Amazing Grace: The Art and Ordeal of the Kimono

MICHELLE GREEN – The New York Times

Copyright The New York Times
Published: March 2, 2008
An excerpt of a piece about a Western woman’s apprenticeship in wearing the kimono:
As I would learn, subtlety and understatement are the underpinnings of the kimono mystique. Before I changed out of my jeans, Ms. Fujii showed me the one-size-fits-all undergarments, which, I decided, looked like an Amish trousseau. Arranged on the floor were a susoyoke, or floor-length apron; a hadajuban, or short jacket that wraps around the waist; and a nagajuban, which is a longer robe that goes directly beneath the kimono. White tabi socks finished the look.
By the time I was suited up, my breasts and hips (which had been padded) had disappeared. So had my freedom of movement: to sit, I found myself sinking onto my shins like a camel; rising required pushing back on my heels and unfolding like a lotus. I did well enough with those bits, but only because they felt like familiar yoga postures.
Learning to swish noiselessly while trussed, however, obviously required more than one lesson. I was told to step lightly but deliberately on the tatami mat.
“We walk like this,” explained Ms. Fujii, “to echo the way the heart beats. As in Zen.”
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