Chicago Shimpo
Kimono Dressing Live by Kimono Specialist Kasada

• “Kimono Dressing Live” took place at the Japanese Culture Center on Belmont Avenue in Chicago on September 10, and Toshie Kasada, Senior Kimono Specialist from the Hakubi Kyoto Kimono School in Tokyo, demonstrated how to dress with different types of Kimono in various ways. The event was enabled by the efforts of the Japanese Culture Center and the Chicago Wahoo Club to respond to growing popularity of the kimono in the Chicago area.

• Kasada dressed models in different types of kimono dresses one after another with live koto (Japanese harp) music played by Tokiko Kimura.
• The introduced kimono dresses were yukata cotton dresses for women and men, and Kasada showed how to tie an obi belt to make variations. Others were homongi, a formal kimono for celebrating occasions with an otaiko knot, and boys’ haori hakama, formal attire, typically for Shichi-go-san (7-5-3) festival for boys aged three and five, and girls aged three and seven.

• The last piece was a gorgeous furisode kimono with shibori patterns. Kasada showed darari-no-obi by using four-meters-long fukuro obi. Wearing darari-no-obi is common among maiko girls in Kyoto, and their obi belts are usually six-meters-long. Kasada said, “It is a beautiful fukuro obi with a pattern all over, so I challenged to tie it as a darari-no-obi.”

• When Kasada completed dressing, each model walked on a runway, and the visitors gave them a big applause.
• All the kimono dresses and obi belts were prepared by the Tangerine Mountain, a pre-owned kimono seller in Schaumburg. Many sets of kimono dresses and obi belts were exhibited and available for sale.

• A kimono-history presentation was given by Ayako Yoshimura, librarian and kimono researcher in the University of Chicago.

• Senior Kimono Specialist Toshie Kasada at the Hakubi Kyoto Kimono School has been teaching kimono dressing techniques, special rituals and aspects of the Heian Court attire in her position at the Hakubi School as well as in various cultural centers in Japan.
• She has been appointed as an International Exchange Kimono Instructor and demonstrated her skills in many places outside Japan including Beijing University in China, Boston Museum in Massachusetts, the Cultural Exchange Kimono Show in the Czech Republic, and the UNESCO World Peace Conference in Paris, France.
• She has been a visiting artist at Japan House in the University of Illinois, Champaign since 2000 and educated the students and neighbors of the campus about the kimono culture.
• This year Japan House celebrated its 20th anniversary, and Kasada was invited by the University to attend various commemorative events. After the events ended, she could come to Chicago and perform kimono dressing live. The Hakubi School said that promoting international exchange was one of its missions.

Interview with Kasada

Q: It is amazing. Your kimono didn’t become loose at all despite your hard work in the dressing live show. How did you wear your kimono?

Kasada: I learned how to dress in a kimono at the Hakubi School and have been teaching it for 45 years.

Q: I heard that kimono has been becoming popular among visitors from foreign countries to Japan.

Kasada: Yes. I have about 10 classes in a year, and 20 to 40 foreign exchange students attend a class. They want to experience wearing a furisode kimono, so they increasingly apply for a class. When they come, I and several other dressers dress them in a frisode. We have such a system in the School.

I’m very pleased to hear that foreign students learned Japanese culture and brought it back to their home countries.

They said to me, “I don’t want to take off this frisode. I love it so much,” and I was very delighted. So I was encouraged to give them more kimono experiences and do my best for them.

Q: We don’t have kimono dressing schools here in Chicago. Could you give us your advice on how to wear a kimono beautifully?

Kasada: Many people want to wear kimono dresses because they see that a kimono is beautiful and wear it their own way. But I would recommend you to take a look at kimono magazines and pay attention to important points such as a collar part, your waist line of ohashori (dart) and the shape of obi knot.

You can see yourself in a mirror and check those points, then you can go and walk on the street.

I’m pleased to see many kimono lovers came to study here today. I hope that they learned some knacks of dressing and spread the good news of kimono to others.

Q: Our body shape has changed, and our waist position is higher than people in the past. Do you think that we should tie obi belt in a lower position?

Kasada: If you do that, obi slides down, so make your obi a little bit narrower by folding an obi edge inward. But you don’t have to worry about it. Young people are in good shape with long legs.

Usually we make obi a half inch wider when you make the second obi layer to fit to the first one. In this way, you can make a good obi shape.

Q: Today, you dressed models with many types of kimono in a short time. I think that it was very hard work.

Kasada: I was flustered because models were waiting for their turns. Even with years of practice, I always feel like returning to the basics.

Years of practice gives you skills and self-confidence. Now, I can afford to see other people’s kimono figures. If you continue to study kimono dressing, you can spend an easy life, so I’m still studying it and wish to communicate with people through the heart of kimono.

Q: Thank you very much.

Models walk on a runway after specialist Kasada finished kimono dressing.

Specialist Kasada (R) dresses Yukata and Obi.

Kasada (R) dresses Homongi and Otaiko obi.

Kasada (R) dresses Furisode and Darari-no-obi.

Senior Specialist Toshie Kasada (C) with models and the member of the Chicago Wahoo Club at the Japanese Culture Center.