Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Any excuse for a hat - The Cocktail Party

This summer has been a weird one in Tokyo with crazy heat followed by lashings of rain with one cyclone after another swamping us in humidity.  Great for mozzies not so much for hat wearing.  That partnered with a month long visit from my mum and a spattering of visitors in-between has meant that sitting down with a needle and thread to get hats made has been a pretty irregular thing (yay to being your own boss).

To compensate I have been throwing myself in to life in Tokyo.  Moving to a new city in your mid 20-30 somethings can be hard especially when you are working from home as most new friends are made in the office, so I decided to go hunting for friends instead and joined lots of groups including the British Chambers of Commerce Japan which handily threw a big party the week after I joined to celebrate the birthday of William Shakespeare.  Yay, new friends and a reason to wear a hat.

My Titania themed flower hat and Kiichiro all kilted up

This was my first big fancy cocktail party in a Loooooong time which got me to thinking; why don't people throw cocktail parties anymore?

As a milliner I constantly hear people say; "I love hats but I have nowhere to wear one", the thinking being that hats can only be worn at weddings and the races, but I say lets start thinking of excuses to wear our hats and if we don't have anywhere to wear one then throw the party yourself. 

Cocktails parties at home are a symbol of the fifties.  Peoples houses were big enough to entertain their friends and housewives had enough time and cash to impress their mates with fancy cocktails and finger foods.

Cocktail parties were also a lot easier to organise than a full dinner party as there was less food and more people to add to the party atmosphere and help everyone mingle.

Yay to dishwashers and modern men who know how they work

The same still stands true.  A cocktail party is easy to organise, lets you get together a mix of your friends so you can finally set your sister up with the guy from your office, only lasts two hours so no chance someone can get really drunk or annoying and ruin the whole thing and you get to wear your favourite hat and sky high heels without having to worry about wind and rain killing your hat and walking home barefoot because your blisters hurt so much.  Win, win, win.  And don't worry that your friends won't be into it, set the right move from the start and everyone will have fun dressing up, even the blokes.

fun and funky

simple and chic

So where to start?  A text message telling your mates to meet at the pub at 7 is all good and well for a pint after work but for your cocktail party you want to set a classy tone from the start to get everyone in the mood.  How?  Good old fashioned invitations.

Remember a cocktail party is usually pretty small at around 20 people so invites won't break the bank but will set the mood and, by putting a dress code and finishing time on the invite, they let everyone know what to expect and what is expected of them.

Next food.

Cocktail parties aren't about impressing people with fancy recipes and stuffing them till the burst.  They are a gathering in-between meals so you only need to serve nibbles, giving nervous people something to do with their hands and those that didn't eat beforehand have something to soak up the cocktails.  Keep it simple but well presented and it will add decoration and a homely touch to your party.

Cocktail parties are named such for a reason, the cocktails.  People will expect a well stocked bar so gather up all the half bottles of stuff that linger at the back of your liquor shelf and the cocktail shaker we have all been given as a present at some point and hit up google for cocktail recipes to Wow.  Choose a signature cocktail to serve as everyone arrives or go for the classic punch bowl for a vintage vibe.

Send the invites, stock the bar, go and dust off your favourite hat and give your friends a reason to dress up.  Loads of fun, loads of laughs and hopefully your mates will pick up the baton and you will get an invite through your door soon enough giving you another reason for a new hat.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Kimono and the Hat

I'm back!

Well to be honest I have been back for a week but it has taken me that long to switch out of holiday mode and get everything running again; plus I was greeted home by a flurry of hat orders which is always nice but meant that I was playing catch up.

Australia was a combination of good friends, good food, good weather and a camper van which is pretty much the recipe for the perfect holiday.  Throw in your best friend getting hitched and there isn't much left to ask for.

First off massive congrats go out to the new Mr and Mrs Smith.

Pictures by Tamara Cadd Photography

A great wedding in a really beautiful setting 2 hours out of Melbourne complete with scary spiders, kangaroos and a BBQ the day after to make it a true Ozzy experience.

The Mother of the bride was rocking an Aka Tombo hat too.

And I finally got to wear my kimono.  As I mentioned in my last post, we had filmed the kimono dresser putting me in the kimono many months ago and though we had practiced a few times since then you would never have been able to tell watching the Laurel and Hardy show that was me and my man on the morning of the wedding desperately trying to figure out how to tie the correct knots an where the masses of ties went (like all good DIY projects we had some spares at the end), but we got it!

For those of you looking closely you will notice that that is not the hat I described in my last post.  Its pretty close but with one huge difference; the lack of kanzashi flowers.  

After a month of covering myself in glue and perfecting my tweezer usage I am still rubbish at making kanzashi flowers.  All the bits are there individually and it looks like it is going really well but I seem to always fail at the last hurdle and putting all the bits together resulted in a splodgy mess.  A class is definitely required!

To make up for the lack of japanese flowers I decided to add some interest by using bits from a broken hair ornament I found months ago at an antique fair.  These hair ornaments use to be worn by geisha and were traditionally carved from beko (tortoise shell) but the worldwide bans on beko (and the cost) mean that most are now made out of plastic.  Having compared my purchase with some real beko I decided that mine was made of plastic, old plastic, but still plastic (which is what I was hoping as I don't do animal parts in fashion and I didn't want to get arrested trying to take my hat into Australia).

As geisha aren't very common anymore you are most likely to see these hair ornaments on the bride at a shinto wedding.

Or on an Aka Tombo Hat :)

The rest of the design stayed pretty much the same with a black kimono silk button base and a brach covered in flowers made from the same silk (which also helped give me some extra height as I am the shortest of my friends by about a foot).

Boy did good, the perfect Obi bow!

I know that hats aren't traditionally worn with kimono but I think hats look good with anything so viva le revolution Chapeau!

PS. In the end I didn't need the towels to fill out the kimono as it seems travelling France, Scotland and Australia in a comparatively short space of time results in eating my weight in cheese washed down in champagne.  Japanese wedding diets are amazing!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Attempting Tsumami Kanzashi

Years ago, while rummaging through my favourite vintage kimono shop I stumbled upon an old wedding kimono and fell in love with it.  Yellow gold silk embroidered with golden peacocks with shimmering green blue tails and splashes of striking red.  I had to have it.  Where I was going to wear this kimono I had no idea and the fact that it was furisode, long sleeves which show a woman is unmarried, and my left hand showed that was not the case, I didn't care, the kimono would be mine.  So I bought it.

similar to this but with blue peacocks

Last year my In-Laws took me to the local kimono shop and bought me all the other parts (hundreds of them) that you need to wear a kimono.  Half a dozen silk ties, clips, hidden clips and more clips, two layers of underwear, tiny cushions, hard plastic supports for in collars and under obi, pretty ropes and obi decorations, tiny fans and uncomfortable shoes to match your uncomfortable socks.  I left with bags full of things … and nowhere to wear my kimono.

Then came an invite, my best friends wedding in Australia in April.  Tickets were booked and the kimono was looked out for a practice run of how to put the damn thing on.  When buying all the bits at the kimono shop the lady had very nicely shown me how to put the kimono on while my husband had dutifully filmed the whole ordeal on his phone.  # hours later we had it just about right and I decided that matching kimono were the outfit of choice for me and the man, indeed due to the amount of stuff required and the rubbish low weight allowance of our chosen low cost air carrier, it might be all I wear while in Australia!

Problem 1: Does this make me look fat?
The answer is yes, it does, deal with it.  Kimono aren't meant to make you look all hourglass curvy or supermodel thin.  Look at all the stuff in the pictures above, there is no way you can tie all that on yourself and not look bigger.
In Japan, when kimono were the only clothes worn, the ideal body shape was a tube.  Yes a tube.  Your kimono should lie flat everywhere giving you no chest, no bum and no hips.  To achieve this look on my non tubular body shape I have to tie 3 towels around my waist.  Yes, I think I may be the first person to go to a wedding wearing towels in an aim to make myself shapeless.

Problem 2: a hat?

It is hard to imagine kimono without the amazing traditional hair ornaments that go with them.

These however tend to go hand in hand with massive wigs and unless you are from the Edo era or you are a bride (and thus rocking a massive wig) they aren't seen much anymore. 

If you want to see what is happening in the world of kimono you only need to wait for Seijin no Hi.  This is coming of age day in Japan where anyone turning 20 that year gets dressed up in kimono and goes to a big ceremony to celebrate becoming an adult.  It is also where the traditional kimono meets Japanese youth and the results can be both amazing and scary.

Here you can see Japanese fashion clashing with western styles and Tokyo street fashion in the form of blonde hair, Barbie and braids.

Yep even coming dressed as a Storm Trooper is ok

And its not just the 20 somethings bringing kimono up to date as a growing number of people are reverting back to every day more relaxed kimono and bringing a whole new layer of awesomeness to the traditional look.

T-rex obi…hell yeah!

Notice what is lacking in all these looks…a hat.

That isn't to say that hats are never seen with kimono.  Guys in kimono and hats seems quite common;

and hours of internet trawling will bring you some (pretty wicked) results;

but these are mostly in the casual/funky kimono genre not the formal look I am after.  That doesn't mean that Japanese girls have given up hair adornment altogether, far from it, even the massive wig still makes an appearance.

But again this isn't quite what I am after.  It seems that with formal kimono comes formal kanzashi and the flower is as much a part of the kimono as the obi and the funky toe socks.

And so back to my Kimono outfit for Oz.  I have decided to make a small button hat with a black kimono silk base and a black branch stretching up and over the hat covered in different sizes of black flowers.  At the base of the branch will be a cluster of smaller flowers with 3 tails of falling black leaves (like the blue example in the photo above).

Problem 3: I don't know how to make kanzashi flowers.

So off to the book shop I went and bought the book with the most pictures in it and thus have spent the week with tweezers in hand, covered in rice starch glue and tiny bits of silk.

These are examples of what I didn't make.

The plan was to write this blog on Friday so that I could include pictures of my finished hat and show you the fruitful labour of my week.  I can't.  Making tsunami kanzashi flowers is bloody hard.  I have a month to figure it out or I will be attending this wedding adorned with Hello Kitty ears as proof of my failure and humiliation as a milliner.  I will look as stupid in my kimono as these dogs look in theirs.