How We Challenge Ourselves

Bibliotheca January 2023 – Challenge: What is the Gift I Should Bring to the World?

How cool is this? I feel like I would have been friends with these women, as we each sew clothes from each other’s cultural backgrounds! ❤

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! This month’s theme for the Bay Area Kei Bibliotheca blog circle is “challenge,” and this post isn’t specifically about fashion or history, but it’s something I wanted to talk about anyway because (like so many things on this blog) it’s a topic I find fascinating. 😀

“What does it mean that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live?”

Mary Oliver

Do you know anyone who has successfully answered this question? I am fortunate enough to know a couple humans who consistently express the conviction of doing exactly what they were both meant to do and desperately want to do, but I certainly haven’t answered it myself. I do, however, find a tremendous amount of meaning in pursuing challenge.

Definitely not me examining their outfits as much as their fighting stance. 😀 Also the article this was sourced from is called Pugilism in Petticoats which might be my new band name.

A lot of the things I do here look like challenges, but it’s more complex than that for me. In many cases, they’re things I don’t really have a lot of doubt in my ability to achieve, as long as I do enough research/spend enough time on them. If I put in the work, I’ll get the outcome I expect. So for me, a challenge is more something that I could put my entire effort into, but still not get the result I’m aiming for. It has factors out of my control that force me to be comfortable with uncertainty – to grow as a person. Or it may be something for which I can’t tell if my efforts will bear fruit – or even matter at all.

I’m not certain if Inami-san is my new best friend or deadly rival, but either way I’m pretty happy that there’s another lolita-wearing martial artist out there in the world! ❤

Fencing with swords is a tremendous challenge for me because there’s another human involved and I can’t predict what they’ll do (outside of certain agreed-upon parameters). So it takes immense courage just to step up to the line, not to mention trying to defend myself/strike my training partner. This blog is another huge challenge – less the projects themselves, but more the act of putting myself out into the world. I do my best with photography, research, sewing, etc – but I have no control over how you, my friendly reader, will react to what I post. Wearing lolita/kimono in public can be a challenge for me too – generally people are friendly, but it still creates a LOT of complex interactions with others that this introvert has to be braced for. 😀 I have to answer the same question over and over for people with a genuine smile because it’s the first time they’ve asked it even if it’s the hundredth time I’ve answered.

So, a working theory of how I perceive challenge, then, is that it’s something that either provides me with an opportunity to grow as a person (such as gaining more capacity for discipline or empathy or the like), or that allows me to empirically test my beliefs about who I am as a person (such as “I believe I can control my fear or anger in such-and-such type of situation – now let’s validate this hypothesis”).

Yuki Yuuna is a Hero is both a depressing and inspiring take on the typical magical girl trope; I highly recommend it!

Ultimately what I want is to be a person who always acts in accordance with my values in any given situation. I want my values to become my habits rather than my fears. Basically, I want to be a hero. ❤ I was having a conversation with my beloved friend Emily about this, and she pointed out that challenges seem to be my way of building or reinforcing these “good” habits. Challenges can be a struggle, but struggle does not equal challenge – if my values aren’t involved, I’m probably just making life harder on myself for no reason.

Speaking of characters who make life harder on themselves…please, Wei Ying & Lan Zhan, just talk to each other for like five minutes. 😀 If you like Chinese magical fantasies you really can’t do much better than this series – I just finished it and it was SO GOOD.

So, perhaps, if you’d like to challenge yourself with me, we can think about these things together:

What brings me joy? What makes my body feel better? My heart? My soul?
What seizes my attention and won’t let go until I pursue it?
In what ways do I wish to grow or change? What “good” habits do I wish to build?
What are my values, and how do I express them?

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”

Check out what other members of Bibliotheca had to say about this month’s topic!
Wear Your Bows Takes on the Challenge of Reviewing Local Tea Spots
Lovelylaceandlies Shares the Challenges of Storing Lolita Fashion
kelp Points out the Challenge of Wardrobe Posts When Your Wardrobe Isn’t Just Full Sets
Dearie Dawn Reveals the Challenges of Wearing J-Fashion

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Edo Period Mirror Restoration: The Polishing (Stage 1)

Project 15, part 2 – Kidaore (Part 1 here)

I love a good “before” pic! ❤

Welcome back to the Edo Period mirror restoration project! This week I finally got brave and began to clean and polish my mirror. It may look like I dive cavalierly into my projects, but the truth is I spend a lot of time hemming and hawing over causing potential further damage to my antique pieces before I start work. I think I’ve mentioned this before with regards to garments, but I do quite a bit of research on things that end up in my possession to be sure that they don’t have significant historical value. If they did, I’d absolutely make sure they got into the right hands – be it a museum, historical society, or private conservator! This is because once a private party does restoration work – especially a private party like me with no formal training – it removes a great deal of said historical value.

There’s some concern that these white and green spots might be “bronze disease.” Hopefully this process of cleaning and oxygen exclusion will prevent further deterioration.

For example, removing broken thread from a busted seam and re-sewing it takes away information about the kind of thread that was used during that time period, and historical techniques of sewing. Or in the case of this mirror, removing the patina and re-polishing it means that any old polishing marks are eliminated (which could have provided a clue to how it was originally cared for/polished). The look and depth of the patina could also allow a trained historian to potentially more accurately date a piece. And so on, and so forth. I use restoring my antique pieces as a way of learning more about them, and also as a way of giving them utility in my life, so I make sure that I’m not destroying something priceless before I get started!

Not very reflective right now! You can just barely see a faint shadow of my finger “reflecting” below the actual shadow of my finger.

Since this mirror (while lovely and interesting) is not in fact priceless (as it happens I paid $30 for it), I got to work on cleaning it! As I was researching how to start, I found this absolutely wild YouTube channel where the producer just polishes all sorts of crazy stuff like fish bones and chunks of coal. He (I’m making a presumption based on the name – Hans) seems to have access to some random antiques as well because he’s posted several videos of him polishing bronze and brass items. His very first video was him polishing the surface of an antique bronze mirror that looks VERY much like a pre-Edo mirror!

The video is not in fact 15 hours long.

His starting point was a bath of vinegar and salt, but most sites I found through additional searching recommend a paste rather than a bath. After rinsing and drying my mirror I made a blend of equal parts all-purpose flour and kosher salt (I don’t keep table salt in the house), and then added vinegar until it was spreadable but not drippy. It smelled like the chips part of fish and chips! I gently rubbed it onto the mirror and right away I could tell it was removing some patina. As it sat, parts of the paste turned green as well.

Strangely, this was not nearly as bad of a sensory experience as cleaning the lace on my Meta dress. It was gritty rather than slimy, which I think was the deciding factor in my brain not absolutely trying to yeet out of my skull in panic.

After an hour, I scrubbed it off and then did the other side. The first thing I noticed was how incredible the difference was just with this! For one you could actually see the bronze. For two, on the mirror side, it became clear that a different metal had been plated over the bronze! I’m going to be honest, I actually kind of panicked for a moment because mercury was really common in old European glassed mirrors for a solid 400 years. “Did I just give myself mercury poisoning?” is not a question I like having to ask myself, and it’s not one that comes up with textiles a lot (although arsenic on the other hand…). And as much as I might identify with the phrase 京の着倒れ、大阪の食い倒れ (Kyo no kidaore, Osaka no kuidaore; “Bankrupted/ruined by clothing in Kyoto; bankrupted/ruined by food in Osaka”), I don’t actually want to be ruined by clothing! 🙂 So I took a hot minute to do some more research.

Well that’s looking a bit better! All the white and green corrosion is gone, and everything is now back to being a lovely bronze color!

Lucky me! Looks like most Japanese mirrors from this period – if they were plated at all – were plated with either silver or nickel. Still, without knowing the exact combinations of metals used in the process, I didn’t want to grind too much on the plating. Additionally, as you can see, it was already wearing quite thin in many places on the mirror. Just like a katana, mirrors only have so many polishings in them before they’re destroyed, and I didn’t fancy destroying what remained of the plating on mine.

Note the face of the mirror is clearly more silvery than the bronze handle, and you can see patches of bronze through the worn spots in the plating.
Look! You can actually see a reflection now!!

So join me next time as I decide on a new plan for finishing the polishing! If you haven’t already, please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post, and I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Edo Period Coat Restoration: The Quilted Lining (Stage 3)

Project 9, part 9 – What Makes a Man Turn Neutral? (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8 here)

Since I started this project, I’ve found a lot more images of extant coats similar to mine! Neat!

Welcome back to the Edo period coat restoration project! Remember this? It’s still a thing! It’s honestly a dead heat between this project and the Victorian undergarments project as to which one will claw its way to the finish line first, but I am still chipping away at both. 😀 (For reference, that is Project #7, this one is Project #9, and my current project is Project #15, lol.)

Pictured: the bird on the kimono in the background trying to fly away from this mess. 😀

What causes a project to stagnate? I imagine it’s different for everyone, of course. For me there are two major factors. One is a lack of resources – maybe I can’t afford something I need, or maybe something I need is coming from overseas and taking its sweet time, or maybe I need assistance from my husband with something and his schedule hasn’t been compatible.

I mentioned before having to ensure no stitches showed on the front of the jacket. Keeping it looking this nice took ages.

The other is, not a lack of interest, precisely, but more a lack of novelty. Doing the same thing over and over is really tough for me. I have to be highly motivated by something beyond the task to continue, and frankly, it’s hard for me to get excited about working on a jacket during the spring and summer months. 😅

This strip is about 3 cm wide – I had two panels that absolutely wouldn’t match up.

Luckily for this project’s potential completion, it’s been a particularly cold and rainy winter so far! So after what’s felt like absolutely MILES of stitching, the quilted lining is at last complete!

I only found this loop by going back and looking at my pictures of the disassembled jacket!

I’m SO happy this is done, I can’t even express it. I made this way harder on myself than it needed to be by not doing a paper trace and pattern of the jacket – I kept having to cut all sorts of weird little strips to fill in sections where the lining pieces didn’t fit together properly. I also very nearly forgot to cut a hole for the little toggle loop on the interior; whoops! But at last, it’s complete, and it’s going to get tremendously easier from here. The next step is covering up all this patchwork nonsense with the silk lining. After that I can add in some facing fabric I’ve chosen to strengthen and protect the hems and sleeves, and reattach the last two toggles. Finally I’ll insert a new collar interfacing and repair that!

Finished interior back…
…and interior front!

It’s been a long road with this, and I’m not to the destination yet. But finishing the quilted lining puts me a LOT closer to the end than I was back in March (of 2022…yikes…haha). So I look forward to keeping the momentum going and maybe even finishing this by the spring! If you haven’t already, please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post, and I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

Subscribe so you never miss a post! New adventures in history and sewing every Tuesday.

Edo Period Mirror Restoration: The Beginning

Project 15, part 1 – The Sword, The Mirror, and the Jewel

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! I’ve got a brand new restoration project to share with you, and it’s not even clothing this time! Gasp! I was wanting a bit of a challenge, and to try something I’d never done before, when one of my senpai pointed out this beautiful Edo period mirror to me at a Kyoto Art & Antiques sale.

“18th-19th Century Japanese” is basically catnip to me. 😀

Oh, does that not look enticing? My bad — here’s the other side:

There we go. 🙂

Isn’t it gorgeous?! Pines, cranes, bamboo, and turtles are all symbols of longevity, health, and vitality – The Met has a similar one in their collection, except theirs adds plum blossom to make a full set of the “three friends of winter” (shochikubai) which are good luck symbols and particularly associated with the New Year. Mine appears to be lacking the plum blossom, making it more focused on long life and health. You can see below my hand and finger for scale on the handle and thickness of the mirror itself:

Mirrors are typically just referred to as “kagami” in Japanese now, but this sort of mirror in the Edo period was known as e-kagami. They were usually made of brass or bronze, and the mirror disc itself was greatly enlarged from previous centuries, possibly due to the increased size and complexity of women’s hair arrangements. The handles were sometimes bound in rattan as you can see in these examples from the Pitt Rivers Collection:

Probably a lot nicer to hold than bare bronze!

However, as you can see from this extant image, they might also be framed in lacquered wood. They typically were meant to sit in a small stand or frame, as well, with the handle either down or off to the side – much like a modern vanity.

Mirror-makers and polishers were held in very high esteem during this period, since the three imperial regalia of Japan are a sword, a jewel, and a mirror! The sword represents strength or valor, the jewel benevolence, and the mirror wisdom. They were historically polished around the New Year – on the 20th of the first month “hatsu kagami” or “first use of the mirror,” samurai women would offer kagami mochi and consume them while opening up their newly polished mirrors. Is this the origin of “kagami biraki” – “opening of the mirrors” that my dojo (along with many others) observes? More research is required!

I’m already a little late on getting this done for the New Year (maybe the Lunar one, if I hustle!), but I do look forward to polishing my mirror and crafting a new stand to hold it! (Luckily, my husband is a woodworker and can offer some assistance with the last part…) If you haven’t already, please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post, and I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

Subscribe so you never miss a post! New adventures in history and sewing every Tuesday.

One Little Word: Illuminate

One Little Word 2023: Where There Is Light

Ahhh, I remember what it was like being warm…it’s been in the 20s for like 2 weeks now here! Brr!

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing and Happy New Year 2023! I don’t really do “resolutions,” per se, but since 2011 I’ve taken part, more or less, in a project started by scrapbooker Ali Edwards called “One Little Word.

Here’s a retrospective of some of Ali’s albums to get an idea of what the scrapbooking project is like.

In 2006 Ali began the tradition of choosing one word for herself each January – a word she could focus on + get curious about as she went about her daily life over the course of a year. Her words have included play, peace, vitality, nurture, story, light, up, open, thrive, give, whole, connect, space, habit, less, heart, pause, and joy (2023). Each word has become an individual thread that weaves together stories of her life. They’ve been imbedded into who she is + into who she is becoming. They’ve helped her to breathe deeper, to see clearer, to embrace mistakes, and to grow.

Ali Edwards –

I don’t scrapbook anymore, and I typically find that other peoples’ writing prompts don’t work well for me, so I haven’t participated in her workshop for many years. But I do still pick a word every year to be my guiding star, as it were, and I thought you might enjoy hearing a bit about how I use it to inform my goals for the coming year!

Goal #1: more hummingbirds. 😀 (I just bought 2 more feeders, so I’m well on my way!)

“Wait a minute,” I hear you saying. “You just said you don’t do resolutions – so what’s all this about goals?” Here, someone else explained it exactly how I would have, so I’ll just quote her:

A resolution is a statement of what you want to change. For example, saving money. A goal is a statement of what you want to achieve; the steps you need to take to achieve it; and when you want to achieve it by. For example, saving 10 percent of each paycheck for the next six months, so you can take a family vacation in August.

Goals take longer to frame because they involve planning. But, this preparation provides you with a clear direction to follow to reach your desired outcome. By rephrasing your New Year’s resolutions to goals, you make them stronger and more likely to be achieved.

Stacy McCall

Anyone who’s talked to me for more than a few minutes knows how goal-oriented I am. 🙂 Also, I find vague statements about what I’d maybe like to do someday to be very demotivating since I need a plan to execute and a deadline to respect in order to accomplish just about any task. It’s not that I don’t have anything I want to change, but I’m already working on all those things. So for me it’s more like “keep working on these things I’m already doing and don’t lose sight of my goals.” 😀 I really love using the One Little Word framework for this because it gives all my goals a connected purpose.

Lovers from a fourteenth-century edition of Le Roman de la Rose, BNF MS Français 1572, f. 3r.

Here’s what I mean! My word for this year is “illuminate.” I actually picked a similar word (“shine”) in 2013 – the difference in my intention is that shine was about personal achievement, whereas illuminate is that and much more. It’s about putting a spotlight on things in my life and examining them more fully (externally imposed narratives! relationships!), about learning more about particular topics (sewing! Iaido! Japanese!), and about bringing more beauty and color to my life. (Think Illuminated manuscripts!) And it’s about turning that light outward as well, and thinking about how I can be a beacon for others.

Obviously, with more strawberries! My incredible friend Puff drew this picture of me and it makes me so happy every time I look at it! ❤

I won’t go into every one of my goals here (and some of them are personal), but here are some that I look forward to illuminating in 2023!

  • Obviously, keep posting here every week! I learn SO much from doing these projects, and I hope you are also illuminated by them! ❤ This year I want to take on some bigger challenges including sewing a yukata and restoring my Victorian dress (more on this later in the month!).
  • Attend all my local Iaido seminars and at least one “away” seminar. Of course I love my time at my home dojo! However, getting different perspectives and becoming part of the wider Iaido community is a way that I can shine a light on my practice and improve it even more.
  • Take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N4) at the end of the year. I passed the N5 a few years ago, and I’d really like to push myself to learn more grammar and improve my listening and speaking skills. As you can see, learning/becoming illuminated is a huge theme for me. 🙂
  • Dress in a way that makes my heart sing at least once a week. It brings light into the world – not to mention my life – to dress fabulously! It’s very easy to fall into the habit of wearing athleisure all day because it’s easier to do care tasks/exercise in, but I’m so much happier when I dress up! And it’s easy to see how happy it makes other people too – I always get stopped when I’m out and about by smiling people who are delighted to see something gorgeous and different. ❤
VNV Nation is still one of my favorite bands of all time. I’ve seen them at least seven times in concert! ❤

I really hope I can illuminate both my life, and the lives of all of you in 2023! If you want to pick a word for yourself for the year, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. And if you enjoyed reading this please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post — I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

Subscribe so you never miss a post! New adventures in history and sewing every Tuesday.

Obiage: The Reveal

Project 14, part 2 – Please Pay Me in Obiage (Part 1 here)

Tag yourself! I’m girl in the center in purple looking like I have other things to do. 😀 (Picture taken around 100 years ago.)

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! Having finished sewing my obiage, this week I wanted to show them off a bit! Obiage are a relatively recent addition to the kimono corpus – dating from 1823, to be exact. At that time in Tokyo, there was an opening celebration for the new Taikobashi – Drum Bridge – and several geisha attending the event tied their obi in this new style for the occasion. Obiage (along with obimakura – the supporting pillows – and obijime – the cord that ties around and secures the obi) were invented to go along with this new musubi! (Musubi literally means knot, but in many cases the obi itself isn’t knotted – rather, it’s supported in place by the accessories.) As the obimakura aren’t particularly stylish, the obiage is wrapped around it to conceal both the pillow and its ties, and also to provide a pop of color above the obi.

I’m going to show off some pretty pictures while I take you on a walk through historical economics. Here you can see a “flatsuke” (flat-laid kimono outfit) with the dark purple obiage!

They started showing up in woodblock prints from 1877 or so, and commercial advertisements can be seen in old newspapers starting around 1907. The market price back then was about 1.50 yen. What does that equate to today? I’m so glad you asked. 😀

Same kimono, but with the lavender obiage, and a different obi and obiime! The first look with this kimono is a bit more formal, whereas this one is more casual and summery.

Ok, buckle up because currency equivalencies get crazy. In the early 1900s, one yen was worth approximately 50 US cents on the foreign exchange. The starting monthly salary for an elementary school teacher was about 8 yen, and a carpenter could earn up to 20 yen a month. Takeout curry rice cost about 6 sen, or .06 yen, but an American bicycle could cost as much as 250 yen – far more than that elementary school teacher made in a year! For an idea of what that 50 cents could buy you at the same time in America; a man’s dress shirt was about $1, and a pound of coffee was approximately 35 cents. So an obiage wasn’t cheap – but it wasn’t out of reach of that school teacher either.

Back to the green fukuro obi, but this time with my lavender edokomon and the white obiage. This is more formal than the yagasuri look with this obi because of the kimono – I might wear this as a guest to tea, for example.

It’s a little trickier for me to figure out exactly what that amount is in current yen and dollars because of the effects of WWII – there’s no historical value of the yen during that time, and inflation calculators pick up again in 1956. $1 in 1956 is approximately equivalent to $11 today, and ¥1 in 1956 is roughly ¥6 in 2022. $1 in 2022 is, at the time of writing, exchanging for about ¥140 – it was even more unfavorable for the yen a couple of months ago when it was upwards of ¥170 to the dollar! I shop secondhand for many of my kimono accessories, but a new silk obiage from Mamechiyo Modern currently retails for ¥16,500, or about $118.

And a final look; this one is also more formal than the yagasuri coordinate with this obi, but less formal than the one with the green obi. The dark greens give me a cozy feel; maybe I would wear this on an outing with friends.

An elementary school teacher in my neck of the woods makes, on average, $67k/year, or about $5500/month. They could, then, in other words, afford to buy 45 obiage every month (assuming they bought nothing else, lol). Their compatriot in Tokyo makes an average of ¥7,547,511/year (~$54k/year), or about ¥629,000/month (~$4500/month), and thus can only afford approximately 39 obiage monthly. However, this is still much better than their Meiji-era comrade, who could only buy 5 obiage a month with a little left over for curry rice. 🙂

Finn: photogenic, or the MOST photogenic?? ❤

Another wrinkle to take into consideration, however, is that I don’t know the relative value of the Meiji-era obiage pricing. I’ve taken Mamechiyo’s obiage as a midpoint for modern pricing, but a quick search on Rakuten reveals that obiage range from ¥660 for solid-color polyester to ¥25,300 (~$4.50-$182). On Yahoo Japan Auctions the range is even wider – 1 yen to ¥36,500 (~less than a cent to $262). So if you’re looking at the highest end, a PNW schoolteacher can only buy about 20 obiage a month, and a Tokyoite is buying 17.

I’m so grateful to Sparrow-Sensei for their excellent lessons! My kitsuke has greatly improved!

What should your takeaway be, other than that I absolutely consider “obiage per month” a valid measure of salary and purchasing power? Japanese sources I’ve looked at use a conversion of anywhere from Meiji ¥1 = Reiwa ¥3,800 to Meiji ¥1 = Reiwa ¥20,000. The low end of the scale simply compares prices, but the high end looks at purchasing power as I have done (taking into account that lives, jobs, and necessities vary considerably between the centuries). So if you think about the higher end of the scale, that comes out to an almost perfect equivalency with today’s more luxurious obiage pricing – something that would be (or would have been) a treat, but not out of reach of an elementary school teacher.

This obi is not the easiest to tie, but I just LOVE it! ❤

I don’t teach elementary school, although several of my friends do, so I guess I’ll have to ask them how many obiage they buy every month! 😀 I have 17 obiage including these, and I’ve been seriously wearing kimono for a couple of years, so that’s a little less than an obiage a month. I guess I need to work on that! 🙂

This manga is super cute! It’s “Kimono-chan and Lolita-chan” by Okano Kuko. This mangaka really understands kimono and lolita fashion!

I hope you’ve enjoyed your impromptu lecture on historical economics, and also hope you’ve enjoyed getting to see my new obiage in action! I actually loved the fabric that I made them out of so much that I have another project featuring it in the works, so look forward to that as well as other history and fashion madness next time here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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My New Favorite Brand: Hoshibako Works (Star Box Design/星箱设计)

Bibliotheca December 2022 – Favorite Things: Not Just Strawberries; Also Victorian Maidens.

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! This month’s theme for the Bay Area Kei Bibliotheca blog circle is “favorite things,” and you absolutely cannot stop me from talking about strab…oh wait, that was last month. 😀 Ok, fine. I’ll take a break from strawberries for a minute, just so I can talk about my new favorite brand Hoshibako Works.

Lily in the Wind Cocktail Hat by Hoshibako Works. I bought this hat recently and adore it!

Hoshibako Works is a Chinese lolita fashion brand that opened their online shop on Taobao on July 30, 2017. Their aesthetic vision, taken from their official Japanese site, is: “A jewel box full of stardust. Sparkling things, wonderful things, glittering and shining talents, a small universe packed tightly with things that take shape.” Between 2017 and 2020, as far as I can tell, the designer only created one piece of clothing and a purse.

On January 19, 2020, they posted on Weibo that during that time they had been going to school, and found that managing a brand as well as studying was too much for them. After graduating and thinking things over, they found a like-minded business partner in Japan and decided to restart their brand because it was what they truly wanted to do! That business partner was Shigure-san, who is now a product planner as well as hat designer. Shigure-san previously sold hats at Japanese indie events like Artism.

One of the few pictures I could find of Shigure-san, vending at Artism on March 17, 2019.

Shigure-san had been active as a lolita designer since 2018, and opened their online store (K Shironohosh) in 2019. According to their Twitter they were officially working with Hoshibako Works as of December 4, 2020, but presumably they were collaborating and discussing the relationship prior to that!

Sound Box 2-Way Bag by Hoshibako Works

The first product in the revived brand of Hoshibako Works was the purse they had designed prior to hiatus, a cute purse styled like a vintage radio. “The design concept is an American retro-style radio + a girl who travels with music before listening to the Walkman!” It’s still available from them today in a variety of colors. ❤ In May of the same year, despite the pandemic, they also released an adorable strawberry hat called Gégé Berry (a new version is still being produced as well). The name is SUPER cute in Chinese – 格格莓莓. Gégé uses a character I’m familiar with in Japanese meaning “rank,” – in Chinese it refers to an unmarried daughter (and specifically an Imperial Princess of the Manchu dynasty). The second word, méi méi, is strawberry in Japanese (in which it would be ichigo); it seems that it can be a little more generic in Chinese, so you might translate the name of the hat as Maiden Berry or Princess Berry in English! And you believed me when I said I wouldn’t talk about strawberries today… 😀

The adorably strawberried hat in question!

The brand stuck with mostly hats and brooches for a couple of months (probably because Shigure-san already had a following for their hat business), but in August of 2020 Hoshibako Works began to work on producing clothing, and reopened their Taobao shop. They must have been a hit because by September they had announced a collaboration with popular Japanese brand Ozz On (with whom they still regularly collaborate) and their Summer Manor clothing line released that month as well. And in December of 2020, their Japanese branch opened up! The store in Shinjuku opened not long after – January 16, 2021. Many lolita stores in Japan operate as “select shops” – in other words, rather than selling a single brand the operator “selects” a variety of items that they believe align with their theme to sell from the storefront. Alpstola, founded by a former Atelier Boz designer, is a Japanese brand that does this as well. So while Hoshibako’s Taobao online storefront sells purely Hoshibako products, the Japanese storefront and site also carry a variety of consignment goods that match the Hoshibako aesthetic.

They’re still collaborating with Ozz On for some SUPER cute Qi Lolita looks!

Speaking of their aesthetic, it’s one of the many reasons I love this brand. They have some purely fun and sweet offerings like their pie hats, and some more Gothic accessories like their recent Rouge & Noir release, but generally their style seems to fall into what I might, if pressed, call Victorian Cottagecore or possibly Haunted Doll. It’s full of lace, flowers, and poetry – here’s the release notes for a hat that they produced in early 2021:

You travel through the wilderness of my heart as easily as sunlight through crystal. The classic hat shape with retro printed pink adds a gentle atmosphere. It is an elegant literary girl who writes unsent letters in spring.

Pictured: how I wish I spent all my free time. ❤

They definitely embraced an antique doll impression with their Lilianne Sisters release in September of 2021; marking a dip into old-school lolita aesthetics with lots of black and white combinations, peeking bloomers, and lacy bonnets. They appeared that year at Comiday and The AIG International Animation Game Mutual Entertainment Expo (doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it?) in promotion of that release as well. They continue to release new clothes and accessories regularly – this autumn they even produced a series of adorable frilly knit cardigans!

Another feature I really love about Hoshibako Works is their inclusive sizing – their Seven Color Waltz Frilled Blouse goes up to a 160 cm bust! They also make efforts to show their clothes on smaller girls – they featured a try-on series of images for Lilianne Sisters on their Weibo account to give people who might be more petite an idea of how the dress would look on them since it featured longer skirts than usual. And they even make shoes up to size 42 CN (my size)!! How could I not adore them?

I have this blouse in white and was absolutely blown away. It’s SO comfortable and looks just incredible!

They also don’t skimp on the details. They mostly work in synthetic fabrics, but they’re dense, lush weaves and the clothes are very well-constructed with tons of passementerie. Luxurious lace, velvet ribbon accents, fabric-covered buttons, pearls, embroidery, fake flowers, and bows are all par for the course with Hoshibako Works’ clothes and accessories, and the construction is excellent. They also produce clothes in colors that can be difficult to find in lolita fashion such as deep purple, making them a fabulous option for lolitas seeking accessories to match dresses in eccentric colorways!

Seriously considering this beauty!

Are you in love now too? Here are some reputable retailers from which you can purchase Hoshibako Works’ clothing and accessories:

Harajuku Hearts in San Francisco – authorized US-based reseller – they sell many other Chinese and Japanese brands as well. Easiest to order from if you’re in the US, but there’s a markup and the stock is very limited.
Atelier Pierrot in Harajuku, Tokyo – authorized Japan-based reseller – they sell many other Japanese and Chinese brands as well. You can order directly from them if you’re not in Japan through their web shop – just use code OVERSEAS. Fairly easy to order from (they have lovely English-speaking staff). There’s a markup over the base price.
Hoshibako Works in Tokyo – official Japanese online store – they also sell some other Chinese and Japanese indie brands on consignment. If you’re not in Japan, you’ll need to use a proxy service such as Zen Market. If you’re comfortable with proxies it’s easy to order from them. There is a markup over the base price.
Hoshibako Works in China – official Chinese online store through Taobao. If you’re not in China, you’ll need to use a proxy service such as Spreenow. Can be a little intimidating to order from, but isn’t too bad with a proxy! Cheapest price as this is their flagship store.

I have the blouse from this series (Bears Bakery) coming my way in the black x white colorway! I can hardly wait. ❤

Want to just follow them on social media for their gorgeous aesthetic or to keep up on new releases? You can use Google Translate or other translation programs to read through these, or just check out the pretty pictures!

Official Account on Weibo – Chinese
Shigure-san’s Weibo account – Chinese
Official Account on Twitter – Japanese
Shigure-san’s Twitter Account – Japanese
Official Account on Instagram – Japanese
Official Account on Facebook – Japanese

A recent coordinate of mine featuring the Seven Colors Waltz Blouse by Hoshibako! I could have worn it forever…

I hope you enjoyed getting to learn a little bit about my new favorite brand, Hoshibako Works! If you did, please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post, and I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

Check out what other members of Bibliotheca had to say about this month’s topic!
Cupcakes and Unicorns Looks to the Future of Favorite Brands She’ll One Day Own
Kelp Gets Sentimental with Her (and my!) Favorite Genre of Music
Lovelylaceandlies Shares Her Favorite Moments of 2022
Wear Your Bows Wears a Lot of Really Cute Bows

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Obiage: The Beginning and Sewing

Project 14, part 1 – Fried Obi


Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! A couple of weeks ago, I was shopping for fabric with my Aunt Sue at an adorable quilt shop, and I ran across some fabric from Moda Fabrics that I went absolutely feral for. It’s their “Wild Ivy” print series, and it has the most delicious combinations of creams, greens, purples, and lavenders. I really don’t like buying fabric without a project in mind…but I also desperately needed this loveliness in my life. Then I remembered that I could use some more obiage — especially a dark purple one (which has proved troublesome to find on the secondhand market)! With that, I was able to pick up each of my favorites with a clear conscience, and get to sewing!

Image from Wikimedia Commons

An obiage (sometimes called an “obi sash”) is a piece of cloth used to cover the obi makura (“obi pillow”) that holds up certain types of taiko musubi – or “drum knots” – such as otaiko and nijuudaiko. The obiage covers the makura from behind, and in front it creates a little decorative demarcation zone between the obi and the kimono. Fun fact – “age” (like, karaage) can also mean “fried,” so often times Google Translate will gloss obiage as “fried obi” when you’re shopping on Japanese sites. 😀 Typically they’re silk, but because the “wrong” side of the fabric and the edges aren’t ever seen, I figured there was no reason I couldn’t do it in cotton!

Somehow these are both a half yard. Cs get degrees, I guess…

Doing the math in my head, I thought a half-yard of each would be enough if I cut it in half and joined the two strips in the middle, but it turned out I wasn’t quite correct, and had to order another half-yard of each from Etsy. Oops! 🙂 Because the fabric was only 45″ wide, I didn’t want to have to buy several yards to get enough length. The center is always going to be hidden under my obi anyway, so it doesn’t matter if there’s a seam there.

Cutting mats with measurements are sent by the gods.

After washing and hot air drying the fabric (to ensure there wouldn’t be any possible dye transfer to my kimono), I began the task of cutting out my strips! Measuring against one of my existing obiage, and allowing for a half-inch seam allowance on each side (due to French seams), I determined I needed each strip to be 35″ long and 13″ wide.

My extremely scientific measurements.

When it came to the width, I cut a narrow strip off of one side to remove the frayed edges, then a wider strip off the other side. This gave me enough fabric to potentially make haneri (collar covers) at some point. Truthfully I find switching out collars to be extremely annoying, so I didn’t want to do sewing for something I won’t use right now. But it’s nice to have it available for the future!

I love my new pins! They’re so much thinner and sharper than my old ones; they hold things much better and don’t do any damage!

I did a French seam in the center to enclose the edges, and then pinned and sewed the rolled seams on the short ends. After pressing everything flat, I pinned and sewed the rolled seams on the long ends!

Pictured: overkill.

Finally, after pressing all the edges once more, I sewed an extra line of stitching to secure the flap down the middle so it wouldn’t get rumpled. Probably overkill, but it looks so much neater this way! I did nearly run out of purple thread during this project even though I only used it on two of the obiage. Fortunately I had just enough…but I’ll definitely need more before too long!


Then, it was rinse and repeat to make the other three! It was really quite easy work, just a bit finicky to ensure that my rolled edges didn’t get wonky and that everything lined up nicely. I’m SO happy with these; I definitely foresee myself making more obiage in the future to use up fabric from my stash and give myself more fun options when wearing kimono. So join me again next time when I talk a tiny bit about the history of obiage and show off how these look when worn here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Velveteen JSKs Restoration: The Reveal

Project 13, part 6 – Soft Focus (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 here)

“A Little Princess” is still one of my favorite stories. ❤

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! This week I was able to get the photoshoot done for the two velveteen dresses so you can see how lovely they look! I wanted to give the impression of the older style of photoshoots from the late ’90s/early 2000s in Japan, so I set the focus to be a little softer than usual! I hope you like the effect. ❤

Headdress: handmade, wig: Maple, blouse: Miss Point, necklace: BtSSB, dress: Metamorphose, stockings: Angelic Pretty, shoes: American Duchess.

I didn’t make a blog post out of it, but the blouse I’m wearing for these shots was actually a little mini-project! It’s a Chinese brand called Miss Point, and when I saw their modeled images there were little bows down both sleeves. However, the listing mentioned that the bows didn’t come with the blouse. I thought “Well, I can do that!” and bought it anyway…then promptly spent a year not adding the bows. I finally got around to doing it over the last couple of weeks, and it really elevates the fanciness of the blouse!

Ashleigh: “What’s over there?”
“…surprise! It’s kisses!” ❤

My vision for the Velveteen Princess JSK, as you can see, was definitely a royal look! When it came time for the Velveteen Sundress JSK, I wanted to go with a slightly edgier, old-school lolita inspired look.

Headdress: Summertales Boutique, wig: Maple, blouse: MAM, necklace: Neant Glass, dress: Metamorphose, stockings: Alice and the Pirates, shoes: Antaina.

Striped stockings were SOOOOOOOOO popular amongst lolitas in Japan when when this dress was originally released – here’s another model photo from Meta showing this style:

I’m incredibly happy with how both of my dresses turned out! They’re both incredibly comfortable as well as being cozy and great for winter wear. Almost all of the dresses in my collection have prints, as well, so I also really like having a couple of solid-color options in my wardrobe to mix it up! I hope you’ve enjoyed going on this restoration journey with me, and I look forward to seeing you next week for more fashion, history, and crafts here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Happy 100 Posts, 昔のSewing!

The problem with greyhounds is it doesn’t matter how fancifully I’m dressed. They always steal the show! LOL.

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! Friends, I can hardly believe it, but this is the 100th post here on the blog. Your comments, likes, and support have made this a beautiful community of fashion and history enthusiasts, and I can’t wait to keep sewing and crafting with you for at least another hundred posts (and maybe some more online presentations as well)! ❤

If you haven’t watched my Gramarye: Afterlife presentation yet, it’s now on YouTube for your enjoyment! ❤

So what kind of things can you expect to see coming up? As always, I’ve got a lot of projects in the works! An Edo-period mirror and a Victorian era dress to restore, some truly fabulous fabric to make into obiage, and of course my Victorian undergarments and Edo coat to wrap up. I wrote an article for a magazine that should be releasing by the end of this year, as well — I look forward to sharing more on that once it’s out! — and I’ve purchased some really unusual books that deserve reviews as well.

So thank you again from the bottom of my heart for joining me on the journey thus far, and I hope to see you back every Tuesday in the future here at Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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