So far I’ve covered the major methods of attacking the beast that is Wa- by brand, by haori, and by kimono. However, what actually holds all of it together? What goes into the making of one of my ‘normal’ Wa coordinates?
- robe – as covered in 101: History of Wa the best robes for wa are the thinner, lighter fabrics that are easier to fold, than heavy silk or wool
- skirt – not every skirt will work with Wa. It is possible to use both high-waisted and normal-waisted skirts, as the elastic part of the waistband will be covered up if worn with an obi. However, skirts with hakama-esque details tend to work best: A-line, pleats, and solid colors or subtle border prints. A cupcake shape tends to add bulk to the hip area, which exaggerates the boxy look of the obi and looks generally shapeless overall. Bodyline’s corset waist skirts are a personal favorite, as they have just enough room to accomodate the width of a typical tsuke obi
- for true kimono- a juban/han-juban/kantan eri. Even if you wear a lined kimono, they still have a tendency to bunch up and wrinkle around the chest, especially when sitting or bending. A juban or under-robe minimizes this.
- blouse or fake collar – a stand or mandarin collar is my personal choice, because it does not interfere with the y-shape of the kimono neckline. Other lolitas have used peter-pan collar blouses however – for example, Sheri of Life’s Sweet Essentials. Since really all that will be seen is the collar, for comfort you can cheat a little and wear a sleeveless blouse, and sleeve flounces/detachable sleeves.
- ties/koshihimo/belts – most importantly, you need something to tie all of these in place! Traditionally, koshihimo are thin, light fabric cords used to fasten everything down- to shorten the kimono, to make an ohashori, etc. However if you do not have these or prefer a more modern alternative…
- shirred elastic belts work pretty well. They add minimal bulk compared to traditional buckle belts.
- obi– the best obis for wa lolita are the thinner, shorter ones such as the tsuke/tsukuri (pre-tied) and hanhaba (half-width); wider, more elaborate obis are usable but because of their weight and stiffness are much more difficult to wrestle with. They also need to be tied much higher up on the body to avoid squashing the skirt. The widest fukuro and maru obis, in particular, will probably have to be tied over the bust itself.
Pictured above: hanhaba, nagoya, and tsuke.
5-6. obiage – in kimono, an obiage is a scarf-like accessory that helps to cover the string of the obimakura (obi pillow, pads out the obi knot). For wa lolita, we’re bending most of the rules anyway, so I use actual scarves. Since I use relatively little inner padding, the length and bulk of a typical scarf helps pad out my waistline to create the cylindrical shape ideal for kimono.
7. accessories. In some (or most) of my coordinates, even after putting on the obi, obiage, and obijime the resulting look is somehow flat and boring. However, this is where it really gets fun- piling stuff on. It’s fair game as to what you can use- traditional accessories such as kanzashi (folded fabric flowers) go on your head, or anywhere else on your person. Typically, it is nice to concentrate the accessories around the area of your obi as it is the usual focal point in wafuku.
obijime – in kimono, the obijime is a stiff cord that helps to keep the knot together. For pre-tied tsuke obi it is not necessary as the knot is sewn in place, but the additional detail is a nice way to add visual interest and color.
There is one key item that is not pictured in the above collection – an obi stiffener.
In japanese, this is called the obi-ita. This is where Bodyline, F+F, and so many offbrand ‘indie’ wa releases fail. The beauty of the kimono is in straight, elegant lines. A soft obi is a major deterrent.
For most kitsuke, a crisp, smooth obi is an absolute must – heko or ‘soft’ obi exist, but their usage is limited to the most casual looks. Think of it as a tee shirt- no matter how pretty it is, a tee is a tee.
Regarding shoe choices, this is where your mileage may vary; mine is (probably) an unpopular opinion, but I don’t think flat shoes such as tea parties are suitable for Wa. Tea parties are cute, but they are very modern in style and color, and combined with kimono they tend to look very jarring. Personally, I do not like zori or geta.
With traditional kimono looks they work very well, and I know there are embellished, beautiful zori out there- but I cannot disassociate them in my head with the image of flip-flops. And I hate flip-flops. Flip-flops and socks are screams in the night-level of horror. Not to say that someone out there can’t pull it off, but I find it difficult when there are other options. Modern hakama styling uses boots, and lolita boots, especially the more Victorian in styling, work very well with Wa. Classic mary janes with a rounded point (but not a bubble toe) are another personal preference. RHS are another option, as the wooden sole is a subtle reference to geta minus my above issue with open slippers.