hopefully more than once every six months.

I need to go digging through my pictures and figure out what I haven't posted and talked about yet, but in the meantime, here's a written post to keep you occupied. As always, feel free to comment if you have questions or input.

Aya's Opinions on Common Kimono Questions: I Have This Kimono I Want to Sell...

As a kimono buyer, I have some fairly strong opinions on how sellers who wish to develop and maintain a good reputation should present their items for sale. However, there are plenty of people out there who only have one or two kimono (or items they think are kimono) and want to sell those items. Sometimes folks like that will wind up short-changing themselves by posting a lovely, high-quality piece with inaccurate labels, poor pictures, and terribly high or low starting prices, and as a result they won’t earn anywhere near what their kimono is truly worth. Other people will go in the opposite direction, overstating the value of a low-quality, casual, or badly-damaged piece, and trying to charge way too much for it. Here is my advice for people wanting to sell kimono.

1) EDUCATE YOURSELF. Take the time to research what kind of kimono you have -- assuming it really is a kimono, which is something the research process will help you figure out if you’re not sure. If you can’t figure out what you have on your own, don’t be afraid to find someone who might know and ask them. I’m happy to offer my thoughts on pictures or links to pictures you post in the comments here. Just be aware that I'm not a professional appraiser or anything like that.

2) Label accurately. Yes, labeling your item as a “geisha maiko wedding princess kimono furisode hikizuri antique” might bring in more views, but unless your item is actually a “geisha maiko wedding princess kimono furisode hikizuri antique,” you’re not doing yourself or potential buyers any favors by lying. If your item is just a komon, there is no shame in labeling it as a komon. A komon might be just what many buyers are looking for.

3) Take good pictures. I and other kimono buyers I know would like to see at least a back view with the kimono open (so the pattern can be seen), a close-up or two of the pattern, and pictures of any damages. It’s also a good idea to provide a picture of the inside of the kimono, because stains and discolorations on the lining might show up when the item is worn.

4) Be honest about damages. Mention anything like stains, discolorations, snags, holes, seams coming loose, areas where it seems like paint has worn off, and the like. Take photos of the damages and post them along with your other photos. You might want to consider copying sellers like Ichiroya who include a diagram showing where the damages are, and then show actual photos of damages with some kind of item to show the scale, like a ruler or a brightly-colored square of paper or fabric in a certain size. When choosing an item to show scale, try to use things that people across cultures can understand. A ruler with both inches and centimeters or a square of brightly-colored paper that you provide the measurements for (in both inches and centimeters or millimeters) are good choices because pretty much everyone can figure out how big 1cm/0.5inch square is. But not everybody knows how big the coins in your local currency are or how big that button from your button collection is.

5) Provide measurements. At the very least you should give the kimono length (shoulder to hem) and the length of the hem (total kimono width). You might also consider giving measurements like shoulder width and “wingspan,” the length from one hand hole to the other.

6) Put some effort into displaying your kimono. Ideally you would hang it on a kimono stand or kimono hanger, but that’s not possible for everyone. Which is fine. It just means you might have to do a little more work to find a good spot for your pictures. You’ll want to find a place where you can spread the kimono out a bit so people can see the pattern well (like in point #3), a place where the lighting is good, and most of all a place where the background is CLEAN (or at least not noticeably dirty!).

7) Use your own photos of items already in your possession. There has been some drama in the past about items being sold on eBay where the seller used pictures from elsewhere (e.g. pictures from someone else's sale of the item) as their pictures. To my knowledge that kind of thing is against the eBay terms of service, but you also need to be aware that experienced kimono shoppers can often recognize items that are being resold -- especially if you’re trying to sell something special, like a maiko or geisha item. Using your own pictures will go a long way towards putting everyone at ease about the authenticity and honesty of your sale.

8) Educate yourself some more. I recently bought a lovely shiromuku (white uchikake) that is in perfect condition (something that's almost impossible to find with shiromuku) for $15. Let that sink in for a second. Imperfect polyester shiromuku usually go for $50-150, depending on things like the extent of the damage and the reputation of the seller. A silk one, especially a silk one in good condition, can go for more. The seller claimed that mine was silk, and based on the feel of the fabric I'm inclined to believe her. How on earth did I get a kimono like that for so little? It's hard to find komon and yukata for that kind of price! My honest opinion is that the seller didn't do her research to see what kimono like hers usually sell for. She tried to sell it with the "buy it now" option twice, in both cases charging several hundred dollars more than kimono like hers usually sell for. I'm sure that drove more than a few potential buyers away. Obviously part of my winning $15 bid was sheer dumb luck -- the bidding started low, only a couple of other people bid, none of them bid very high amounts, etc. -- but I think that if this seller had started the bidding or "buy it now" sale of her kimono at a more reasonable price, she would have made more money off of it (just not from me -- I'm going back to school again this fall so I'm on a kimono-buying hiatus at the moment).

The moral of the story is that if you take the time to figure out what kind of kimono you have and then take the time to figure out how much kimono that are similar to your (in terms of type, condition, etc.) sell for, you can ask for a much more reasonable price to begin with. In my opinion, that increases the chance that you will successfully sell your kimono and make a reasonable amount of money off of it. Yes, you could be the lucky one who sells a yukata for $500. There are so many people out there who believe that they can only get a authentic kimono by spending thousands of dollars that it wouldn't surprise me if some sellers have luck selling their items for much more than they are really worth. But wouldn't it be better to ask a reasonable price to begin with?

To my readers, whether you only buy kimono, only sell kimono, or do a bit of each: What tips would you give an inexperienced kimono seller so they could make the best sale possible?