Yûsoku Kojitsu Ron
A History of
Japanese Clothing and Accessories

= Garment Construction =

by Joshua L. Badgley


       Japanese garment construction depends greatly on the particular garment. Most of the garments are made of silk, linen, ramie, or similar; wool appears as an import during the 8th century, and then again in the 16th, when European traders brought it with them. There are also accounts of “cotton” fabric, though the exact nature of this fabric is not well known before the Edo period. Other fabrics, made of paper, bark, or other bast fibers, were also used. In the Nara period, and then in the late 16th century, fitted and shaped garments were popular. However, for the majority of Japan's history, garments were made up of fairly simple shapes--squares, rectangles, and the occasional trapezoid. These were sewn together with simple silk or linen thread, usually with a simiple running stitch. From examination of modern and antique Japanese garments, including reconstructions, most do not attempt to hide the stitching. In some cases, the stitching is deliberately made obvious.

       For the modern tailor, it is well to remember that most Japanese fabric was woven on looms that were generally between 16" and 20" wide. These widths became the standard building blocks for most garments, and we will often talk about “panels” as a general measurement. For the medieval Japanese tailor, these widths meant that they did not need to worry about hems as much on open garments, as they had selvedge on both sides of each panel. However, most of us will need to convert fabric that is not quite the right width. Western fabric is usually much wider, and modern Japanese kimono bolts are often too small, between 14" and 16".

       Another common feature in Japanese garments are the cords and knots, whether as a closure at the neck, along the edges at the sleeves or at the edge of the legs of hakama. They are also used to reinforce seams that are expected to take an inordinate amount of stress. Whether flat or round, these cords are usually made with traditional kumihimo techniques, and can be made yourself, if you so choose. Fortunately, there are also many commercial braids that are also available if you prefer not to make them yourself. One thing to note, however, is that there are many cases where the twist of a cord is important, whether Z-twist or S-twist, and it is often used in pairs of symmetrical twists of cord. Most people wouldn't notice this detail, but for those with an eye towards full recreation, you should at least know about it.

       There are other items that will be noted in the individual patterns or layouts, or which will be added here at a later date. For the time being, please enjoy the patterns here, and if you have any questions, do hestiate to contact us.



  This page was last modified on: 1/4/2015

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