Hot! The “American Geisha” Kimono













The Facts
Fabric: Rayon challis (kimono) and silk shirting (belt) from stash
Pattern: McCall’s 4304 (kimono) and Butterick 5638
Year: Contemporary
Notions: Interfacing
Time to complete: 20 hours
First worn: At a local park
Wear again? Everyday if I could
Total Price: $50


Memoirs of a Geisha (based on Arthur Golden’s novel) won Oscars for Best Costume Design, Cinematography, and Art Direction in 2006. It’s a gorgeous film that tells the survival story of a Japanese woman who lived the life of a geisha before and after World War II.

Sounds nice, eh?

Well, I never saw it. The book has been in my library since it was released and I haven’t read it either.











I’m not sure why the story has eluded me all these years. Especially since I’ve probably seen Die Hard 2 about eighty seven times. I could’ve spared some of that folding-laundry-while-watching-basic-cable time to enjoy an Oscar-winning movie where Chinese actresses play Japanese geishas. But, alas…me and ‘Memoirs’ remain estranged.

Doesn’t mean I can’t be inspired by the film for this week’s Oscars challenge….

Because I HEART me some kimonos.













For Christmas last year, I put a full-length Turkish terry cloth robe from Lands End on my wishlist…and was the happiest camper when Santa put it under my tree. I love that robe. It’s the comfiest, snuggliest, warmest piece of wearable joy I own.  However….I wouldn’t want to be seen getting my mail or taking out the trash in it. I’d rather be one of those hippie-glamorous suburbanites who answers the door wearing a long silk dashiki or a sashed satin robe that innocently hangs of my shoulders. That’s how I always imagined my loungewear…a sexy, silky, mix of romance, comfort, and culture. After all…a girl can’t lounge in terry cloth alone.











I’ve had this black and white rayon print in my stash for a few years. I don’t remember where I bought it and can only guess what I paid for it, but at the time its gorgeousness was so powerful that Stevie Wonder could see going home with anything less than 5 yards would be blasphemy. The fabric needed a long garment to showcase its large print and my out-of-print McCall’s kimono pattern (once lengthened to ankle height) would be the perfect canvas. But I was kind of scared the scale of the print would overwhelm my frame. It was one of those moments where I had to trust my gut (which was telling me this thing would be the shiznit if I’d only I’d stop wigging and make it already).
























I dug through my stash to find a contrast fabric to make a belt. This red and white striped silk made the only suitable pairing – the only choice was the PERFECT choice. I started to draft an obi belt, but punted and ended up using the belt featured in Butterick 5638 (I bought the pattern a few months ago just for the belt).













Some facts about the fitting and construction of the “American Geisha” Kimono:

  1. Since the pattern had plenty of ease and would be made in a drapey fabric, I wasn’t sure if my usual petite and full bust alterations would be necessary. A quick muslin proved only two petite alterations were required: narrower shoulder and reduced length at the chest.
  2. The original pattern has drop shoulders that connect to the square kimono sleeves. To better fit my proportions and avoid looking like I was drowning in the fabric, I narrowed the shoulder seam (using a slash and spread technique) to meet my shoulder point. This widened the waist dart, which I redrafted and sewed after lengthening the pattern over 20 inches.
  3. Maneuvering those long pattern pieces was very new and mildly frustrating to me. The experience took me on a tangent involving sketches for a bigger and better cutting table.
  4. Mr. Carroll became my fitting assistant and did an excellent job marking the hem of the kimono. He was such a nerd about it, too. He had me standing on a stool, while he crouched at my feet with a piece of chalk. He checked and double checked the hem — on me, then on my dress form, then on me again. At one point, he yelled, “How am I supposed to get this even if you won’t stand still!” Yep, he thinks his Tailor Nazi tantrum is gonna keep me from recruiting him. Not a chance. The hem turned out great!













Thanks for looking. As busy as my life has been lately, the awesome support and shared creativity from this community has been carrying me through these challenges. I am eternally inspired by each and every one of the Sew Weekly contributors. Thank you for joining me on this incredible adventure. 44 weeks to go!!!

I love this kimono. I never want to take it off. Can you tell?



Najah Carroll is a project manager by day and seamstress by night. Once it became clear that ready-to-wear was never gonna support her five feet of curves, she taught herself to sew and make pattern alterations. In January, she lost her mind by signing up for this 52-week garment sewing challenge.


Comments are closed.

  1. Yes, I can tell! It’s really pretty and fits so well. I admire your ability to make precise alterations. Kudos to your husband for helping you mark the hem. Does he also take your fabulous pictures?

    • The alterations were kind of intuitive this time…didn’t have to reference a book or anything. Thanks for the compliment, Barbara. I let my husband sleep in and me and the self-timer photographed this time. He’s a bit whiny about it, so I’ve only recruited him for the Likeable Librarian Blouse and the Beach is Closed for Winter Bathing Suit.

  2. It is indeed “the shiznit” : ) Good thing you made it, it is pretty awesome!

  3. Amazing Najh, I was waiting for your post all week and I wasn’t disappointed. I would never take it off either, it looks stunning on your. Talk about a classic look, the neighbors will be envious from the daily stoll you take to the mailbox and the box sleevs are just adorable. Keep it going girl…44 weeks to go! I’m so inspired every week by our fellow swings, never anticipating having so much fun. I love your project…can wait for the ReFashion.

    • Waiting all week? For me? Man, this is the kind of love and peer pressure that gets me out of bed in the morning and gives me strength to unpick the same seam three times. Thank you for being so unabashedly generous in your appreciation. Sew Weekly 4-ever! (Well maybe just shy of that.)

  4. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I wouldn’t ever want to take it off either.

    • Worn it everyday since those photos. I sip Earl Grey and check my email in it in the mornings and cook dinner and watch “The Walking Dead” in the evenings. Life is sweeter with kimono.

  5. Die Hard 2? Seriously? That’s the WORST ONE! Shameful. But I do love that kimono! You look fantastic in it!

    • Yes, Erin….it is shameful. Luckily I was exagerrating a bit. Half of those 87 watches were the original Die Hard. And, in my house, we have an unwritten rule about Bruce Willis films: if one of his movies is on…and our TV lands on the station playing it, no matter what time of day, no matter what we’re doing…the movie is getting watched.

      That rule is moot now that we cancelled the cable and only watch on-demand entertainment. An Apple TV (with iTunes and Netflix) plus a library of DVDs has let me lead a life free of commercial advertising for over a year! Aw…no more involuntary Die Hard marathons.

  6. Beautiful! I love your kimono! Great job!

  7. 1. I like your Bruce Willis rule. ‘Tis a good rule.
    2. I TOTALLY get the whiny husband thing! My beau–who admittedly is attempting to write a dissertation–is always all “click click… and we’re done.” And I’m like, “Um… no. We need to take about 20 pictures so I can get ONE good one and (as I flip through the five he’s taken) you can’t take it like this, this, or this cause I look fat.” To which he always sighs, rolls his eyes, and takes like five more before punking out on me.
    3. READ Memoirs of a Geisha. The movie–while visually stunning–is kinda meh in comparison. They don’t quite get some of the characters right and a handful of the sets don’t feel like the real Kyoto (the feel very much like a movie set).
    4. LOOOOOOOVE the kimono! I want one to swan about in and scandalize my landlord (who has caught me, on occasion, getting the mail in my ratty PJs). This is lovely.

    • I’m not the only who lives by the must-watch-Willis code. About your man (who’s familiar description had me ROTFL)…he’ll never appreciate what it takes to make this magic. About the book…I’ve already dusted it off and put on the bedside pile. Thank you kindly for the recommendation and affection.

  8. Love it!! Hmm… I think I need to add one to my collection too for lounging about the house. Great idea :-)

  9. That’s lovely! You’ve got me all inspired to make pretty lounge wear now, too. :-) (And like Tina C says above – read that book! It’s awesome!!)

    • Grown up girls deserve to lounge in style. Those house wives in the daytime soap operas have the right idea. Though I never understood why their chiffon was always accompanied by backless kitten doesn’t lounge in heels, no matter how tiny ;-).

  10. Gorgeous!! That print is divine!
    I tried reading MoaG but didn’t even make it halfway through. I completely lost interest. I also haven’t seen the movie. Do you know if it’s on Netflix Instant? We too are cable free – for 4 months, yay! I’ll have to add it to our queue if I remember.
    Anyway, fab job as usual and congrats on getting your hubs to help!

    • Congratulations on escaping cable! I love how it’s like a badge of honor now….like being in AA. Thanks for the love..divine is the right word for that print…I’m kind of worshipping it right now.

  11. It’s fantastic! I really enjoyed that book – do hope you try and read it.

  12. It’s such a peaceful looking garment. I think you couldn’t possible be harried or flustered when wearing it. I love (LOVE) rayon challis and the print is wonderful.

    • Yes, I noticed you and I share a crush on rayon. I don’t do polyester, so rayon (considered a semi-synthetic) is my faux silk. Affordable, machine washable, and breathable. I just wish there was as many awesome rayon prints as there are poly ones out there. And, you’re right…time slows down whilst wearing the kimono. Totally balances my chi ;-).

  13. Najah this is my favourite garment you’ve made so far the shiznitnit nit, you look brilliant the most perfect union of fabric and pattern and the obi belt adds the finished touch. Perfect. Kudos to Mr Carroll and his newly appointed position. It’s funny how much we will be counting on our better halves this year. Great photos this week, LOVE THEM!

    • Thanks for the love, Kazz. It’s my favorite, too. Its hanging next to a few of its predecessors now and I think they are jealous.

  14. Aaahh! I love your posts. Never thought I’d say this, but sign me up for the kimonothon.

    • Ha! A kimonothon would be awesome…the name alone is worth the effort (though the auto spelling correction on my iPad keeps changing it to “kimono thorn”). Sadly, unless Mena chooses it as a theme this year, none of us will have the time.

  15. My goodness, this is just stunning! Do read the book, it’s fantastic. I think the movie is beautiful, but there’s always something about a book and your imagination that takes a story to new heights! :)

  16. I love this fabric. It’s a stunning look!

  17. My bestie has tried to push that book on my for ages, and I still haven’t gotten round to reading it!

    Can I be your neighbor, spying on you while you get the mail, trim the roses, breathe? This is ridic. I want one. My husband must take tailor’s assistant lessons from yours… ever so helpful, ever so serious!