AnimeNEXT 2014 – Kimono for Guys

I headed to the Doubletree and checked out the Kimono for guys panel which was already very much underway. In truth, it was purely a kimono panel with interesting tidbits about wearing a kimono and the different types. The panelist made her own kimonos and was able to demonstrate proper wear by putting it on another attendee.

When I entered, they were talking about the undergarments of the kimono as well as proper washing. The panelist stated that usually kimonos are traditionally taken apart by the seams, washed and sewn together again. However, that was difficult. For this reason, everyone wore an under-kimono layer that gets washed rather than the outer garment.

The aesthetics and beauty of kimonos were discussed. For women, there is more cloth at the back of the neck, an outward curve at the collar. Another attendee mentioned that since most women wore their hair up, the nape of the neck was all that others could see, making this aspect part of their appeal.

An interesting tidbit about the wideness of kimonos was that during the Tokugawa period, they made the width of the kimono shorter, making the kimono more narrow, forcing people to sit on their knees. This law was an act of conservativeness since it prevented people from sitting with their legs open and so they wouldn’t have to pass morality laws.

The different parts of the kimono were described. The hakama was worn over a kimono to protect your legs while you were riding a horse. The material is sturdier. At the end of the Sengoku era, the samurai weren’t fighting as much so the utilitarian aspect of the hakama became more formal. Once it became more formal, it became dressier and less practical.

There are many ways to tie a hakama as the panelist demonstrated. The use of the slits at the sides of the hakama were called into question. An attendee deduced that the slits could be a practical part of the clothing since the leg armor are tied around the legs and the crotch area, requiring the wearer to reach through the clothing to tie it on. The principle applies when reaching through the slits to adjust the kimono layers underneath the hakama. And also, if the hakama were sewn all the way to the waist band, it would be difficult to put them on.

With someone from the audience as a model, the panelist put on the various parts of the kimono onto him, starting with the under kimono. The kimono is pulled on with the right layer first and then left since it is the easiest way to dress for a right handed person (though left handed people are expected to wear it the same way.) This is different when dressing a corpse since the right goes on top of the left layer.

The order of the layers are important in western clothing as well. The panelist explained that the difference in ‘which layer is on top’ for men and women came about in the Victorian era when women started wearing tailored clothing that is similar to men. The difference in the layers is because of the need to distinguish between the clothes for men and women. The way the clothing is fastened is different because clothing for women shows how it would look if a lady had a maid to dress her…even if the lady really didn’t have anyone to assist her. The opposite holds true: even if men had a valet, they wanted to look as if they dressed themselves.

The obi is tied in the front and then turned to the back. Obi that are tied in the front shows that you’re of a profession that requires you to dress and undress very frequently. (Yuko of xxxHolid was referenced for her love of dressing with the bow in the front.) The audience laughed at that prospect. XD The panelist held up a haori which is a kimono coat. Usually worn for the outside and goes over the kimono with some form of tie in the front.

Kimonos are made from a variety of different fabrics like rayon, silk and cotton amongst others. As in the past, the types of the cloth were based on the occasion, the use and of course affordability. Not all kimonos have complete linings. Most have partial linings and the lining are usually for parts that get the most wear like the shoulders and the butt area. For more formal occasion, besides the fabric that is used, there would be more padding or layers or lining to note the more formal kimono.

An audience member asked about the proper silhouette of the wear of kimonos. For women, it is best to be as straight as possible while men had more leeway in their shape. It is fashionable for men to have a bit of a belly, a bit more loose in the waist area. The straight silhouette is also necessary on a practical standpoint since the obi is made from stiff material and would buckle if the wearer was not a cylindrical shape.

Kimono are also made based on height as the kimono can be wrapped around a person regardless of size. The length can be easily adjusted by folding it underneath the obi. The pattern of the kimono differs with gender, age and occasion. Younger children and girls are allowed to wear brighter colors as demonstrated by photos seen of the Shichi-Go-San ceremony. Girls can wear their hair in a more adult style at age 3, little boys can start wearing hakama at age 5 and at age 7, girls start wearing a woman’s kimono.

The other panelist wore a furisode or ‘flutter sleeves’ which is the most formal kimono a young woman can wear up until her wedding. For men, the colors are in darker shades. This was established in the Tokugawa into the Meji period (not including Bakumatsu) when Japan was heavily influenced by fashion from the west. There are pinstripe patterns, green, dark brown, blue with lots of stripes. The panelist pointed out that though she is wearing a kimono in a male style, the orange and yellow top that she chose would not be considered very masculine. Usually, she would wear it under a regular kimono. And she noted that she is not wearing it properly either, off the shoulder-Gintama stlye-like a badass. When asked what made it ‘badass’, she explained that she was wearing it very informally…like sagging pants or showing underwear in the western culture.

Speaking of underwear, fundoshi was brought up as a type of underwear for men. Women traditionally wore a short slip that is just another layer underneath the under kimono layer. If they needed to maintain their flat shape, women would wrap their chest. The stiff obi also provides a type of support since it goes from the stomach to the chest area. There is however a kimono bra which some women use.

Since the panelist makes her own kimonos, custom kimonos and height was discussed. Kimonos are usually not made for people over 6 foot so specially made custom kimonos are needed.