Once you’re committed to taking part in a kimono competition, the first step is to assemble your ensemble.

In these regional competitions, which lead up to the national/world competition in Tokyo in spring, there are the following categories (if I remember correctly):

-Men (dressed in hakama: pleated trousers)
-Children (boys and girls, in the style of their choosing)
-Foreigners (men and women, in the style of their choosing)
-Women: Casual (kimono used for going out)
-Women: Tomesode (the most formal kimono for mature women)
-Women: Furisode (the most flamboyant kimono for younger women)
-Schools (three students dressing each other in unison)

Last year only two foreigners entered the competition to represent Matsue in Kochi. This year it seems we’ll have participants in the foreigner, children, men, and women categories in Hiroshima! Way to go, Matsue! I’m not entirely sure, but it sounds like the regional competition will be held in Tottori sometime in the next few years.

While the foreigners are allowed to do any style and are cut more slack than the Japanese women would be, most of the female participants go with furisode because that stands out the most. Though if everyone is doing that, wouldn’t something like girl’s hakama or a black tomesode stand out more? I asked Kimono-sensei about doing something faster like hakama since I was one of the slower people last year, but she insisted on furisode since that’s more of a show of skill. Who am I to argue?

One of the aesthetic points of kimono that tends to differ from western styles of clothing is that they may seem very mismatched both in regard to colors and patterns. While you wouldn’t wear a flower-pattern blouse and a stripped skirt, this is a perfectly acceptable combination in kimono (though there are more Japanese-style geometric patterns to choose from than simple stripes). Conversely, too much of one motif starts to get a bit weighted. For instance, if you have peonies on your obi (belt), then try not to have them on your kimono–it probably wouldn’t be very chic to go peony-viewing dressed like that, either! I’ve heard the same advice in the tea ceremony–try to avoid having the same motif repeated too many times in the hanging scroll, flowers, tools, and wagashi (Japanese confectionery). The goal is to harmonize, not to match.

While I did really like my very busy-looking blue and cream-colored crane pattern last year, this year I’ll be going with a deep red and more subdued cherry blossom pattern. While most flower patterns are seasonal, cherry blossoms represent Japan as a whole, so they work any time of year–or so I was told. Not that you’re judged on seasonality, though your overall taste may be taken into account, in additional to your skill in dressing yourself on stage (top-layer and obi only!) and grace in doing so.

Well, for competitions in December (regionals) and possibly April (nationals), I suppose I’ll be seasonally prepared for both.

More on battle plans in the next entry