Japanese Tunics and Muumuus

Remember the Japanese tunic patterns from the Nani Iro website? I finally decided to make this tunic over the weekend. Japanese patterns are supposed to run small, right? Well, this one did not. Instead I’ve created what seems to be a “Muumuu”.

In case you don’t know, a muumuu is a dress of Hawaiian origin that hangs from the shoulder, usually featuring large printed flowers. It is also a hiding place for midriff bulge and high BMIs and exceedingly common in a country where everything is super-sized. It looks like a dress my 98 year old Oma used to wear around… yes, you guessed it… the house. And ONLY around the house. Here, they are also called dusters. Why someone would want to wear something called a duster is beyond me, even if it features a Peter Pan Collar.

Now I have my own little muumuu (sans flowers) hanging downstairs and it needs help. Lots and lots of help, like pleats and belts and the like. Right now I’d only wear it to be wheeled into an operating room, and hopefully there’s no need for that in the near future. The problem is once that thought popped into my head, it’s now sitting there and impossible to get rid off. Look again at that top image…

I should have known better. Japanese tunics are not for me and here’s the reason: place a shapeless garment on my 5.2″ frame and I immediately look like a hobbit. I envy women who can wear tunics over jeans and look good. I’m not one of them.

Maybe if I modified the pattern and use some black linen (how creative!), it’ll look better. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fabric (it’s actually striped in pale green and blue) and was so enamored with the project that I re-did a sleeve three times until I could let go. It’s not the fabric, it’s just that the whole look¬† is not for me. But, or course, I had to try.

I think double layer jersey suits me better. Alabama Chanin posted this interesting dress made with a pattern by Vena Cava available at Voguepatterns. I’m not sure about the ruched part in front, but love that the dress has pockets and little cap sleeves. It’s a great idea to sew more formal dresses and jackets using embellished jersey. This way, the garment fits properly, is comfortable and there’s plenty of stretch.

Which look do you like better? Tunics (the proper fitted, not the muumuu kind), or form-fitted stretchy clothes?

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13 Responses to “Japanese Tunics and Muumuus”

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  1. Catherine says:

    So I wish I could do a video of downtown Shizuoka where I live and show you how many people wear dusters (aka Muumuus). Yes, it’s strange and what makes it more strange is that it’s fashionable and not only that, is that it’s somewhat endearing and cute. Like… look at me, I have a kid, I make homemade pickles, I shop at Muji and do it all. It’s seriously adorable. With a 5’2″ frame, you’re golden… during winter, pair it with tights, some ballet slippers, a sweater of sorts and a belt. And if you are feeling daring add a turtleneck under it. It’s insanely cute (if you aren’t tall… hence why I’ve tried and failed at this look). By the way, no one here wears them with jeans unless they are jean legging but even that is a bit uncommon here.

    Either way, I’m all for the dress you’ve shone at the end. I bought a Max and Cleo dress a few years back almost the same style and it is amazingly comfortable. Somehow it always seems to look good too (style wise and fit) even when I gained a few pounds since moving here.

  2. Maria says:

    I must share that I like both dresses the same. The first one I like quite a bit actually, because it is quite versatile. I am also 5’2″ and I tend to wear tunics because I can wear them with a belt and I have a dress with high boots in the winter or add a soft underskirt and you have a totally new look.

    If the one you made feels quite a bit like a muummu, the take it in on the sides – re-shape it a bit.

    The dress at the end is very nice…not the busyness in the front, but the caps sleeves are very cute.


  3. alex says:

    well… it looks cute on the hanger =) maybe you can take in the sides a little, or just pair it with a belt like you said. this dress definitely has potential. i do like tunics, but over all i think i prefer nice think jersey, something with stretch but enough form to smooth out a bump here or there.

  4. Kathryn says:

    Oh no! How frustrating to put all that hard work into making something and have it end up too big. Funny comparison though, muumuu, I remember my grandmother wearing one of those. I love wearing tunics, Fog Linen work ones fit me perfectly though I am 5’10” so the long sleeves look like 3/4’s on me. You will never catch me wearing a dress because they’re always too short!

  5. Suschna says:

    That is such a pretty fabric, and with all the hand stiching – please don’t give up. The detail reminded me of the “16th/17th/18th Century Fashion in Detail”-books of the V&A Museum. Maybe if you take the pleats further down, make darts, add a belt? I would prefer a cotton tunic style over the jersey, but that is just a question of taste or feeling, as you say.

  6. Muumuu, schmatta, duster, some styles just aren’t attractive. I say, cut your losses and slit the back, add ties and donate it to a local hospital, or make pillows out of it, and move on. No sense in trying to look good in a potato sack( although it does look good in the photograph).
    I love tunics, the in-between length adds another layer to the overall look.
    Alabama Chain’s creative cutwork on double layered jersey is brilliant!

  7. Vicki K says:

    Well, if you still have that Japanese yearning…I found a book at the library that reminds me of you. Simple Modern Sewing by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha. There is a v-neck wrap dress with 3/4 sleeves made of navy linen that I think is wonderful. They also show it worn open like a duster. There are blouse variations too – so a test could be sewn with less fabric to see if the style is for you.

    I am just now finding you again and am so happy you are back – love your ventures into creative needle sports!!

  8. Vicki K says:

    My brain is still turning… What is the back like? Is it plain? You could cut off the length and use the front as the back (to preserve your wonderful handstitching) and then cut the back (to become the front) and wrap it with a belt to fit it to you better. Or is a belt NOT in the plan?

  9. kathrin says:

    Thanks so much you all. I’ve already taken in the sides and shortened it. (Now it looks like a short muumuu). Currently, it is on life support and in intensive care (Intensivstation). As soon as I take it off the respirator – for better or for worse, I’ll let you see it. I’ll have to take in the back and will try a wrap dress next, which allows greater room for error, as opposed to greater room for me ;O)

  10. Thea says:

    picture no 3 : what a nice detail.
    And the last picture: it is amazing!!
    Knit and hugs

  11. monika says:

    I live in tunics, but they have to be the right cut. I’m tall and “mollig”, with a bum that is, ehm.. cough, cough… pretty large towards the back (but I’m not wide hipped), I still dip in on the waist though, which has always made it very hard to find dresses that look good and not just like a muumuu. So it’s a bit hard to relate to your challenge. I love loose floating layers on a slim body – I think that is possibly where your dress doesn’t work. – the fabric might just not have enough drape.

    Maybe adding some darts and a back zipper can work. Or if the fabric has more drape than is apparent in the picture, you could sew some long ties into the side seams that will wrap around your body and create more shape. Or perhaps you could try to wear the tunic as is over leggings, with a cardigan and a nice scarf around your neck..

  12. karen b says:

    I had to laugh at your mu-mu adventure. I love the Japanese style but when I see the simple forms on the oh-so- thin models I just know with my Italian “peasant” hips I run the mu-mu risk as well.

  13. kathrin says:

    I looked like my grandmother when she was working in the kitchen when I was little. No more mu-mu sewing for me ;o)

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