Sunday, December 15, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan Relief Event

On Saturday night, we braved a snowstorm to attend a fundraiser for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. In the very powdery snow, cars were skidding like people in rain boots on marble floors, and we began to wonder if we would make it, but patience and persistence paid off.  For this charity event, guests were encouraged to don kimonos, style them in conventional or non-traditional ways and participate in a fashion show to display them to the crowd. Sounds right up our alley, right?

Noriko Miyamoto (above, in the wonderful headband), a dealer in extraordinary antique Japanese textiles, provided racks of vintage kimonos from her own collection. Red, traditionally the exclusive province of young unmarried women, was an extremely popular color among men and women alike in a wide variety of shades. Birds (particularly auspicious cranes) featured prominently in the designs. Luckily for everyone in attendance, the traditional rules were waived. It was great to see the men take advantage of their new-found freedom to dress as they pleased.

This gent is wearing a vintage (pre-war?) young woman's under kimono.  The cranes and pine boughs are done in shibori.

Although we had a great many patterns and colors to choose from, length was an issue. Since they are folded and bound with obis and worn with getas (sandals with raised platforms), a woman's kimono has to be long enough to trail on the ground if it is to fit properly when folded at the waist. Since we were going for a more casual look, we had to pick from the shorter versions. Valerie passed on this gorgeous pink number because it was just too long.

Like Goldilocks searching for the perfect bed, chair and porridge, we eventually found ones we deemed "just right". Valerie's, probably from the 1930s, featured images of colorful inflatable paper balloons - traditional children's toys.

Jean chose a cotton piece with the character kotobuki (long life) printed on it. Noriko said she believed it to be a man's festival kimono.  (Jean thinks it's a safe bet that any guy wearing this kimono would be a very festive chap!)

Here's what we look like from behind. Jean's innovation, in addition to wearing a man's garment, was to keep her hat on. Hats have a very minor role in traditional Japanese costume.

On display were delicate antique kimonos and robes like this one from the Edo period.

Not everyone went for the casual look.  This woman is wearing her kimono exactly as it was meant to be worn.  The whimsical obi featuring a cat chasing yarn was one of our favorites.

Guests who wanted to go the whole nine yards (so to speak) and could make the time commitment could opt to be styled with obi, sandals, make-up and hair. This young lady did so with great results.

She looks great coming and going.

We see and photograph stylist Maki Obara at vintage shows and were thrilled to run into her and her boyfriend at the event. It is obvious why she eschewed kimonos in favor of her mid-century look.

Surprisingly, ALL of the gents got into the spirit of the party. The great thing about the wide selection of kimonos and haoris provided is that it could accommodate men of very different heights. Misha, at least 6'4", was the only one who could make kimonos look too short.

This man wears a man's haori inside out. During the Edo period, sumptuary laws imposed restrictions on conspicuous consumption in clothes, so it became traditional for men indulge in luxury in their linings. There, they would be seen by few, but the wearer would have the satisfaction of having something unique, or having gotten past the enforcers of the laws. This man's haori shows the god Ebisu, one of the Seven Lucky Gods. This one appears to be a print, but many such haori linings are delicately hand painted, and stamped with the painter's seal.

Two more ways to wear kimono. In Japan, the most innovative ways to wear kimono are probably seen in the Harajuku section of Tokyo on weekends, when teenagers wear vintage kimonos as a form of costume play.

The workmanship and color combinations were amazing.

Several of the guests wore their own outfits with great style.

Valerie and Casey Taniguchi -- who confessed the inspiration for his moniker was DJ Casey Kassem.  Casey would be pronounced Keishi in Japanese, and is a plausible Japanese name, so it's was well chosen.

The evening's entertainment included live music.  To the right, in front, is a professional koto player and instructor.  The koto is associated with classical Japan, but this woman accompanied the others as they played a string of Beatles hits, playing in a thoroughly modern manner.

The gent in the John Lennon tee shirt  is the band's pianist and lead singer.  He can belt it out!

Here are the drummer, left, wearing a woman's haori from the 30s, and the guitarist/singer, right, wearing a man's haori with an elaborate jacquard weave inside out. The guitarist, the Reverend Doctor T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, is also a Buddhist priest, and opened the evening's festivities with a prayer. This didn't stop him from having a sense of humor, though. Those are plastic children's sunglasses he's wearing, picked up in Chinatown. The sides don't quite reach to the back of his ears.  And is that a Kangol cap he's wearing with his inside out haori?

Here's what they look like from behind.

The gentleman who played Santa Claus and judged the fashion show arrived in a bright red sport jacket and his Santa cap with blinking lights, so we were hardly surprised when he picked the brightest red kimono. We loved his wife's style and terrific grey hair.

Ladies wore a spectrum of modern and traditional kimono styling. The lady on the left is wearing a dress that appears to have two buttons at the waist, but they're actually two crests.  The vintage fabric has been  interpreted in an of-the-moment way. Her companion looks equally at ease in her kimono.

One of the singers took a very untraditional approach to kimono dressing, choosing to style hers -- and Valerie's -- in a decidedly louche way.  (Valerie's came undone and she couldn't figure out how to re-tie it, unfortunately.)

When we departed, it was still snowing and we were still in the holiday spirit. Valerie took full advantage and threw herself to the ground on West 57th Street to make a snow angel. (Well, threw may be too strong a word.)  Taking her newly re-assembled ankle into consideration, she carefully lowered herself onto the ground. Somehow that creates an entirely different and slightly less exuberant picture.  The spirit remains ever so willing, but the flesh is quite literally weak.  Jean, on the other hand, hadn't worn boots, so her stockings and backless clogs wouldn't have worked very well scraping through the snow and she demurred.  Next time, though...

The not quite angelic final result. Hardly surprising, coming from someone not quite angelic.

We stopped into the Four Seasons for a cocktail before heading home.

Somehow we neglected to photograph our cocktails, but - word of honor - we each had one. For your viewing pleasure, Jean's truffle fries.

Back out on the street, the flakes were still drifting through the air. The sidewalks were starting to get icy and the corners were rivers of slush. We headed east to the subway and our respective abodes. Soon after the snow turned to rain, and by this morning, in most places it was hard to tell that it had ever snowed at all.


  1. Oh, I would have loved to have attended this event - an excellent cause, and the chance to wear one of Noriko's kimonos! You both made excellent choices. I like how some people went very traditional in their styling choice and others experimented (I liked the one side tied at the waist). I may have to try that with the kimono raincoat I purchased at the Vintage show.

    The photo of Valerie making the snow angel is one of my favourite shots of her ever.

  2. I love wearing kimono! I normally wear them in the traditional way but style them to be modern so boots and hats are common accessories.

  3. Oh, how very very lovely. Thank you for sharing all of the kimono beauty. I adore how they're styled so originally, and in any which way the wearer desires!

  4. As a kimono lover, I find this post to be breathtaking and beautifully written. Enthralling, yet playful at the same time.