I started taking lessons on how to put on a kimono with the goal of being able to put it on properly by myself. There are various levels I can try to achieve, but I'm focusing on the simplest obi tie that will take months to learn, and I'm not even planning on delving into the dos and don'ts for each season (color, cloth make, obi match etc).
First lesson was going over all the stuff we need, and how to properly fold kimono back for storage. My amazing mom handed off a lot of things to me this past summer, and now I know what a valuable gift it is. I have what is needed but I've learned from my kimono teacher that very recent kimono tools make it easier, so I'm about to ask my mom to send me that stuff that utilizes velcro, stretchy bands, and other hidden tricks.
Now, I can't imagine back in the day putting on formal kimono by oneself without the modern shortcuts. I simply never knew the layers and layers involved in getting properly dressed. I've worn kimono before but was either helped by someone, or utterly misdressed myself.
Luckily I have a fellow student (another mama at Rosa Parks Elementary, Ikuko-san) to share laughter at how one ideally needs to have amazing arm strength and flexibility to put oneself in a kimono, mainly to tie the obi. If assisted it's much easier.
By the end of today's lesson, Ikuko-san and I were rather exhausted. We couldn't fathom how women then went on to a formal tea ceremony that lasts for hours, and if in the city, requires riding a train, but you can't sit back because of the beautiful obi you sweated over to get right and don't want to smush. And we're doing the casual "living in America" version - meaning we can break rules.
I'm thrilled at the depth there is to learn. And so grateful to my mom who shared this, and was happy to hand over her gems to me. I hope if I can actually learn the rules, and my kids see me dress and wear it out more often (which is my goal), then somewhere, later, they will feel a connection.
I do feel very happy feeling snug in a kimono, a bit like a corset.