Thursday, 23 April 2009

Kimono Opinions: Silk vs Wool vs Synthetics

I used to be really snooty about the type of fabric my kimono were made of. I always bought only the silk ones (except when it's yukata, when it's made of cotton) and snubbed all those made of synthetic fibers. Then, one day, I bought a synthetic kimono completely by accident.

For a while, I floundered: what do I do? I heard synthetics were really uncomfortable, I heard they were hot to wear, etc etc. Then I received it in the mail. To my surprise, it was very smooth and soft, almost like silk! It was also really comfortable, and best of all: if I accidentally spilled something on it, I just threw it into the washing machine! I was hooked.

From then on, I stopped snubbing synthetic kimono. But then I noticed something: nearly all of the synthetic kimono I could find were layered, and too hot to wear during some of the season-change months! I despaired for a while, thinking I'd never be able to wear kimono during the season-change months (usually in May and September) since all I had were awase kimono (double-layered kimono, or kimono with lining) and yukata (thin cotton summer kimono).

One day, while pondering this, I noticed RyuJapan was having a sale on his website. I noticed he had a category called "Wool" and went to check it out. I immediately saw a large number of absolutely gorgeous kimono made of wool, which meant they were casual and for everyday wear, not as hot as synthetics, but not as fragile or delicate as silk! A big plus is that none of them were lined. Of course, I bought a few of them.

When they arrived, I straighaway put them on. I had originally had misgivings on buying wool kimono because I was always afraid that the wool would be scratchy against my skin (I have very sensitive skin). I soon found that this was a rather stupid fear, because I would have my hadajuban and my nagajuban on, so I wouldn't feel the kimono if it was scratchy! (Not that many of them were scratchy)

I tentatively posted this on the IG forums and found a whole list of pros to wearing wool: natural fiber, so it breathes better and is cooler than synthetics; not as delicate as silk, so it won't stain so badly even if I spilled water on it; casual and for everyday wear; all of them are unlined, so technically I can wear all of them all-year round without worrying! I fell in love with wool kimono then, and have worn wool kimono almost every time since. A majority of my everyday kimono are actually made of wool.

Sometimes, I think back on all that time ago and wonder why I was such a snob for only wanting to wear silks, even though they're more difficult to care for and so delicate.

Two Saturdays ago, I got my answer as I finally wore a silk kimono again after nearly 5 months of not wearing silk. The reason I preferred silk then was really obvious to me: silk, despite being more delicate and requiring more care, feels heavenly even against my juban. It is smooth and flows wonderfully, barely creating wrinkles and hanging gracefully on my body. It is truly the one fabric that makes kimono seem soft and delicate, not at all harsh straight lines like the impressions that some stiff fabrics give. I think a part of its delicate appearance is because of the soft swishing sounds the silk makes when you move, unlike the loud crinkly sounds that synthetics and sometimes even wools make!

Of course, this does not mean that synthetics and wools aren't good to wear! They do have their own merits, after all. But still, after 5 months of wearing nothing but synthetics and wool, which are at times harsh to feel, the gentle feel and wonderful texture of silk fabric surprised me, and I found myself falling in love with kimono all over again.

Sometimes I wish the weather in the UK wasn't so unpredictable. Maybe then I'd dare to wear out a wonderful silk kimono out on the streets, feeling like a princess and floating along the pavement!! XD


Petrina said...

If you want snob, there was a time when I'll only consider 100% cashmere yarn. Pure wools were not preferred and the synthetics (acrylic and the rest) were a definite no-no.

Then I found merino. Almost as soft as cashmere (but still not as soft), cheaper, and less delicate so it's easier to work with.

I also found alpaca (which is what the lovely GBP10/skein yarns we bought from Loop are made of). Also exceptionally soft, and much cheaper.

Anonymous said...

I love silks too but they are a a bane to care for in tropical weather. The wet, the mildew, insects, etc. I rarely take my silks out of their tatoushi (except the ones I got for cheap!) unless the occasion calls for it.

Most of my kimono are synthetic because the washing machine is my friend :).

How do you you care for wool kimono? I had a wool once, but it shrank in the wash (so it got turned into a bag)and I have never worn wool ever since...Would love to hear some tips!

Priscilla said...

Piggeh> Oh yes, I remember that cashmere phase! But still, cashmere is soooooo sooooooft.. <3 Well, your yarn snob-ness and my kimono snob-ness will never ever top Pa's sushi snob-ness :P

yukikahou> Well, I don't wash my wool kimono in the washing machine ^^;;; Instead, I use this method for washing yukata that I found ages ago. I'll have to post those instructions! It's really easy, and it does work! A friend once sweated heavily into a yukata, and I washed it using this method. All the smell disappeared!

Other than that, I care for it just about the same way I care for my synthetics. I wear them often enough that I don't need to air them out frequently :) Plus, I do put sachets of lavender with all my kimono, synthetic, silk or wool, just in case some stupid bug decides it wants to eat my stuff.

For tropical weather, I keep all of my kimono in my cupboard, together with sachets of oil-free lavender and a box of those dehumidifier things.. You know, the ones that absorb water, and you change every month? Those work really great!! But it's a little expensive to keep that up ><"""

I haven't actually had the opportunity to wear any of my silks in Malaysia before. I'm hoping that sometime this summer, I'll get to go to a nice fancy restaurant and wear something like a furisode there!! :D

Lizette said...

Wow, gotta try wool kimono soon! Thanks for these tips. Likewise, I think synthetic silk kimono robes can get so hot and uncomfortable to wear int the tropics or on a warm weather. A lot of times, it always makes me want to run and change to something like cotton. Despite, I'd never say no to it, so long as it's a kimono.:-)