Hotaru Tomoe
Artbook V New Year's Furisode

Hours to Complete: N/A
Materials: Silk, Rayon (han-eri collar), Cotton (bow portion of kanzashi)
Worn At: Sakuracon 2013, Sakuracon 2014

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Despite being entirely bought, this cosplay was very difficult and time-consuming to put together. And the dressing (kitsuke) is far more difficult. It's an art form in of itself, there are even schools in Japan dedicated to learning how to properly dress, learn obi knots (musubi), and all the strict rules and subtle intricacies in choosing just the right motif for the season or kimono and obi for occasion. And of course, the dressing itself is a feat unto itself that requires a great deal of practice and perfecting. Kitsuke is one of my passions that I really enjoy learning, and I am thrilled to finally have a reason to put it into practice with my cosplay.

How I came to choose each piece of this ensemble took a great deal of thought, particularly to what motifs would be used for a celebratory New Year's furisode, which was the theme of the original artwork. I came to interpret Hotaru's furisode as having a white eda-ume (branched plum blossom) pattern, a motif very common to winter. Hotaru's obi clearly was eda-ume as well, with a single crane wing visible on the knot portion. She's also visibly wearing a red nagajuban (underkimono), green kasane-eri (collar layer, which gives the appearance of another layer of kimono), and vivid pink obijime (obi string) and obiage (obi sash, generally tucked into the top of the obi). The challenge, of course, comes in actually finding the perfect furisode and obi for the job; with some exceptions, vintage kimono and obi tend to be overwhelmingly one of a kind. The pieces I found are no different.

The furisode itself was an extremely lucky find on a website I frequent dealing in vintage kimono and everything that comes with them, Ichiroya. It was listed at an unbelievable discount due to a couple stains and a loosened seam under the right arm where the sleeve attaches, which was easily mendable. I'm not sure about the age of the piece, it could be mid or late Showa (1926-1989) or early Heisei (1989-present), but it is dazzling. It features uplifting yari-ume (upward-facing plum blossoms), branching from the hem all the way through the shoulders. Hana-noshi (flowers, including peony, chrysanthemum, lilies, wisteria, purple plum blossoms, and maple leaves, in folded paper) are dabbled about as well. It's a huge testament to the sheer attention to detail and painstaking process in which kimono are made; it is dyed using the yuzen technique, with each and every detail painstakingly traced in silver leaf. One peony on the front left panel is even traced in silver koma embroidery! And at the hem, the illusion of a shadow under the eda-ume is created with resist-dyeing. The furisode is also fully lined with white silk, which is consistent with a kimono made to be worn during winter.

The obi was surprisingly difficult to find, for such a traditional pattern. It is a black fukuro obi, the age of which I'm guessing is from the 1970s-1980s (late Showa). It is beautifully embroidered with eda-ume, stylized chrysanthemum (kiku), pine (matsu), and surprisingly, butterfly (chou)! Since there was only a single wing visible in the original artwork's obi, and this obi's butterflies have quite a feathered appearance, I figured that liberty could be taken due to the sheer difficulty in finding a black fukuro obi with red eda-ume and cranes. The embroidery is beautifully metallic and shimmery, the likes of which is very hard to do justice with photography.

The red nagajuban was the most challenging of the components to obtain, and continued to be even after the first wearing out. Not only is finding a furisode nagajuban very difficult in the color red, but the measurements also had to be exact. This nagajuban needed to have an unusually wide wrist-to-wrist measurement, and an unusually long sleeve length. (With my short height, the sleeves come only inches from touching the floor, even with the zori sandals on!) Further complications arose when I learned of how badly vintage red dye bleeds from the wearer's sweat, sometimes to the point of ruining the outer kimono. That was when I found a $7 pale pink and white furisode nagajuban with the perfect measurements, and the added bonus of woven cranes for a motif. With advice from people much more experienced in dyeing kimono and help from my sewing mentor, I dyed it using the Cherry Red Jacquard Acid Dye from Dharma Trading Co. The color turned out spectacularly even throughout, even despite the base color being a pink gradient, and with ironing, the fabric regained most of its original softness and gloss. The satin-woven cranes even still maintain some of their original gloss! I also sewed on an adorable white embroidered rabbit with chrysanthemums han-eri (removeable decorative collar sewn over the nagajuban's collar to protect it from sweat damage) as a reference to Usagi.

However, disaster happened when the dye bled anyway at the bustline, where a pool of sweat had formed. Thankfully it wasn't nearly as bad as it could've been; the dye only stained the inner white lining of the furisode, and the hadajuban (kimono slip worn against the skin). The hadajuban's stain came out without a problem since it was mostly cotton, but I ended up having to remove the stained lining panels to use a gentle dye remover on. I also attempted to remove the dye and properly re-dye the nagajuban at the proper boiling temperature the dye needed to set, which involved taking the entire garment apart so it could fit into a stovetop pot. Ultimately, between my health being poor, inexperience with sewing kimono (it is much, much harder than it seems), and not trusting the dye since I noticed continuing bleeding, I gave up on it. However, I found an absolutely breathtaking red rinzu silk bolt made for a furisode nagajuban, stunningly woven with temari balls. There are also large shibori-dyed white temari with touches of multiple pastel colors. I had sent my furisode to professional kimono seamstress and friend Yukiko Tanaka to properly put the lining panels back in, so I went to her to make a brand-new nagajuban for it from that bolt. It turned out far more gorgeous than I even dreamed, easily blowing the old one right out of the water. (Photo taken by her! ♥)

Although the artbook illustration doesn't show Hotaru wearing any kanzashi (hair ornaments/accessories), I took a liberty since the back of her head isn't visible, and her hair might seem awfully plain for New Year's without anything. I designed a bow with decorative rope and a single ume blossom, with weeping petals tipped off with tiny bells. It was quite a crappy sketch, but the amazing Sarcasm-Hime of Magpie Creations beautifully brought it to life. I can still hardly believe how gorgeous it turned out!

The accessory I chose to help identify that I'm cosplaying Hotaru at a glance was inspired by a common anime Hotaru image, which I'm 99% certain came from a paper doll book. The concept is clearly based on the eto-hamaya (bottom of linked page), a traditional New Year's good luck talisman said to bring protective power and be on-target with your goals in the new year. The ema plaque attached bears the yearly animal. I commissioned Chokichi/Cosplay Mandy for the miniature, 23 inch long replica of my full-sized Silence Glaive. I then was able to track down a blank ema kit of the right size and used acrylic paints and a black Japanese calligraphy pen to paint a bunny, a misty full moon, and snowy ume branches. The kanji is that of the Shinto shrine where Rei lives, Hikawa Jinja (火川神社), and was written with red and black Japanese calligraphy markers. The seal stamp is an actual seal I had custom carved with the kanji for the nickname I most commonly use on the internet, 水君 (sui kun, which I spell Sui Kune but is pronounced and means the same), in right-to-left reading order.

And last but not least, this traditional ensemble needed zori sandals and a handbag. I bought a gorgeous set from this Rakuten store. The zori thongs and kinchaku (traditional drawstring bag) are both made from very soft pale lavender and pink chirimen silk with watercolor-esque cherry blossoms.

Credit also goes to Spots & Dots Design on Etsy for the absolutely breathtaking crane temari ball.


Due to health issues, obi tying credit goes to the Kabuki Academy's Kimono Workshop for Sakuracon 2013. This obi musubi is called fukura suzume. Please excuse my slightly sloppy dressing!


Photos taken by the Kabuki Academy's Kimono Workshop.


Due to health issues, dressing assistance and obi tying credit goes to the Kabuki Academy's Kimono Workshop for Sakuracon 2013. This obi musubi is called tateya.


View all here!

All 2013 photos taken by Cornstarch of the official Sakuracon Photobooth Private Photoshoot service.