Smooth as Silk
If you think that a kimono is a Japanese bathrobe and that obi is the first name of Luke Skywalker's Jedi mentor, do yourself a favor and head over to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens this Saturday.
The museum hosts "The Fabulous Kimono Show: A Century of Traditions and Fashions," a rare kimono fashion show that will teach you nearly everything you need to know about the many types of kimonos and their obis -- the elaborate sashes worn around them.
In Japan, the kimono's style, fabric, color, and design denote the wearer's age, marital status, social class, and even the season or occasion. There's an art to putting it on and wearing it, and its design is a result of many centuries of evolution.
The kimono has been around since before 300 A.D., when it looked basically like a loose hemp sack with a belt. Through the centuries, customs, laws, improvements in weaving and dyeing, and the availability of materials have developed the kimono into an exquisite piece of clothing. Today, kimonos have been largely replaced by western-style clothing, although many Japanese still bring out their kimonos on special occasions.
Men typically wear one-toned kimonos of black, brown, blue, gray, or white. The man may add a hakama -- a pair of pleated pants that looks like a skirt, worn over the kimono -- and a haori jacket, especially on formal occasions.
Women's kimonos are normally of vivid colors and feature striking designs. The sleeves of the kimono indicate the age and marital status of a woman. A young unmarried woman would wear a colorful kimono with flowing sleeves that hang almost to the ankles, while a married woman's kimono sleeves would be shorter.
All kimonos come with an obi. It can be tied in a variety of simple or complex ways, such as in the shape of a rose, butterfly, or flower. An obi may be as wide as one foot and as long as 13 feet, and some may take half an hour to tie.
The show will feature both men's and women's kimonos, undergarments, and accessories, as well as special-occasion kimonos such as those seen at weddings and funerals. There will be commentary to explain the different styles, the significance of their designs, and the proper way to wear them. The show will even include a demonstration of how to tie an obi.
To boot, the museum's restaurant, the Cornell Café, will serve dinner in bento boxes -- Japanese wooden dinner plates with many compartments -- in which a smorgasbord of Japanese dishes, from fish to vegetables to sushi, will be arranged.
So bring along an open mind and an empty stomach, but please, leave your light sabers at home.
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