Catching the Kimono Train

I was reading about Chanel No. 6’s blue cut velvet kimono the other day, and thought I’d share my 2 cents from my clipping stash (and past obsession with many things Japanese, though mostly pop / modern).

So here’s the lovely kimono she made, with her step-by-step instruction inspired by an authentic kimono she got from a friend.

And here’s how to wear it
if you really must do housework in it…

Keeping Your Sleeves out of the Soup (and Laundry)

I’m glad I found this, for I thought my mind was going. I vaguely recall seeing something like this, but can’t find any evidence in my clipping stash. Must have been some girl’s manga I was into way back when.

I wished I had found it earlier though. I had made this kimono robe a few years ago. But it got little wear because…well, the sleeves was sharing my soup and much more.

It also doesn’t help that it’s a bit immodest in the back – thanks to not enough yardage as it was just another fabric from the stash. And as Channel No. 6 mentioned, you really do need a very soft, drapy fabric. Mine was a bit spongy – soft, but not limp enough. So it feels a bit too boxy for a shorty like me.


Mine is a little bit different from the version Channel No. 6 detailed. It also has the open underarm and inner edge of the sleeve flaps, but without the rectangular insert mentioned in her step 6.

I made mine unlined and reversible as I find the peach side more flattering for my skin tone than the lovely iridescent blue side.

Mine was based on a Threads article on kimono from Jan 1991. Unlike the recent Burda 7/2011-124, it’s all rectangular pieces of fabric…

It seems relatively authentic – if you can trust Japanese Jenny doll kimono pattern and instruction to be faithful to the real thing…

Variations & Styling…

I love the extra long sleeves of girl’s / single women’s formal kimono. So decadent! There are some styles that don’t seem to be as well known in the west. Like the middle picture below, which is a Meiji period school girl uniform.

Kimonos from different periods

Interestingly the Japanese versions don’t seem to be drapy. Yet the way they wear it still makes them look slim and elegant. I guess what looks like a padded middle and the resultant high-waisted effect create a vertical column that’s slimming…Unlike my unpadded attempt which by betraying a narrower middle paradoxically ended up exaggerating the width above and below the obi belt (actually a wide scarf ).

And the long sleeves of course further emphasize the graceful vertical lines. Love to catch a breeze in those!

Also note how the collar hangs away from the back of the neck in the most deliciously seductive way. As they say, less is more – just a tiny peak of a graceful long neck is way more enticing than acres of skin.

But can one pull off a Japanese styling if one’s not Japanese? I think I’d feel foolish. Costumy is not an issue, but I’d wouldn’t know how to move in it with conviction. And that, I think, is a key ingredient of style.

My all time favourite western styling of a kimono has to be this one from John Galliano’s Autumn/Winter 1994 collection…

John Galliano Autumn/Winter 1994

Supposedly he was so broke he had to resort to cheaper lining fabrics for this collection. Yet the result is stunning.

A real shame then about his recent disgraceful behaviour. But I’ve never been one to put talented people on pedestal. So the fall in no way affects my appreciation of his designs.

3 comments on “Catching the Kimono Train

    • Erm, like Like!!! Thanks for that link. Wow, free McQueen pattern. Who would have thought.

      But the real mccoy sounds rather uncomfortable to wear. I wonder if it’s something you can put on yourself or if you’d need a maid or helper to wrap you up…

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