September 21, 2014

Thrift Store Shopping tips

It is now the middle of September, that means that thrift stores are beginning to stock their Halloween costumes and decor. I've mentioned in the past that I do not by my kimono stuff online, I almost entirely shop at local secondhand shops, and have had good luck at finding many decent items over the years. While I can find kimono items throughout the year, the beginning of autumn leading up to Halloween is prime shopping season at thrift shops, as they tend to stock ethnic clothing with their Halloween stock.

Now, I know many areas of the United States and in other countries around the world don't have such a diverse population, therefore kimono are harder to find. However on a rare occasion you may be pleasantly surprised at what you can find! Seattle does have a large and diverse population, and because of the coastal location, many people have relocated here from Asia. However, my experience with hunting for kimono in secondhand shops is that they are easier to find outside of the big city in smaller more suburban cities and towns.

Not only can you save a ton of money building your collection from thrift stores, the thrill of finding a rare treasure in an unlikely place is very exciting. I'd like to share some of the tips that I've learned over the years.

Educate Yourself to Avoid Knock-offs
More experienced kimono collectors can spot a fake robe in an instant. This knowledge comes with time, but for beginners it is easy to fall for a knock-off. There are many robes with Asian motifs that are created for tourists, sometimes made of silk, but usually made of polyester, cotton, or (cringe) satin. The features of fake kimono robes vary widely, but they may have such features as: sewn seams on the shoulders, no sewn seam down the length of the center back, an included belt tie made of matching fabric, stereotypical motifs like geisha and dragons, large picture-like design on the center of the back. Fake robes usually far outnumber real kimono. For example, this week I found 2 yukata and 4 fake kimono robes. This doesn't necessarily mean that these fake robes are off limits to kimono collectors, as they can be useful for recycling the fabric in handicrafts and wearing around the house. And if you get really lucky, a good quality fake kimono may even be nice enough to wear casually as a polyester komon or nagajuban. Even I have a fake kimono or three that can be worn casually (albeit without ohashori) without looking like a novice in a bathrobe.

What to Look ForCostumes: This is the first place I'll look during Halloween season. You may find kimono, haori, yukata, jinbei, fake kimono, obi, or nagajuban. Most kimono found are yukata or komon.
Nightgowns and Bathrobes: This is where to look for kimono on the off season (not Halloween), but it doesn't hurt to look here as well after looking in the costumes section. Don't forget to look in the men's sleepwear section as well, as this is where I tend to find women's vintage blue and white yukata.
Fabric/draperies/table runners: This is where I most often find obi. If you are crafty, you can also look for cheap fabrics which might be nice to sew into kimono items!
Shoes: Look for zouri and geta. Geta are easier to find, especially during Halloween and early summer (with other sandals).
Scarves: This is where they would put obiage if they get any, but I have yet to find an obiage or obijime in a thrift store. However, you may find a nice scarf that could be used as a casual obiage. Obijime would likely be stacked with the belts or curtains section (if mistaken for a curtain tie-back).
Purses: I've found kinchaku, bamboo purses, and kimono clutch purses in the purse section. Also, there are some versatile styles of western purses which may work nicely with casual kimono.
Baskets and wooden housewares: On a rare occasion, fans (oogi, sensu, or uchiwa) and bamboo bags may be here.
The jewelry counter: You may find a pretty brooch that you can wear as (or convert) into an obidome.
Others: Some stores have a section of small goods and knickknacks, sometimes packaged in clear bags and hung on the walls. You can look here for small accessories like fans and compact mirrors, or small collectibles. If you like dolls, Japanese dolls, such as hakata, kokeshi, and kyo ningyou (geisha and dancers), can be fairly common finds at thrift stores. Depending on the store, they can be in the collectibles section or toys. Ichimatsu dolls are super rare finds, however if you are crafty you can make your own Ichimatsu inspired doll using a western bisque or porcelain doll (stay tuned for some DIY blog posts on how to do this!)

Examine Your Finds Carefully:
Look over things carefully, not only to determine if it is fake, but there is often damage. There is a reason these things end up in thrift stores. Sometimes it is tears or stains, or the previous owner no longer has use of it. Try it on and see if it fits you, or hold it up to the light to see if you can see how much seam allowance is behind the lining to determine if you can resew it wider or longer. Look at the price and determine if it is fair. I have seen $300 children's zouri, ridiculously priced because the clerk mistakenly thought they were Chinese foot-binding shoes.

Be Persistent and Don't Get Discouraged!
Finding something kimono-related is RARE. I will go for months or even a year and not find anything. Other times, I will find so much stuff that I'm swimming in new purchases. This last week and a half I have visited various stores 7 times (six difference locations) and have bought one brand new modern yukata with tags still attached, one vintage yukata, and have spotted two women's jinbei (one brand new). Fake kimono robes still outnumber real items (I have spotted 4 this week).

There is no wrong way to search around a thrift store. The typical method is the finger through everything on the racks. This ensures you don't miss anything good sandwiched on the racks, but it is also very time consuming. Since I am only going to thrift stores to look for very specific things, I tend to rush through the stores since I know exactly what I'm looking for, and go to only the sections where I tend to find things. Doing this means that I have more time to visit many more stores in a single day. Usually a kimono is easy to spot on a rack since you can usually look at the hems and look for anything really long, but don't rely on just doing that, as you may skip out on haori or kimono which may have the long hems pinned up on the hanger.

Try Antique Stores and Boutiques (with caution):
Antique shops can be good places to find kimono, however they can also be grossly overpriced. Do check out these shops as well, but go in with the mentality to not get too attached to any found treasures that may drain your bank account. I can occasionally find something decently priced, and usually have more formal kimono items, but these shops tend to sell to people looking for something expensive and pretty to hang on their wall or drape on a dining table.

And for the curious, here are this week's finds:
Brand new yukata with tags, $14
Old shibori and stenciled hand-sewn yukata, $5
Two woman's jinbei (not purchased)

June 09, 2014

Kimono Jack at Deco Japan, part 3

Warning! Long post with tons of pictures.

Finally, I will cover the Retro Modern kimono fashion show by Ugawa Yu of Kimono Art愛loveきもの幸の会 (Ai love Kimono Yuki no Kai).

Quick apologies, I was standing in the back, and had drained the battery on my cell phone before the end of the show. Many of the photos had inadequacy focusing, especially those from my backup digital camera, but I hope I was able to capture them well enough to at least show you these gorgeous ensembles! There was a professional photographer on hand, I will likely link to his portfolio at a later date, when he processes his shots.

All of the kimono in the fashion show are from the Taisho and Showa eras. The hairstyles are also styles that were popular during that time.
The fashion show began with three girl's ensembles:

All-over shibori girl's kimono. Notice her obi is also the same shibori!

Teen models:
The first girl is wearing a houmongi with a Nagoya obi.
Her Nagoya obi is tied in a fukura suzume musubi for young ladies. Did you know you can also do fukura suzume with Nagoya obi? If you'd like to try it for semi-formal occasion, instructions can be found here (click on the Japanese text "テキストはこちら" to open PDF instructions)

Next was a furisode. This color of green and peachy orange were a common color combination.

Her obi is tied in a bunko musubi.
Both girls have their hair tied in braided buns on the side of the head, like Princess Leia, adorned with flowers. This was a common hairstyle - if I remember correctly, she said it was called something like "radio" (ラジオ), as it was reminiscent of a girl listening to the radio with headphones on.

Next are school girl and young man's attire:

Both are wearing hakama with meisen kimono and haori. Their hairstyle is in the style that was most common for school girls ever since the Meiji era, and half up half down style called magareito (まがれいと), literally meaning "Margaret".

With their haori removed.

From behind you can see the large hair bows commonly worn with the Magareito hairstyle and hakama.

This lad is dressed as a shosei, a scholar laboror (they did general housework labor in exchange for lodging during their studies) from Meiji/Taisho era. Their general uniform consisted of a school cap (which is still used today), geta, kimono and hakama over a tall necked Western-style shirt.

A woman's everyday kimono. She is dressed as if she would be grocery shopping in the market, except she would have been wearing a kappogi apron.

She was also given a haori to wear, as the MC explained to us that women of that time would always wear a coat of some sort while outside to protect their kimono.

Next is a model dressed as a cafe girl:

She is dressed how a cafe girl would have looked in the 20s and 30s. My pictures can't even capture how gorgeously her hair is styled! Her hair is done is a style of finger waves, a typical style of both American flappers and the Japanese equivalent - the Moga, Modern Girl. The Moga modern girls were a focus of the Japan Deco exhibition that correlated with this fashion show.

View of her rose obi, and with striped haori.

Two meisen kimono, with and without haori:

Next is a focus on nagajuban:

One of the things that kimono expert Ugawa Yu is known for is "New Kimono", reinvented ways of wearing kimono in non-traditional ways, as a revitalization. Here they have dressed a nagajuban like haori, used as outerwear instead of underwear, to showcase the colorful designs that normally are not seen. The collar is simply turned under, and the nagajuban serves a new purpose.

Another nagajuban is brought out and dressed on an audience member in the style of coat. A third nagajuban has been displayed in the background.

Next we were shown two examples of chuya obi, obi which were popular for the versatility of having a different pattern on each side.

Examples of the progression of maru obi, from Taisho, Early Showa, and late Showa. We are shown that not only do the colors become brighter over time, but the weaving techniques become finer and with better details.

A supreme example of black crested haori with houmongi.

The lining is also beautifully dyed.

Furisode and men's hakama. The gentleman wears western style shoes and his coat has fish dyed at the hem. It was likely converted from a vintage tomesode. This is an excellent idea for men who wish for more decorated wafuku!

Two models with Nihongami hairstyles:

By this time my cell phone has died and I had to switch to my poor backup camera. I still managed to photograph the last pair: the bride and groom models:

The show was spectacular! I truly enjoyed seeing the beautiful kimono shown by Kimono Art, and sharing them with all of you~

Kimono Jack at Deco Japan, part 2

Kimono Jack at the Seattle Asian Art Museum began in the afternoon, but people arrived early to the museum in order to view the Deco Japan collection and other exhibits. Earlier in the day, Kimono Art had put on a free kimono fashion show to museum visitors, with a few of the Taisho/Showa ensembles in the later Retro Modern fashion show, as well as some other examples of kimono styles. When I arrived, they were posing for some after-show photographs.

Vintage black bridal kimono
Bride with a furisode model
Gorgeous obi musubi

Myself, Linda and her daughters - I met Linda previously at the last Kimono Jack I attended, where the 4 of us all participated in a kimono fashion show together!

Butoh performer Kaoru Okamura. Her movements were very slow, controlled, and ghostly. You can see her performing her Butoh rendition of Kurokami at a previous performance here.

A pair of antique summer kimono were displayed in the lobby. This ro kimono features flying fish, a common motif in the 1930s because they resemble the importance of airplanes during that time, as well as angelfish, a non-traditional motif that was considered fashionable.

I believe this one was sha, featuring grasses and dragonflies.

Two displayed wedding kimono is the reception room.

Some photos from the Kimono Jack reception, before the fashion show. I will share photos from the fashion show in my next post, part 3.

Many beautiful kimono ladies came to the Kimono Jack!