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My experience with Kimono is a very personal and happy one. My older brother was married in Japan, and as a wedding participant, I chose to go with tradition, and don a kimono along with the bride's family. The experience was amazing. The wedding was at 11am, but we were all at the kimono dressing shop between 5-6am to start the dressing process.
It took 2 women an hour to dress each guest, and took 3 women the better part of 2-3 hours to dress the bride. It was a flurry of precision and layers. There is a very particular and specific process to getting dressed in a kimono, which actually consists of many, many layers of gowns (8), cords (2) and sashes (4).
Layering is often reserved for formal occasions today in Japan, so being dressed for a wedding, there were many layers. There was the hiyoku (similar to a slip), the nagajuban (which is like a fine cotton kimono with no patterns), the koshihimo (hip ribbon/sash), the obi (which is the highly decorative, accent sash which spans across the waist and is fluffed high in the back), the obi-ta (which is a thin plastic board placed over the front torso), and the obijime (which is a thin silk cord, which was warped into a knotted design in the front of the obi). These were the many layers and parts to the actual kimono. Then we also wore kansashi (special hair ornaments, I had a silk flower, though jade hairpins are common too), the tabi (which are the ankle-high “mitten” socks, where the big toe is separate from the rest) and the zori, which were the traditional “flip-flop” styled shoes, made of wood.
The entire experience was fascinating, and not over once I was actually dressed. The ladies pulled everything so tight, and so flat, that I could not physically move my legs more than a foot apart, had a hard time breathing because of the board strapped in with all those sashes and cords, and could hardly sit down due to the tight obi across the torso. Walking on the wooden shoes was much easier than I thought, though standing still was painful…one had to keep in motion on those wooden shoes.
At the wedding, the dressing ladies came with us, to keep an eye on the state of our kimonos. Periodically, and without warning, if our kimonos became wrinkled, or visibly loosened, they would come up from behind and tighten the cords and sashes back to their original state.
After the ceremony, we had a dinner reception, and again the kimono played an interesting role. Every woman who was wearing a kimono simultaneously stopped eating about ¾’s of the way through the wedding meal. We physically could not hold any more food, with how tight the torso sash was. When I took a deep breath, I could hear things moving in my ribcage that normally don’t.
When it was all said and done, what had taken several hours to assemble, took 10 minutes to get out of.