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The Folding of the Kimono

I've accumulated so many photos of girls in kimono, women in yukata, Geisha, and Oiran. It's what speaks to me when I think of Japan. One of the top things, at least.

I love the vast variety in colors and patterns of kimono. I like to rifle through racks of kimono at Hard Offs, Flea Markets and Shrine Sales. I don't have many sewing skills, but I do appreciate fabric patterns. It's just a different kind of palette and canvas, if you think about it. Paintings by the loom.

This piece came about as I've taken photos of so many women in kimono. The story of the kimono. The occasions on which it is worn. The types young girls wear compared to older women. The difference in Edo period Oiran costume kimono, and modern Geisha kimono. Maiko kimono. Stage performance kimono and daily yukata.

The woman I used to encompass all these photos was a geisha at a once yearly performance held in Haijima, Tokyo. She wasn't performing at the time. Well, actually, come to think of it, yes she was. Her face was painted, she was representing her Okiya, and she had just finished dancing and was collecting donations. She was standing with another geisha who was listening to a spectator: no doubt speaking their praises and gratitude over the event. I gather from her expression that she (perhaps) wasn't fully engaged and listening. There is a vagueness in her captured expression. Playing the part, and passing through the moment. Perhaps focused on the entertainment that was yet to come.

The layering of women in kimono over her is a suggestion to the intricate layering and building up of fabrics one goes through to put on a kimono. I've had it done three times now. Touristy places, not authentic kimono dressing. But there were still many layers of clothing to put on. I felt, and looked like, an ornate marshmallow. I do have a waist, but where it went, I do not know with all the belts and obi wrapped around me. Nothing willowy about me!

The kimonos I see in museums have so many threads on intricate, time-taken embroidery in them. Expensive threads, costly fabrics. A legacy in fabrics. Some modern kimonos are cheaper; machine thread cotton blends and polyester. But still very bright and pretty.

When I see all the kimonos hanging in Hard Offs, and at Shrine Sales, new in the shops, I wonder the story behind the kimono. Who wore it and for what occasion? How many times had the woman tied the obi? When I think of Japan, I think of the Edo period: beautiful kimonos worn in all the Ukiyo-e woodblock prints I love to look at. I see such a history in the process of putting on a kimono, especially the formal ones; the ones Geisha wore.

This montage is a reflection of the threads that are crossed and layered when making a kimono. It's a process similar to the layering of cloth when putting on a kimono. All the different patterns and colors emulating the different times of year, and occasions prevalent to when women wear kimono. A culmination of my interactions and photography recording responses to events and performances where kimono are worn.

Here's a video link to the progression of this piece. You can see that I hummed and hahhed over the final look. I'm still a little undecided as to which I like better. I think it is the white face of the geisha, rather than the kimono covered face. Do you have a preference? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Warm, colorful blessings,


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