During a recent kitsuke lesson I learned how to dress a bride for iro naoshi (literally "changing colour"), which is when the bride will change her kimono or dress in the middle of the wedding here. Not literally in the middle however, that would be a bit too titillating even for Japan. Generally if they are changing to another kimono they will change into a furisode with the hem left long so that it drags along the floor. This is quite a popular look at the moment and many brides choose only to wear furisode and not the white ensemble with the hat that hides their "horns" from the groom (I'm not being sassy, this is true).
While my teacher was showing me how to dress my mannequin, she remarked that she would love to see me in this bridal outfit and I figured she meant in the future, if I get married. Towards the end of my lesson she mentioned it again and I obliged by saying "I'd really like to try wearing it sometime" in that tone women take here when they want something, which I can only liken to an adult version of a child saying "I have to do or or I'll just die" with a hint of desperation in the voice and too much enthusiasm. You know the one. Before I knew it, her and my other teacher were ordering me to undress down to my kimono delicates while they started unraveling my bridal masterpiece on the mannequin. I guess that means now, I thought.
I was then subjected to their mercy as they dressed me in under 10 minutes (trust me, that is fast) amid squeals from two other female students over how the red kimono was a real match for my lovely whiteness. Nothing makes me want to snort-laugh like people fussing over how freaking white I am, it just seems so wrong. Have you ever seen the cartoon character "Lovely White" or "Gentle White"? I came across her in China on stationery with captions that read "Let us be bosom friends to cherish forever. You cannot dream the wish to make." My friend and I cackled over this stuff and over her white porcelain face that was oddly void of a mouth. That is how I feel when Japanese people comment on my skin, like a little porcelain doll whose mouth has been frozen in a supplicating smile.
It's a great experience to be dressed by professional kimono dressers and feel the difference between dressing yourself and being dressed. Some people complain about kimono being restrictive and tight, but to me it feels supported and elegant, you can't help but have excellent posture. Once I was dressed the school room went into photo studio mode, with my teachers rushing to clear a space in front of the wall and to arrange my sleeves symmetrically ("Hold your hands like this to make them look as small as possible," I was told, which made me think of carnies). I was half-expecting professional studio lights to come swinging down from the ceiling or at least some confetti action. Frankly, I wouldn't have blinked if one of the students had come by to drape a satin sash across my chest bearing the words "Miss Lovely White 2009". I had to grip that fan extra hard to stop myself from practicing my Queen Wave in the mirror amid the gasps and sighs coming from aforementioned female students.
We had a grand old time taking some pictures that I was instructed to send to the beau's family and before I knew it I was stripping down again to end my lesson. The colour palette isn't one I would ever choose for myself (and the length is too short); I'm more about statement black with huge white cranes when it comes to Japanese bridal design, but I finally got a sense of how my mannequin must feel, especially when I desperately clutch at her hips to steady myself when I'm trying to stand up "hands-free."