Archives for category: kimono

In my closet hangs a lightweight gossamer cotton kimono, properly termed a yukata. My auntie Gwan sewed it for me 30 years ago, when I was in high school. This lovely garment is a testament to the Japanese colonial period from 1895-1945, when my father’s family–all Chinese, of course–were Japanese citizens, wore kimono, spoke Japanese, ate Japanese cuisine, went to Japanese schools, and even went by Japanese nicknames. My uncles still go by Taka, Susumu, Toshi, my father’s nickname is Naho.

China ceded Taiwan to Japan in the 1890s after losing a naval war. And the legacy lives on.

For the past week I’ve been in Kyoto, with complex emotions roiling through me regarding Japanese history and its impacts on China, Taiwan, and my own family. But as I walked the streets, especially in twilight, the magic of Kyoto was everywhere. Here is a cup of cold sake and sashimi that I enjoyed in a tiny restaurant near the Imperial Palace.

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Freshest sashimi I’ve ever had. Sweet and delicate.

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Nothing beats an overflowing cup of cold sake on a steamy August evening.

 

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Sexy 1920s Kimono modelled by Louise Brooks

When I was little I wanted to look just like silent screen star Louise Brooks, the “Kansas Cleopatra.” Isn’t she just the ‘bees knees’ in this kimono? I wonder if Mama had this glamor shot in mind when designing her own handmade version.

Photo from a neat blog on antique fashion, check it out: http://www.merchantarchive.com/blog/post/hello-kimono/

As I peruse our mystery diarist’s entries it’s clear that she and her Mama were sewing up a storm.  Sewing is a fine activity for the cold dark days in January up here in the north.  Here are some entries:

“Mon. Jan. 16.

Ray came up in the morning in a car & Mama & I rode back to our apartment then we went downtown.  Got some outing flannel, two little dresses, & a coat for baby. In p.m. we were busy fixing patterns & Mama cutt out a skirt & kimona. I worked on putting the little emb. dress together. We got a little stuff for our hats & in evening I fixed my hat. Opal came after school & stayed all nite.

Terrible windy & snowing cold.

Letters from Home.

Tue. Jan. 17.

Turned hemms & made didies in a.m.”  (Didies?  Our heroine sews her own diapers!)

“P.m. Mama took them downstairs & stitched them & I sewed.

Howard called a few moments. Ruth called up about 4:30.

Got a pkg. of white goods. Opal stayed all night.

Wed. Jan. 18.                                                                        1922

Wrote letters to Corlett and did odd little sewing & Mama made or started an odd little kimona & underskirt. We went down town in p.m. & it was colder than the Dickens, coldest night this winter.

Mrs. McDonnell spent the evening with us & Mrs. Day was up awhile.

Cold.”

Kimona: not a garment I would associate with the American West in the 1920s, much less in a Montana winter.  But this will teach me to respect the power and reach of fashion…  Kimonos, or at least an American version of them, were all the rage in 1922 from coast to coast.  Mama is clearly a devotee of the latest styles!  Image

Maybe she used a pattern like this one…