Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kimono blues

My kimono school Principal is taking me to a kimono wholesaler this weekend, and the wholesaler in question is opening only for our visit. I am shaking in my zori.

It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Being in the water trade, the beau knows some of the cooler movers and shakers in society, like traditional pudding makers and owners of kimono wholesale businesses. At the end of last year, a customer of the beau's in the kimono biz invited us to visit him in the new year and have kimono made. He promised to give a discount and not to pussy-foot around prices, something kimono wholesalers are oftentimes notorious for. This is obviously a fantastic opportunity but has yet to eventuate. Nonetheless, I have been looking forward to having a kimono made to my measurements. Whoever started the trend in guidebooks of stating that kimono are one size fits all should be shot. One size doth not fit all. If anything, having a kimono made involves the taking of more measurements than it would take to tailor a dress. Measurements you can't even fathom but that all come together to make a kimono that fits you perfectly and has a small amount of room to order preferences of collar width, etc.

Now that I have been at my school for almost two years, I feel guilty wanting to wear some of the used kimono I have, knowing perfectly well that the sleeve length is too short or the length unforgiving. I know I shouldn't, for if young people don't loosen the rules a little (and the older generation allow for this), the pleasure and custom of wearing kimono will simply die out. My school isn't strict per se, but if the subject of wearing colorful antique kimono of the wrong size comes up, my teachers say it's too bad (they too are too big for some older kimono) rather than bend the rules.

Where does this long preamble bring us? Ah yes, to my last lesson. My teacher had me agree to a date for my certification test and then casually drops that I need to be in formal kimono, because you know, I have at least 10 folded up and waiting in my closet. Upon learning that I don't have one (which frankly isn't much of an imagination stretch), she tells me to wait and discuss it with the Principal. This is where I quite possibly made a fatal mistake. Unthinkingly, I told both women that I planned to have a kimono made at some point this year, but as of yet hadn't begun thinking about it. I will never know whether if I had kept my mouth shut they would have come up with another solution for me, or whether what followed was simply inevitable.

The Principal immediately started talking about making me an appointment at a wholesaler to pick out some silk and have a kimono made for the upcoming test. Really, what could I say to that? In the real world, lots. In Japan, a whole lot of nothing. Before I knew it, I had agreed to meet the Principal this weekend and go to the wholesaler together to pick something out. It happened so fast I don't recall there ever being a point where I was asked if I wanted to make a kimono in less than three weeks, but I'm fairly confident there wasn't. Things didn't slow down until I asked the Principal how much I should expect to pay for a decent but lower end formal kimono. When she told me, things went into slow-mo and her voice suddenly got as low as a man's. Nearly 200,000 yen. I have to write it small so that I might stop thinking about how BIG it is.

That is more than one month's rent. A week-long getaway for two to Thailand. 110 trips to the cinema. 133 glasses of champagne at Orange. 2000 orders of small fries at McDick's. And yes, as someone will surely tell me, a lifetime of enjoyment wearing it. If I got married, I wouldn't even buy a wedding dress for that much! If I were to do a cost-per-wear analysis, I would have to go hungry on the days I wear the kimono, for my food budget for the day will have been eaten (haha) up by the money-killing monster kimono. THE HORROR!

All of this of course flooded into my mind as my school building receded further into the distance behind me. I waffled between stressing over what to say if I don't find something I like at the wholesaler and soft, polite anger at my teachers for not telling me well in advance that I would need a formal kimono, for not offering an alternative solution and finally, for assuming that I have yen sewn into my mattress with which to order a kimono at the drop of a hat. I don't blame them however, for I doubt they lay awake nights wondering whether I, lone whitie of the Kaisha and lacking a Japanese mother, have a formal kimono. I do question their sanity a little, in thinking that I will so easily have a formal kimono made for my test at the end of the month. It seems a few other students have done so in the past, but I have to wonder if they went hungry for the months post-test in order to pay for their new kimono.

Because kimono has become less and less common, the environment surrounding it has become a bit stiff in some regards and not a littly hoity toity. In my conversations, I've learned that there is a nervous aura surrounding a visit to a wholesaler or kimono store, which leads to women feeling pressured to make exorbitant impulse purchases. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the above alleged students felt pressured to buy something and felt they couldn't walk out empty-handed. My school is not commercial by any means, nor have my teachers given instructions on what to buy before, but the fact that the Principal seems to equate my visit to the wholesaler with a kimono ready to wear in three weeks has me worried.

I don't feel I should have to cancel this weekend, as the opportunity to visit a wholesaler is not one that comes along often, but I am a little wary of the fallout if I don't find something I would go hungry for. For that really, has to be the criteria when it comes to making such an expensive decision. Maybe if faced with square one again, my teachers will offer a less frenzied and expensive solution. And if not, I'll have another blog on my hands.


kathrynoh said...

Yikes! That's a whole lot of money.

Sarahf said...

Ouch. Would a well placed "たぶん" solve the problem? Or even I'll have to ask my boyfriend?

Lisa said...

Can you wear it to the upcoming wedding?

Ugh. That is really expensive. My wedding dress only cost $300 US. In fact, my whole wedding only cost about 3.5 kimonos.

Anonymous said...

You ought to set this to music..I can almost here Robert Johnson in the background hehehe
well done a usual

RMilner said...

Your key problem is if you don't have the spare cash.

The price sounds good for a made to measure kimono and if you order fabric you really like it will be something you will treasure for your whole life.

Be sure to check about the cost of the extras -- obi and so on -- I bet they can add a lot to the price.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

kathrynoh: I know, I may have to start a cup ramen review blog, for that is all I will be eating this year!

Sarahf: I definitely should have been more assertive. It would have helped to have witnessed a similar scene with a senpai but I was taken completely by surprise!

Lisa: Yes (I will be able to wear it to a lot of events). And I know! If I ever get married, my dress will probably cost a couple hundred dollars so I am starting to sweat a little.

goingloco: Hello and Happy New Year! That's not a bad idea, especially if it would help pay for the kimono in question!!

RMilner: The voice of reason! You're totally right, I don't have that cash sitting around, but yes, having a kimono made does cost that much when done properly and the wholesaler is going to give me a better deal than a department store. This will be something I can wear for the rest of my life, something that can't be said for most clothes.