Japan: Language, Culture, and Traditional Apparel Research

Audrey Bilyeu Start Date: Mar 17, 2017 - End Date: Sep 17, 2017
  • Cultural Exchange
  • Educational/Research Trip
  • Study/Degree Abroad
  • Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
  • Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
  • Tokyo, Japan

My Travel Story

by: Audrey Bilyeu Start Date: Mar 17, 2017 - End Date: Sep 17, 2017
  • Cultural Exchange
  • Educational/Research Trip
  • Study/Degree Abroad
Shinshu University international student with a traditional clothing research project!
〔信州大学のりゅうがくせいと着物のけんきゅうしゃ!)

はじめまして!私の名前は オードリー・ビルユーです。
Nice to meet you! My name is Audrey Bilyeu.
I'm a 22 year old college student attending Oklahoma State University.

Below is my statement of purpose, however if you have any further questions please feel free to message me!

There is nothing that I believe in more than studying abroad in hopes of opening my mind to the possibilities of the world.  Since starting college, I have been on a few short trips abroad, where each time I find myself floored by how much diversity there is in human life and by the ways people live and express themselves. In this experience, I have concluded that study abroad has been the biggest impact on how I think and what I want to do in the future, but only makes up three weeks of my time at Oklahoma State so far. I think these short trips have given me the courage to take the initiative and learn more about how people live their lives and what factors play into the decisions they make and lifestyles they follow. I think I have developed this curiosity for other cultures simply as a basis of my own lifestyle. The more I learn about other cultures and people, the more I learn about myself, the life I want to live, and how my goals implement into reaching a broader audience. Oceans are no boundary for my curious mind. Even more so, I really wish to pursue breaking the language barrier that seems to be a hindrance for so many in America, because the thought of being able to express and communicate with another group of people with different mindsets is immeasurably valuable. Though many of us may dabble in languages in high school, I feel as though very few take the initiative to put themselves in an immersive state. This is what I wish to do in Matsumoto, Japan at Shinshu University.


As the first female to attend Shinshu University for an academic year, I am excited to say that I will not only be representing and inspiring Oklahoma State University females to attend a fully immersive university, but I am also representing the first Apparel Design attendee at Shinshu. In addition, I will also be the only person this year from Oklahoma State attending this university. This means I will be facing not only a completely new culture and language, but will be surrounded by new people with different mindsets. I will be joining 20 other international students attending from all corners of the world to take classes taught entirely in Japanese. Not only we will be experiencing and learning about the culture of Japan together, but about each other’s cultures as well.  The classes we will be taking include reading and writing, conversation, kanji, and vocabulary. If we score high enough on our entrance exam to the university, we may also take classes that teach us about the traditions and culture of Japan. With such an in-depth study, I felt that six months was not enough time to truly learn and understand both the culture and language, therefore I decided to apply for an academic year. This will also fulfill the requirements for my Japanese minor. It’s a big jump from living in the same town all my life, but I feel that nothing could be more beneficial to the goals that I wish to achieve in the future.

Over the years, my goals have shaped from simply wanting to create clothes, to continuing my studies of apparel design in Japan after receiving my bachelors from Oklahoma State. After I finish my extended studies, I wish to obtain a job there as well. I feel as though Japan possess a dedicated and driven workforce followed by forward thinking design and trends, which is something that I want to implement into my own life as well. I feel as though immersion is the best possible way for me to continue my path towards these goals and reach this level of proficiency.


Another way that I will be expanding my education in Japan is looking at another way in which people express themselves: Fashion. I feel that apparel is the way in which people take the characteristic and values they define themselves as on the inside and make them visible… a tangible symbolism on the outside. Japan holds a special aspect for apparel design that America does not possess, being a melting pot of cultures. This is referencing toward their traditional dress, which has been preserved and implemented into modern society. While studying at Shinshu University I wish to conduct a research project facilitated by professors in my department at Oklahoma State. This research project will look deeper into the construction, designs, patterns, and fit of all forms of Kimono. I will look at every aspect of the design process, starting from where the silk is harvested for their textiles, all the way to old, stained, and unworn kimonos. I wish to find an alternative for these kimonos through up-cycling and recreation. This will be the focal point of the research project. I wish to find ways to implement Japanese traditional dress into modern design in a sustainable and beautiful way. I feel this could be a great way to bridge cultures through an art form, rather than just verbal communication.

Yet to reach these goals that I have set, my next big step is to make it to Japan with my own financial means. I have always struggled with funding my schooling throughout my life, and find that the more detailed my dreams become, the more expensive they become as well. This is largely due to their international nature. Yet here at Oklahoma State, I am supported by FAFSA in my schooling and can make up the difference not paid by Federal aid by working while going to school. However, the situation has change. I leave for Japan in September with no easy ability to work abroad, while also running into issues with funding from FAFSA. As I have recently discovered, FAFSA will not cover my tuition for my trip to Japan. This is due to my focus in Japanese credits abroad at Shinshu university, which counts towards my minor in Japanese instead of my major in Apparel Design. This does not meet the requirements set by Federal Aid. Unfortunately, there are no universities partnered with Oklahoma State that offer classes related to my major, and this complicates my ability to fund my trip alone. So far, I have applied for many scholarships but have no confirmations.

From the infromation given I feel as though I seek what all people seek: a purpose. I think this purpose can be fulfilled starting at Shinshu University. Though I have never even set foot in Japan, I have a certainty that this is where I need to be. I know it is a wager to place that much trust and support into someone who only bases their actions entirely from a dream they possess. However, I couldn’t be more passionate about something than I am about studying at Shinshu. I hope from this essay I have reflected even a small portion of how I feel. I think with my previous experience abroad, an ability to adapt to different cultures with an open mind, and a dedication to reaching my goals, I know that I can achieve even more than I can imagine presently. If I could learn so much about my goals from just a few exposures to culture thus far, imagine what one year of such immersion could bring?

My Research Abstract:
This next academic year I will be expanding my education by attending Shinshu University in Matsumoto, Japan. While in Japan my goal is to research how the Japanese people express themselves through fashion. Fashion is one way in which people take the characteristic and values that define them on the inside and express themselves visibly… a tangible symbolism on the outside. Japan holds a special aspect for fashion design that is not rooted into American culture: traditional dress. This aspect has been preserved and implemented into modern Japanese society. While studying at Shinshu University I plan to conduct a research project which will look deeper into:
 
1)     Design – Color combinations and patterns that are chosen and what their symbolisms are.
a.     Harvesting silk for their textiles – document of the process
b.     Silk choice
c.     Dying/Pattern creation techniques

2)     Patterns – The traditional cut and fall of kimonos as well as the dimensions and where sleeves, seams and length should fall depending on the size of the person and type of garment. Other areas I want to consider are:
a.     Different pieces needed in each garment depending on the kimono
b.     Use of draping vs. flat pattern usage when creating patterns
c.     Variance of patterns depending on type of traditional Kimono:

1.      Furisode
a.     Kofurisode
b.     Chu-Furisode
c.     Ofurisode (Most common)
2.      Hikizuri
3.      Tomesode
4.      Houmongi
5.      Iromuji
6.      Komon
7.      Yukata
8.      Wedding Kimono
9.      Odori Katamigawari
10.   Mofuku

3)     Construction – Techniques for seam construction (machine vs. hand sewn) as well as seams used in what areas of the garment.

This project will be supported by professors in the department of Design, Housing and Merchandising at Oklahoma State. This project will look at every aspect of the design process, starting at the process of, to evaluating old, stained, and unworn kimonos for design and fit. The purpose of this research is to find an alternative for these kimonos through up-cycling and recreation. I hope to find ways to implement Japanese traditional dress into modern design in a sustainable and beautiful way. This could be a great way to bridge cultures through an art form, rather than just verbal communication.

Upon my return to the U.S. I will take used and vintage kimonos that I find in Japan. I will then take my first six months back in the U.S. to create a line of clothing that implements the findings of my research, as well as these kimonos. This line will go through multiple stages of design, pattern making, and fittings until I produce a line worthy of representing Japan. Each year in April, our university holds a fashion show where we can showcase our designs for the entire populous of the university to see. Instead of just reaching out to those verbally about my experiences, I will be able to show them symbolically. I think this will make a huge impact at our annual fashion show, as no previous student has combined research from abroad, a global message, and sustainability methods combined. I hope this will then inspire other apparel design majors to explore new boundaries in the future.

  • Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
  • Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
  • Tokyo, Japan

Adventure Registry

  • Scholarship Recieved

    $ 6,000
    Humphries Long Term Scholarship
    • Granted
  • Scholarship Recieved (2)

    $ 1,250
    Herd Lehman Scholarship
    • Granted