Kimono Dress

kimono

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When I lived in Japan, I used to go to recycle stores a lot. Recycle stores are awesome places where people sell their goods- which are generally in really good condition and are sometimes brand new- so that  they can find new homes. My recycle store purchases included (but were in no way limited to) a toaster, a PS2, a giant tv, a Polaroid 6000 camera, and an ancient but beautiful kimono that I got for the equivalent of about R100 (about $10).

I had all these plans for my kimono. I would wear them to fancy occasions. I would wear them to fancy-dress parties. I would hang it on a wall. Sadly, reality laughed in my face, like the bitch she is. I wore it exactly once in 7 years, and have never found a wall suitable or large enough to mount it. So, I decided to commit the ultimate sacrilege: I would rip it apart and use the fabric to make a dress, so I could at least enjoy wearing it a few times a year.

I learned a few things: kimonos are made from special kimono fabric that comes in very narrow panels to make up the design. I also learned that old kimonos might not ever have been washed or dry-cleaned and might actually be rather musty and gross when you rip them apart, with years of dust and grossness flying out the seams and all over my body. I found myself judging a highly theoretical elderly Japanese lady for the dust and grossness.

Interestingly: the kimono was largely hand-stitched (but there as some machine-stitching in the seams that would be invisible to the human eye.  Also, whoever had made it had used batting on some of the seams for fullness. So ladies of the cosplay world: if you’re attempting to recreate a kimono- try the batting seam on your hems and around the neck.

I decided on using the Anna pattern again for a few reasons: chiefly because I would be able to make best use of the tiny panels and flowy fabric, and because it was a fairly foolproof  and pretty style that would suit the design. I think the hardest part of the entire endeavour was figuring out how I would get the bloody design to go together on the skirt. In the end, I pinned the skirt pattern pieces together to create one skirt piece, then spent bloody ages piecing together  and pattern-matching the fabric panels so I had enough to fit the skirt piece. This means that at the back I have some seams running at odd angles, but it’s not that noticeable, so I’m not bovvered. The other alternative was to do a gathered dirndl skirt, but some of the design panel pieces were only about 35 cm long, so  I either would have had a very short skirt or a very narrow one with a large chuck of the design missing. This way at least the edges of the design would be able to fit on the corner of the semi-circle that made up the giant skirt pattern piece (does that make any sense?).

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So, once that palaver was accomplished, the rest of the dress was easy. The bodice had to be sewn from separate panel pieces (they were not wide enough to cut on the fold) so there’s a seam down the front, but it’s barely noticeable and doesn’t affect the hang or shape. To be honest, I’m really happy with this. And  I debited it in public for a year-end function and it got rave reviews from the older-lady-volunteer crowd. So, I consider this a success.

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PS: Photos for this and last post by the talented Gentleman deBetty.

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