White and Blue Cherry Blossom Prom Gown

Click for larger version (PNG); click for PDF version. Click here for the list of dolls.

So it is harder than a person might think, trying to both draw a paperdoll outfit every day and keep studying Japanese at the same time. The thing is, neither one is just about doing the work itself, whether that work is drawing little flowers on a skirt or writing out row after row of kanji. To really do well at either of them, I have to be open to associated experiences. That is, when I’m studying Japanese, it means I listen to Japanese stories on my iPod while washing dishes, I read books about the modernization of Japan, the yakuza, and marriage and alliances in traditional families, I cook rice and miso soup, I even play video games in Japanese (until I get impatient, skim screens and screens of dialogue, then can’t quite tell exactly what’s going on anymore). If I’m paperdolling, I listen to audiobooks instead, I watch more movies and read more books in English, I take more time to notice how things fit together and how colors and textures around me work, I play around with my Prismacolors. Basically, I try to create as many opportunities as I can to link my life to my hobby, thinking “How can this make my Japanese better?” or “How can I can turn this into a paperdoll blog entry?” In short, I get obsessive. I do my best work in the grip of an obsession, but there are disadvantages too, like six-month paperdoll page vacations. Trying to indulge two obsessions at once? It’s kind of like… crossing the streams. Could be bad.

Ah, well, I’m coping (doesn’t hurt that my work schedule’s been light this month) and I’ve been thinking of ways to combine the two. Of course everyone suggested I draw Japanese clothes last time I brought this up, but actually, I don’t know much about Japanese clothes! Now, I draw things I don’t know much about all the time. I don’t mind drawing things like this robe à la polonaise or this 1920s dress on the strength of a couple days’ worth of research and a bunch of reference images, and if the colors are wrong, the hemline a few inches high or the shoes anachronistic, I don’t lose a lot of sleep over it. I’m not a historian, I just like learning new things and drawing something pretty. But I know enough about traditional Japanese clothes and more recent trends to feel like I can’t quite fake it in the same way, because it would seriously annoy me to get the details wrong. I don’t know how to choose an obi to go with a kimono, what impressions various colors and patterns give, and most of the time I’m lucky if I remember that the front folds left over right (because the other way around is how you dress a corpse). Basically, I can kind of make an informed guess about what looks right for a Regency gown, but I’m lost with a kimono. So, of course, the answer is to learn the details; I’m working on that but it’ll take me a while. Incidentally, if anyone can point me to any good online resources (especially ones with lots and lots of pictures) I’d appreciate it! I got a nice new book about kimono, too, so that holds promise…

I’m a little late for cherry blossom season, but getting back into paperdolling reminds me of something some of my Japanese friends mentioned, which is that spring is seen as a time to start new projects and things like that. I never seem to start new projects, though, I just go back to my paperdolls. Well, that’s OK though! Anyways, I don’t know if this is the kind of thing kids are wearing to prom these days (off my lawn, etc.) but that’s kind of how it looked to me when I was done with it.