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Kyoto’s Kaleidoscopic Kimono Culture (and where to get one) 👘

kimono-culture-in-kyotos

 Kyoto is the center of Kimono culture in Japan. Everywhere you look, both Japanese and international tourists can be seen parading proudly around the former ancient capitol in a variety of colourful Kimonos on a daily basis. But what is a Kimono, why is the traditional dress so popular in Kyoto, and where can you get one from?


kimono-culture


WHAT IS A KIMONO?

A Kimono is a loose, ankle length, T shaped robe made from one bolt of fabric, cut into 6 rectangular panels. Traditionally worn for formal occasions in Japan, the word Kimono directly translates into “Thing to Wear” in Japanese language.

Kimono is normally worn together with juban (Kimono underwear), a koshi himo belt, datejime sash and a broad decorative belt called a Obi, as this prevents to kimono from opening up and trailing on the floor.

Wearing a Kimono properly can be a complicated task and often requires assistance, especially for a beginners or if you are wearing a ceremonial kimono for a special event. The final look is then completed with white tabi socks and geta shoes. Watch the video below to see what this process looks like in super speed. Continue Reading

Countries Hmong Traditional Dress Traditional Dress & Textiles Traditional Textiles Tribes Vietnam

Ha Giang Vietnam: Motorbikes, Minorities & Mountains

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A weekend adventure motor biking around the mountainous province of Ha Giang Vietnam. 1000 metres above sea level Ha Giang boarders the southern Yunnan province of China. At last count over 60% of Vietnams hill tribe minorities call Ha Giang home, making it a culturally diverse and naturally beautiful destination to explore. There I met with local men and women on the markets and at their homes whom took great pleasure and pride in adorning me with their costumes and customs. Reading time 13 mins or scroll down to the bottom for my travel tips and advice on Ha Giang.

“HA GIANG”, “HA GIANG” I heard the guy yelling in my direction. I woke up to realise that there was only myself, the driver and bag boy left on the coach. I got down from my bunk bed, gathered my belongings and stepped out onto a flood lit derelict construction site. Wicked!! I sarcastically thought to myself, time to jump into action and figure out what to do next. It’s 4:30am. I hear sounds of chattering over the wall ahead and see an exit leading out onto a road. Looking like a rabbit in the headlights, I sense the local men sat outside the station are laughing at my expense. I hear a guy wolf whistle which instantly puts me on tenterhooks,  Vietnamese men don’t normally do that, I thought. Another “wit whooo” comes my way and I’m feeling really uneasy. I look left and right for my friend Esteban, “Wit whooooo…..DONNA!” I breathe a sigh of relief, it was him all along.

Ha Giang City is No Sapa
I spend my first day in Ha Giang City just chilling out with some friends who are living there teaching English. They were working all weekend and I was hesitant to travel up into the mountains on my own. For one I don’t think I would get that far and I felt a bit paranoid about getting lost or in an accident. As a solo female traveller and don’t want to take unnecessary risks. I read online and my friends confirm that there is a guy in town that offers motorbike tours, normally for 3 or 4 days. So I set off to convince Jonny Nam Tran to take a day out of his normal adventurous schedule to chaperone/babysit me for a day. As I wondered around I realize Ha Giang City is nothing like Sapa. In Sapa everyone is a “Del Boy“. You can’t go to the toilet without someone asking you if you want to do a homestay, go on a trek or buy a bracelet, bag or blanket. Elaborately dressed Hmong and Dao women with children strapped to their backs line the streets with handmade ethnic textiles, crafts and jewellery.  Coaches, buses and motorbikes wizz through the busy streets as tourists sip on their lattes in the French cafes overlooking the chaos. It’s full on, but at least you know you’re in the right place. Ha Giang is not set up for tourism at all, I only saw a couple of very basic hotels, cafes and convenience stores. Getting around to see the sights would not to be that easy without Jonny. No one is trying to sell me anything, no one gives a crap that I am there, and from what I can tell there is nothing to do apart from make my plans to head for the hills.

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Countries Dao Traditional Dress Traditional Dress & Textiles Traditional Textiles Tribes Vietnam

Homestay in Sapa with the Red Dao

red dao hill tribe women vietnam

Looking for a great Sapa homestay experience? I have been to Sa Pa on 4 occasions and have spent many nights at Red Dao homes enjoying their cheery and welcoming hospitality. It is a great hands on opportunity to learn about hill tribe culture, customs and the traditional dress which they are so famously recognisable for.

But is a Sapa Homestay for you? Read on to hear my experience and look at the checklist below to help you make the most of you time in North Vietnam!

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Countries Hmong Traditional Dress Traditional Dress & Textiles Traditional Textiles Tribes Vietnam

Black Hmong Textiles in Sapa

hmong textile workshop sapa

 In January 2014 I took a day trip from Sapa city to visit a secluded Black Hmong village where a 90 year old lady and her family are still handcrafting traditional clothes today. Made almost entirely from the natural landscape they live amongst, here I was able to participate in textiles workshops on traditional bees wax batik, natural dying from indigo plants and how to cultivate hemp fibre for fashion. 

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