Kitsuke: Juban and Padding

When I first began practicing kitsuke, I struggled. I had wrinkles everywhere, my ohashori was more of a bubble around my waist than a neat fold, and my collars, god my collars! The juban collars would always, always get eaten by the kimono collars, usually within the first few minutes. It took two years of experimentation, trial and error, and sometimes ripping my hair out, for me to slowly realize just how important padding and a proper juban are to making a kimono look good.

The goal of any kitsuke isn’t to make the wearer’s body look good, but to make the garment look good and show off the work of the artisan who made the kimono. Unlike western fashion, curves do nothing for kimono except to give you wrinkles. The ideal shape for kitsuke is a cylinder. Very few, no scratch that, no person on earth is a perfect cylinder. We achieve this look through the use of padding. And every person has their own padding combination that works for them. Some people use padding on their waist or the small of their back to fill in curves, some use padding on their shoulders for the same reason, and most people I know wear a kimono bra, sports bra, or something else that shrinks down anything bigger than an A cup to a flat chest.

A close friend of mine and I have been studying kimono and kitsuke at the same time, but we’re also in a unique situation. She learns from a teacher from the Sodo School of kimono (makers of the biyosugata and authors of The Book of Kimono). On the other hand, I take lessons from a teacher who learned at a small, local school called the Nishi Nihon Wasoukai. Both are valid schools of kimono, and both teach their students different ways of padding to achieve the ideal shape. It’s really interesting for us to compare notes on what our teachers recommend for us for padding and juban. We’d like to share some of those differences with you now.

For those of you new to kimono, please don’t take this as the only way to use padding and a juban. This is just what works for us. You have to find what works for you.

 

What I Do

Kimono Bra

The first layer for both of us is the kimono bra. The combination of the bra and the removable padding inside compresses the bust and makes it firm. There are different styles of kimono bra that are available commercially, some more expensive than others. The one that both of us prefer just happens to be one of the more expensive brands on the market, averaging around 5000 yen. You can find them online here.

http://www.yosooi.co.jp/SHOP/0170024.html

My preferred kimono bra comes with removable padding which you can see on the left hand side.

My preferred kimono bra comes with removable padding which you can see on the left hand side.

Here is a comparison between a regular bra on the left and a kimono bra on the right. It doesn’t look like much, but it makes a huge amount of difference to the finished look.

kimonobra

This is another kimono bra that I’ve tried that was cheaper at the time. You supply your own padding through small towels. I only used this one for a couple of weeks before deciding it wasn’t for me. It made my collars seems to float off of my collarbones in front.

004Some people will actually wear two bras, one close to the skin and one over the juban, but I find this too constricting.

Base Layer

My base layer is unconventional. I always end up changing in front of other people during my lessons and I prefer to be modest. In these photos, I’m wearing my kimono bra, a camisole, and a thin t-shirt. I made sure to choose a t-shirt that wouldn’t interfere with the completed look of the kimono. This means that I chose a shirt with a scoop neck in the front and the back. On the bottom, I’m wearing Japanese thermal underwear called Heat-tec, but any pair of leggings will do.

Base Layer

Padding

On top of my base layer, I put my padding. Every person has their own combination that works for them. I use a commercially produced hip pad to fill in the small of my back. The pad on its own is not enough, so I use two staggered towels to fill in the rest. I use the thinner of the towels on the bottom of the pad so that it doesn’t add to the natural, excessive, padding I have further down. I don’t use any padding on my front or waist. For me, the fabric of the datejime is enough to fill it in.

hippad

Juban

I started off using a full length naga015juban, but I found that it would separate very easily and expose my legs if I sat in seiza for two long. I tried out a two piece nagajuban and I like it so much more. First, the skirt is wide enough that I don’t have to worry about my legs making an unscheduled appearance. Second, it’s easier to adjust the top when I only have to worry about half the fabric.

 

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I have modified my juban slightly from the original, out of the package version. This juban came with a chikara nuno (my original full length one did not. I had to add it) but I was advised to attach it to the juban so that it wasn’t hanging loose. I also added a han-eri so that the korin belt would have something significant to grab onto.

You can see the stitches I used to attach the chikara nuno.

You can see the stitches I used to attach the chikara nuno.

I also use a commercially produced erishin to keep the collar crisp. My teacher taught me that when held upright, the erishin looks like a mountain. When I put it into the juban collar, the top of the mountain should still be a mountain (not a valley).

Putting on the skirt of the juban is simple. I make sure that the left side is over the right side, and I also make sure that the hem is high enough that there is no chance it will peek out from under the kimono.

When you put on the skirt, be sure that it is high enough that it won't show under the hem of the kimono.

When you put on the skirt, be sure that it is high enough that it won’t show under the hem of the kimono.

The top of the juban is where all the magic happens. When I put it on, the korin belt is already threaded through the chikara nuno. To make sure that your korin belt is the right length, measure it against your shoulders. It should be the same width as your shoulders.

Use the width of your shoulders to measure your korin belt.

Use the width of your shoulders to measure your korin belt.

I pull down the back collar so that it’s lower than where I actually want it to end up. My collar usually creeps up a bit while I’m getting dressed. This makes sure that it ends up in the right place by the end of the process.

Grab both collars with your left hand and the center of the back of the juban with the right hand and pull several times until it moves smoothly.

Grab both collars with your left hand and the center of the back of the juban with the right hand and pull several times until it moves smoothly.

According to Liza Dalby in her book Kimono, an average collar has enough room to fit a fist between the collar and the neck. Geisha wear their collars significantly lower. According to Dalby, this is due to the fact that the nape of the neck is considered an area of “erotic focus” in Japanese culture. For more demure women, a collar that is set back the width of three fingers is also acceptable.

Once the back of my collar is in place I bring the korin belt through the miyatsuguchi (the arm hole) and attach it to the juban, a couple of centimeters above the bottom of my ribcage. The other end goes around to the same place on the left side of the juban. After this, my collars are more or less where I want them. I now just have to tug on the juban to get them exactly where I want. This is a huge advantage of using the two piece juban as I have three places that I can tug on quite strongly to get the desired look. Ideally, I want the collars to cross right in the middle of my neck while covering the hollow of the neck.adjusting_juban_collar_2(1)

Once everything is in place, I use a datejime to keep my collars in place. I usually give everything one last tug to make sure the collar stays where I want it to.

068_-_Copy

Here is my final look.

070

 

What She Does

My friend Jen has a very different system of getting dressed. Like me, her first layer is a kimono bra, but after that, everything changes.

Her base layer is a unique juban.

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First, this juban includes a thin erishin in the collar. This is used later on to provide a hook for the kantan eri (I’ve also seen it being called an eri sugata).

The very thin eri shin that fits in this style of juban.

The very thin eri shin that fits in this style of juban.

Sliding the eri shin into the juban.

Sliding the eri shin into the juban.

Second, it also includes Velcro on the sleeves to attach sleeves too, although she never attaches juban sleeves.(Sorry about no photos of this part.  White velcro on white fabric doesn’t photograph very well).  Finally, it has pockets sewn inside designed to hold specially made pads. The two half circles are designed to fill in the collarbones, and the triangular pad is designed to fill in any gap in the bust area, but she doesn’t usually use that pad.

Pockets for the padding.

Pockets for the padding.

The orientation of all the pads.

The orientation of all the pads.

Next comes the most important part, adjusting the collar on the juban. If the collar is not low enough in the back it will affect the collars in the front as well as the look of the kimono. Her teacher always encouraged here to pull it really, really low. She pulls on the back until it is low enough, then secures it with the ties attached to the juban.

JenJuban

This is how she looks after the juban is on with nothing else added.

Jenbegin

Once the juban is on, she also uses some cotton wrapped in gauze to fill out her shoulders. (Sorry, no photos of this part).

While I put my padding under my juban, she puts hers on over top. She uses two tea towels sewn together with a tie at the end. It wraps around the waist to fill it out.

Jentowel

The front view of the towel, before and after.

The side view of the towel, before and after.

The side view of the towel, before and after.

Next comes the kantan eri. To make it extra stiff, Jen uses two erishin instead of one.The kantan eri has stitching on the underside that holds the erishin in place.

The double eri shin inside the kantan eri.

The double eri shin inside the kantan eri.

This is one of the most important bits of her underlayers. To start with, she will hook the kantan eri onto the erishin in her juban.

Hooking the kantan eri onto the juban.

Hooking the kantan eri onto the juban.

Here’s the rest of the process.

The final step for Jen is to use the same commercial hippad that I use. However, she pulls the inner pad up slightly to get the right look.

the hippad with the inner pad pulled up slightly.

the hippad with the inner pad pulled up slightly.

The hippad in place.

The hippad in place.

The final look.

The final look.

Tips:

Do what works for you. Experiment. Find a combination of padding and juban that gives you a shape you’re happy with. It may take time (it took me two years and I’m still experimenting!) but the results will be worth it.

Don’t be shy on pulling your collar down at the back. Chances are it will creep up during the process of getting dressed, so the lower the better.

I hope you enjoyed reading!  Good luck with your kitsuke!

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15 thoughts on “Kitsuke: Juban and Padding

  1. any suggestions for where someone living in the USA can go to learn to wear kimono?
    or at least places we can go to get some of the tools for wearing like the hip pads, kimono bra and biyosugata?
    I love kimono and have been reading about them and trying to teach myself to wear them for years.. but there are so few english resources
    Thank you

    Like

    • Etsy and Ebay are great sources for finding the tools as well as kimono. There is also a good website called ichiroya that is highly reputable. As for learning, if there is a Japanese cultural center in your area you could ask there if there are any teachers. Hope this helps!

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  2. The Kimono bra link was interesting, however, I don’t read Japanese and wasn’t sure of the measurements. I am using a sports bra at the moment, but could do with more “flattening”.

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  3. your article is so wonderful! I learned so much from it! I am new to all this and had always wanted to learn. I hope I can learn to wear Kimono well! There are a lot of components that I did not know about and the idea of the body reaching “cylindrical” perfection is definitely hard. I will need to research and look into other items to help with kitsuke. Thank you!

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  4. This is a good read thanks! I actually wear yukata and kimono often due to practicing Nihon buyo n learned some things about wearing thru that. Only one thing I wonder about is I never seen anyone wear kimono without kimono sleeve layer too. (Yukata is different). Does your friend know why they taught her like that? The only time I did it was when wearing special kimono we have which they had pre-sewn the sode lining into the actual kimono so it would stay in place n so therefore only juban with eri is needed. But in the end you cant tell after wearing everything since lining is sewn in.

    Here is my layers I use just for fun lol
    -Base is a sports bra. Over that goes a cami.
    -I wear light breathable undies. Then importantly I need to wear “suteteko”. This is a pair of kind of loose shorts/underwear made of light fabric. I am not sure if only dancers wear them but any time I even wear yukata I always wear them. they are light n comfortable n keeps your legs from being right on each other esp in hot weather. (I also somehow feel immodest without them haha).
    -some padding goes in if I need it. Like you said waist padding makes it straight. Also I’ll put two foam pads in the area between my shoulder and my bust on either side to fill in that gap. It makes the chest look very rounded n smooth.
    -I put sosyoke(skirt part) and Han-juban(upper part). For dancers two piece style is really crucial since we need to move around. I also secure the eri hook on the back by sewing it down onto the juban.
    -I finish wearing juban by tying datejime.

    Some other notes:
    A way to secure the front collar in place is to use an extra himo. Start by placing it over the bust, over the collar low enough not to be seen after finishing kitsuke but high enough to make effect. Then wrap the himo around your body. Bring the ends toward the front again but bring it down around your waist now n secure. Then finish with datejime.

    As for how low to pull the collar, most people will wanna go with the three fingers rule. The only time I pull it lower is when doing certain dances. One tip to keep the collar pulled down when dressing is this: the juban will wanna ride up after tying kimono/yukata on with the first himo and fixing the fabric up. After you situate all the fabric pulled out from the himo, pull up just the kimono skirt and reach underneath to feel for the bottom of your juban (if its two pieces find the bottom of your Han-juban top) then pull down securely on all bottom edges to smooth it back in place. You can readjust the scoop of the collar this way n it reduces the bulk of that fabric being bunched up. Then secure your second himo or korin belt n finally your datejime on top of that.

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    • Wow Lily! Thanks for sharing your experience! It just goes to show that there isn’t one correct way to do kitsuke. I’m not entirely sure as to the reason why some schools choose Juban without sleeves, but I’ll double check and get back to you.

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    • Hi Lily! I double checked on your question about why there are no sleeves. Her juban has sleeves that attach with Velcro. Since they weren’t necessary to showing how to correctly pad and wear a juban, she decided not to wear them that day. However, she does usually attach sleeves when she wears a full kimono. Hope that answers your question!

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      • Hello! Yes thanks for getting back to me!

        Even tho I learned from Japanese dancers how to tie, I myself am still not that skilled yet. For performance time we all usually get help to tie on our kimono as nicely as possible. And esp sometimes involves elaborate kimono such as ones both furisode and hikizuri or intricate tying of obi, which is impossible to do yourself (it usually takes at least two people dressing you) Really wonderful to watch n get dressed in haha

        even those senpai I learned from, they learn from each other or other people who are skilled at kitsuke of various kimono. There really are many tips n ways like you said! I’m sure different people have different standards or rules of what its supposed to be and what its not too.
        Thanks again!

        Like

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