Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What looks simple is not always that easy

 My director asked me to find a Kimono that was in the realm of historically accurate for our current show.  The problem with good looking Kimono's are that they are not cheap.  A proper kimono goes for thousands of dollars.  On the other hand there are the the kimono style robes you can pick up in the local intimate clothing store. We didn't want something that would cost more than the whole production it's self, nor did we want something that would be so cheezy it would stick out terribly.  We like cheezy but not for this costume.

With seemingly no other alternative, I had to make one.  Thankfully I already had a pattern for a geisha kimono, obi, and dicky.  Initially I thought I would cut corner, but changed my mind.   If we were going to do it, it should be made to last and be an investment.

I used Simplicity 4080.  For my actress I did a size 16, but given my experience I should have done an 18 or even 20.  This is a very nice pattern to make but it is not something that is cheap to make nor is it something I would recommend to a beginning sewer.  I do couture all the time, and even I was  reading the directions line by line instead of step by step. 

The directions were well written , I will give them that, but what they require you to do is nothing short of  fabric origami! 

The base of the Kimono is made so that you don't sew up the center back seam until 2 steps from the end. That is in order for you to be able to turn the kimono and the sleeves properly.  The sleeves are fairly traditional looking and have the bag like quality that is common.  Making the kimono it's self was 7-8 hours of work.  I did the Main fabric out of a Dragon Red Satin.  The Director wanted the red for a special Asian meaning.  The lining was a sunshine yellow satin.  It turned out rather pretty but this kinomo is heavy!  You use 5 yards of fabric for the main, and another 5 yards for the lining.  Even using regular medium weight fabric that will weigh a couple pounds. On top of that because it is a synthetic fabric it doesn't breath as well.  If I was to make it again, I would look to do it out of silks, or nice printed cottons.  

The obi portion of the outfit is what gave me fits. It is suppose to appear to be the complicated knots of the traditional Obi, and it isn't too far from it.  It calls for a decorative cord to be used on it, which looks fine, but how it works out doesn't seem right to me. Also there is a weird 'obi' sash that the pattern called for.  The fabric list says to buy  2.5 yards of fabric for the obi sash. The obi sash is simply a length of fabric 10 inches wide by 72 inches long that you sew into a tube, press and run through the obi knot and tie around your waist. That's it! 

To me it was a waste of fabric, but something the obi did need. Instead of buying special fabric for it I simply used left over lining fabric from the Kimono. I had a 10" by 72" + section left over, so I simply used it, and it worked fine.  It saved me $15. 

The next point of contention was the decorative cording for the obi. It calls for it to be cut in half and a slip knot done, but with the way it works on the obi, the ends don't line up properly. If I make it again, I would wait until the obi is complete and THEN add the braid in a manner that it blends better. Also the pattern calls for you to use fabric glue to attach it to obi. It didn't work well for me. I ended up hand tacking the braid in place to have it lay better. 

One thing I didn't think about was the obi was essentially the corset for this outfit.  It calls for heavy weight interfacing, and then boning is added.  What was odd about that was that  you to put boning in the obi and attach it only at the seamlines. To me it didn't look right. It flopped over and simply didn't lay right, and got twisted easily.  If I made it again I would use rigaline boning so you can sew through it, and stitch the boning along the placement lines of the piece that is interfaced. It will be against the body so you won't see the stitching but it will keep the obi flat. 
The obi is very wide, sits under your breasts, and goes to your hips. I am long waisted and even I had a bit of trouble getting it to lap over correctly. I am hoping that the actress doesn't have a short waist, and it fits properly, other wise I'm going to have to find a way to narrow it. 

The last thing on the obi that caused me a problem was the measurements for how far around it would be.  There is not a lot of room for the hooks to attach properly to.  I may need to do some creative adjusting if the fitting doesn't go well.  If I was to make it again I would make it 1-2 sizes bigger just to be on the safe side to make sure   I am doing a fitting with the girl a week before the show. There is not alot of play for adjustment when it goes around you. Personally I would pick a larger size obi and just have that extra 2-3 inches of play so you can adjust it properly.

I didn't do any alternations to the main kimono. I did make some changes to the obi. The pattern called for an obi pillow.  Normally this isn't a big deal, but that was before I realize just what I was suppose to do with it.  Inside the obi loop you are to insert a near match to give it more fullness. I accidentally made mine out of white cotton and it could easily be seen for what it really was.  I decided to go with out it.  In the mean time I discovered that I had sewn the knot too snug for any possible obi pillow that would be inserted.

 I also did not include the batting/stuffing on the dicky. There is a band that goes around your middle under where the obi will sit. This will make that space even bigger. This would give you more of the allusion, however my show is going to be taking place during the height of summer , and I don't want my actress passing out due to heat. She will already be wearing the heavy kimono, plus the obi, and to add the quilted portion of the dicky might be too much. I did do the sash but I just didn't put in the stuffing.If I was to make it again, I think I would do the padding provided the Obi could be adjusted properly.  

I did put a minor 'joke/ trivia' thing into the kimono.  Normally the dicky would be all the same color to say that the girl is a full geisha but  I made the collar red to show she is not a full geisha. It is a minor hint to the audience that this girl is ' sweet and innocent'.  Granted that turns out to be the complete opposite to what she really is but I think it is a nice nod to the history.

I will be doing the final fitting tonight with the actress and director.  He is hopping it works out well.  I will try to get photographs of the outfit.