Today, as I was longing for a real tea instead of the prepackaged one you find in store, I suddenly remembered my parents had a Chinese porcelain tea set, certainly brought back by my uncle when he first moved to China. Despite my Chinese auntie's demonstration, nobody knew how to operate it apart from me, so it had been re-purposed as a pretty decoration for our guest room.

I don't really know what kind of tea set it's supposed to be. Even thought the brewing method is reminiscent of Gong fu cha, it is porcelain and using a Gaiwan instead of Yixing clay teapot. It also doesn't have a high collar cup as for Gung Fu style tasting. It does use the same wooden utensils though. Since this comes from Canton, it may be a local version. Seeing that the porcelain is full of defect and the thing is overall a retail-type product, I'd say it's an "at home" version of traditional tea set, easier to use and more versatile that the clay pot. I like clay pots better, but they're really permeable to tea and you pretty much have to own one for each kind of tea if you don't want it to bother your tasting session.

The thing is composed of a gaiwan, the center piece which is a pot with a lid and a saucer. It also have a small tea pot, a strainer and eight little cups. The bottom part is composed of a pierced lid and a large bowl since the brewing method often create an overflow. I used it to prepare a green wulong that I think was a late summer one, because it was pretty heavy and really "sugary", nothing like tart flavor of a spring tea.

As always you're supposed to heat up every part of the set, then make a first infusion to clean the tea before you can drink it.
Watch me mishandle that poor tea set.

As for Gong fu cha, I was able to do several infusion with it on a 2h30 time span. The only problem of that kind of infusion is how the set heat : my finger tips were tender and red after an hour using it. Could've been avoided easily but I'm still not comfortable using the wooden pieces, I find them too slippery. I can manage fine without theme as long as I'm alone, but serving a crowd without them would be incredibly wrong and painful. I guess I should practice a bit to be more graceful, but it's not my absolute priority here.

I missed having a real tea. It was a real treat.


Kitsuke evolution : A year of kimono

It's been a pretty short time I've started diving into kitsuke. If you follow my blog, you might have seen me proudly exposing my first purchase a year and a half ago or so, and saw me going through my kitsuke journey.
I love dressing in kimono. It might be a bit overwhelming as a beginner, but it's a real challenge to learn a whole other culture of dressing up, so foreign in it's codes and aesthetics. The most difficult part for us French is to deal with the busyness of kimono. I mean, even if I wear lolita I like one coloured simpler outfits with little to no patterns. Kimono does not work that way. It's a bit more intricate.

I always say that dressing up in kimono is not more difficult than tying shoe laces. You just have to learn. It's trial and error. We all make mistakes, and I admit that I made my fair share. Let's look at that.

February 2014

First big occasion to wear formal kimono.

By that time I've been researching kimono for a few months and made sure this outfit was correct.

First thing we can point out is the fit. This kimono is way too small. I knew it. I wore it still. It looked like crap. Let's not mention the fact that actually losing 10kg of pure fat helped a bit with the fit, because even without that the pink kimono really is too small. It's a 1930's outfit made for japanese of that time. It's shorter with less width. Notice how I managed to barely squeeze out a tiny waist fold (ohashori) while the kimono is already way too short (should arrive at the bottom of your ankles). The patterns also don't align well on the skirt part because of that.

Second thing : see the wonky chest area ? Lack of proper padding. When wearing a formal kimono, you may want to pad your curves to smooth the silhouette out. Usually a sports bra and a few tea towel do the trick.

Third and last thing : the overall frumpiness. Kimono is beautiful because of it's straight lines. As said above, you may want to pad to achieve the wanted tubular shape, but you may also want to pay close attention to the way you fold and tie your kimono and secure everything up to be sure that it look neat and proper. In my defense, the picture was taken after a day of running around at the cultural fair, but I should have taken the time to readjust everything nonetheless.

At the end of the day, this kimono outfit is technically nowhere near wrong. The color coordination is ok albeit very safe, the kimono itself is suited for someone my age and the obi matches in a nice vintage feeling but the overall feel unkept and not well put together.

October 2014, birthday outfit

While this outfit looks better, it's actually less suitable. I decided to break the rules because I wanted to wear my new hakama out.

Hakama are usually worn with furisode (long sleeves). This is not a furisode. End of the story. Also, the red obi does not fit formality wise. Oh also, hakama are pretty much a beginning of the year thing, especially the embroidered ones.

But see already how much neater this outfit looks. The kimono is tied properly and so is the hakama, the collar is symmetrical and flat. Much less creases on the bust area.

April 2015

An other hakama outfit. This one is top notch formality and I didn't want to f*ck it up. I guess there can be some criticism regarding the color coordination but I'm pretty happy with it for my limited wardrobe.

Formality wise, everything is ok. The hakama is worn with an appropriate furisode and gold threaded hanhaba obi underneath. The green colour is perfect for the beginning of spring, and so are the flowers of the outfit. The pink embroidered sakura matches the sakura brooche. The shorter hakama is worn with fitting leather boots. Touches of contrasting colours such as orange and pink figure the first blossoms of the year and make the outfit more vivid.

Fit wise, padding and proper collar straightener make the ensemble effortlessly neat. The collar is crisp, with a slight volume on the chest area. The kimono fits, so does the under-kimono.

The overall look is too quirky for a real formal occasion, but for a fashion show and kimono presentation it was comfortable, impressive and different.

(Am I the only thinking I don't even look like the same person ? These were taken a year apart !)

See ? Trial and error !

Styling a yukata as a real kimono ? Yeah but it's pretty.

So here is what I've gathered from my wonky journey in kimono :
Don't :
*Burn through stages. Dressing up is something you have to learn, take your time.
*Neglect part of the outfit because you don't know about it or find it not interesting. It shows.
*Forget to buy or make good basics. A collar straightener, a obi pad, some tea towels for back padding, an appropriate under kimono, all these things are what's gonna make your outfit neat. Don't pass them.
*Buy kimono without looking the measurements. A kimono length should be more or less 10cm your height. If you're on the chubbier side, more is better. Also check the hip width.
*Buy a kimono only because it's cheap. You'll end up not being able to wear it.
*Stress out on the seasonality and colour coordination. Everything comes with time, don't worry.

I most of the time shamelessly avoid wearing obiage. Still not used to them.
Do :
*Bend the rules to be comfortable. The rules are a modern thing, they're helpful as guidelines but they should not transform kimono wearing in an awful physical torture.
*Find your true style. It might be difficult at first, but you can buy and resell kimono pretty easily nowadays so don't worry. I'm not that much into flowery girly kimono, I like the abstract pattern much more. Enjoy your own style.
*Buy plenty of accessories. Kimono styling is about mixing and matching themes and colours, so don't be afraid to splurge on accessories and try new things, they often comes out super interesting.
*Mix kimono with western items. Hiking up your kimono so you can wear stylish western shoes ? Yes. Wearing jewelery ? Yes. Makeup and nail polish ? Yes !
*Research online and ask for concrit. Read kimono blogs for inspiration. There is a kimono community, you're not alone.
*Learn bits by bits. Kimono as remained more or less the same for the past 2 000 years, you bet there is tons of tiny bits and nitpicks you need to know about. Thing is, those are details. Nobody except kimono lovers know about them nowadays, there is no shame into learning.

Using a bracelet instead of a haori-himo ? Check !
That's all for now, hope this was interesting !

I'm sorry for the lack of post, I'm lazy as hell but you already know that. Trying to think up something fun for next time. See ya.