Tell a friend and get $5 off!

Kimono Fabric hunting in NYC

Posted by on

Easter is a big family holiday, but for some reason when it coincides with April Fools, my family is less than insistent that I show up.  I kind of have a reputation. 

For maybe the same reason, my husband has started taking up the habit of keeping me away from home and anywhere I might have been able to set up shenanigans ahead of time on 4/1.  I'm fine with that.  I like travel, and IMO it just makes shenanigans more challenging and rewarding if you have to make one work on the go! 

This past weekend, we went to NYC.  I live about 2 hours from NYC in no traffic, but I never casually go there.  If I get my timing right, I can get there in a do-able 3.5 hours, and if not, it's more like 5.  Traffic time is never easy time. So I don't go to NYC unless I can think of a damn good reason involving something that makes that kind of time commitment and an overnight stay worthwhile!  And I totally, totally did:

Kimono House in Manhattan

This is Kimono House, an actual kimono store in the US! Woah.  I honestly never even looked to see if there was one, because I assumed no.  Some reviews have them only selling kimono, some reviews have them selling kimono and kimono fabric. Now that I'm sewing for 1/3 dolls, my reserves of kimono fabric aren't good enough.  All the dolls I sewed for when I bought my original stashes were 1/6 scale, and you can get 2-3 kimono from a fat quarter of fabric.  I rarely bought more than a half yard of any fabric, and still have most fabrics I bought >10 years ago.  The manufacturer I bought from, Kona Bay, is out of business so I have no easy supplier for beautiful new kimono fabrics for big dolls, which need about a yard if you're going to lay out the print so that the design sweeps across the sleeves and body of the kimono properly.

I figured the chances of them having a print that scaled well to 1/3 dolls was slim even if they had fabric, but at the very least, I'd be able to pick up some tips on kimono and get style inspiration if they only sold human kimono!

I was kind of disappointed.

See that picture?  That's Kimono house.  It is about 8 feet wide by 15 feet long, and 1/3 of the shop seems to have been sub-letted to a hat seller.  TINY.

Kimono House in Manhattan

This is the only other mannequin inside the shop dressed in a kimono and it's stained on the collar (yellowish discoloration in pic above the breast) and the obi is like a coarsely woven piece of linen with more stains.

You can see the kimono rack behind the floor dress, which gives you a rough idea of the kind of patterns available.  There were a couple of nice ones, but the 2-3 I liked had stains on them.  I freely admit I'm a fabric snob, and most of the kimono I've seen in person have been gorgeous museum pieces but stains?  Nope.  I've got nothing against vintage, but I assume if someone is selling stained secondhand clothing, they already tried getting the stains out and it isn't happening.

So that was a bit of a let down.

But there are worse things than being let down in Manhattan.  I never put all my Easter-eggs in one basket regarding Kimono house: I had read up and found that there was at least one other store that might carry kimono fabric, B & J fabrics, over in the fashion district.  So we went there next and... it was closed.  Well nuts.  But having last been in the fashion district less than 6 months ago, maybe half of the stores I went in are no longer there and have been replaced by other fabric stores, I think that's a normal thing?  Oh well.  I did check out some stores that seemed likely prospects, but no kimono fabrics to be found.

Garment District As makes sense for NYC's fashion district, most of the fabrics shops stock are designed for high end fashion runways.  Not so much for casual clothes, and very much not for doll clothes.  But you know what there is a lot of? Garment District TRIM. Garment District

Oh yes, so much.

After my fabric buying trip last year, I have used some of the fabrics I bought, but most of the trim.  Good small-scale lace and ruffle is so hard to find!  So I stocked up on a lot of that.  Much lighter to carry around Manhattan after I bought it, too ^^;

And one last place: Just a short walk from the fabric district (which is a couple of streets from and the same subway stop for Times Square, future tourists!) is Kinokuniya Bookstore, a Japanese book store chain.  Where I found... THIS:

Kinokuniya book store

Sigh. It's paper, not fabric. But otherwise, exactly what I was looking for: perfect colors, perfect doll scale.  Just not fabric -.-

They have a ton of Japanese fashion books, so I went over and browsed their kimono books. I did find this, which is something I've been looking for but haven't seen anywhere on the internet regarding Kimono/Japanese fashion:

Kinokuniya book store

In college I took a bunch of Japanese classes, both on language and culture.  One of the things I found interesting from one of the professor's talks is that Japanese color schemes are very different from Western color schemes, and I wanted to bring this up in fashion design before but while I can find lots of stuff on the internet about some aspects of Japanese culture/fashion, I've never found anything on this. 

As an artist, what colors work well together is drilled in pretty early using the color wheel.  Too many complimentary colors clash. Opposites compliment.  These 'rules' are reflected in fashion and architecture.  Totally different in Japan.  This book was a book of color schemes used in different kimono designs, and they are all compliments.  Different seasons have different color schemes, and there are more seasons in Japan, fashion-wise.  It's interesting because what colors match is not something most people ever think of as cultural!  So I was really happy to find that, so I could have a secondary source to confirm what I'd only ever had jotted down in college notebooks ^^;

As for my Easter-Fools joke... I filled an Easter Egg with glitter, and gave it to my husband ;)