Japanese Kimono refashion

Hey, ho, it’s Monday again. Still, I can’t feel despondent whilst my heap of new fabrics sits brightly in the corner, reminding me of the fun of Saturday’s Sew Brum get-together. For those of you abroad, Brum means Birmingham, and for me, it now means Guthrie and Ghani, the fabric shop of brainwashing loveliness. I say brainwashing because I really, really didn’t need any new fabric at this time, and really, really, really do need to try and keep it together on the bank balance front, and yet, richer in fabric and poorer in, well, the usual way, I can’t summon up even a smidgen of regret. Not a pinhead’s worth. It must’ve been something in the tea.

Anyhoo, I promised you last week a post about my refashioned kimono wedding outfit, a garment that cost me nothing more than a reel of thread and made me feel like the million dollars I practically spent in Guthrie and Ghani.

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J spent a year living in Japan and this kimono was a gift from his host family to his mother when she went out to visit. Actually it had previously belonged to the daughter of the family, but apparently her newly divorced status was incompatible with this kimono’s style. (I’d be fascinated to learn more about the different kimono features and how they reflect social statuses…) It’s wasn’t a piece one could simply throw on as a dressing gown, and so it’s spent years admired, but wrapped and unworn. How exciting it was, and satisfying, to give something so beautiful the new lease of life and fresh purpose it deserved!

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The kimono consisted of 4 main pieces of cloth (2 for the body and 2 for the sleeves), plus 2 long rectangular collar pieces, and a silk lining throughout. All the other shaping was created with folds; once I’d unpicked the folds the full fabric length was around eight feet.

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The entire thing was meticulously handstitched; the invisibility of some of the stitching was simply astounding. It also came wrapped in this rather wonderful hand-painted paper.

I’d known from the moment I saw it that it should only make a full-length dress; I couldn’t envisage myself wasting those fabulous long panels. I also knew I wanted a style that would honour the original garment; I enjoy the challenge of refashioning in a way that’s more than just reusing fabric. Consequently I settled on the idea of a wrap dress, with grown-on, or ‘kimono’, sleeves. I’m going to be a bit dull and descriptive now, so feel free to skip ahead to the pretty pictures πŸ˜‰

I started by completely dismantling the kimono; detaching the sleeves, the collars and the lining. I then cut the kimono in two around the waist area, giving me a rectangle for the wrap skirt. The longer of the collar pieces became the waist tie, but because I wanted the painted flowers to appear on the front, I cut the piece into two and rearranged them before reattaching. The original ‘bodice’ area was retained; I wanted to keep the shoulders seamless and to keep the painted flower on the left breast. I actually used my By Hand London Anna dress bodice as a starting point; the back is pretty much straight up Anna, whilst the front uses the double tucks but has a newly drafted wrap. The shoulders are also obviously altered in order to avoid any seam; I simply laid the pattern pieces down matching them at the neckline and drew in a new sleeve.

The skirt was far too wide and voluminous at the waistline so I added shaping via new side seams and back darts. The skirt and the bodice are attached to each other directly, with the waistband stitched on top. The left-hand skirt portion however extends further over than the bodice; I wanted the bodice pieces to be low-cut and only just cross over each other, but the skirt obviously had to wrap further for modesty’s sake. The left-hand portion is finished with a rouleau loop that attaches to a button on the inside of the right-hand portion.

I then hand-stitched the waistband/tie across the right front only; it otherwise hangs freely allowing it to wrap across the left and tie at the centre back. The ends were hand-finished.

I machine hemmed the sleeves but then opted for hand-stitching the neckline and bottom hem. I tried to mimic the immaculate running stitch I’d found in the original; I can’t say I completely succeeded on the immaculate front but I’m pleased nevertheless. The stitching is neat and, I hope, echoes the sense of craftsmanship that lay behind the original garment.

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The original hand-stitched centre-back seam

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My hand-stitched neckline hem
Whilst it required a bit of head-scratching, it wasn’t a difficult make overall and I’m so pleased with the result. Moreover, the brilliant bright green is not a shade I would ever have chosen for myself, but I was surprised by how much I liked it. The only downside is it’s definitely NOT an outfit to wear on a windy day; I spent much of the wedding with one hand clutching a glass of bubbly and the other my skirt…

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The wedding was held in an extraordinarily beautiful hilltop castle, and I felt like a Bond girl wandering the grounds in my extravagant gown. Like a really short, windswept Bond girl.

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I’ve got to dash now because I’ve only just started my Refashioners entry and, gulp(!), the deadline is Friday! So, ciao for now! x

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14 thoughts on “Japanese Kimono refashion

  1. Wow. So I saw this dress up on your Instagram and saved reading the blog entry until I could read it properly in between looking after my girls – enjoyed all the detail of how you transformed this very special outfit. I looooove everything about it, the colour is perfect on you, the slit shows off your figure brilliantly!! I’d love a pattern for this dress (as I’m not clever enough to just ‘wing it’ like you have!). It would be great in an Indian fabric (maybe a semi sheer fabric, with a lined bodice) and you could wear it with really fitted Indian style trousers which would make great Indian wedding outfit. I’m very inspired!!

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    1. Oh, Anj – thanks for this comment, I felt warm inside reading it! You’re so right about how fabulous this style would be in an Indian fabric with fitted trousers underneath; I think the strong shade of green with gold accents is on the Indian colour spectrum and I’ve always LOVED the amazing outfits people wear to Indian weddings! I’m actually planning to release some patterns for sale in the future so maybe I’ll make this one of them! I would be hugely excited to see what you would do with it… x

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      1. You’re planning to release some patterns for sale??!! Yay!! I read your comment and got VERY excited. I’d love a pattern like this, there’s nothing so unique out there! I’m going to keep working on my sewing skills so that I’m 100% ready when you do decide to release a pattern – I’ve already got the perfect fabric in my stash!! You’re right, the green and gold combination would be perfect for an Indian outfit, but I think I’m going to go for blue!!

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  2. Wow, your dress looks amazing. No wonder you felt like a million dollars it looks fantastic on you. Definitely a fabric that deserved to be worn rather than being carefully wrapped up & stored…even if it was wrapped in that wonderful painted paper ( I think that should be framed & displayed too!)

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