The “American Geisha” Kimono
Fabric: Rayon challis (kimono) and silk shirting (belt) from stash
Pattern: McCall’s 4304 (kimono) and Butterick 5638 (belt)
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?