- The reformed dress
The kimono appears indeed to be capable of little improvement. The only concession that has been made to the requirements of the latter-day school-girl is the contraction of the sleeves. The “reformed dress,” as it is called, has large open sleeves which can be tightened by means of a string. It is found very handy and is worn by many school-girls. Reformed or unreformed, there is this to be said for the Japanese woman’s dress that it does not suffer in the matter of pockets or what serve as such from comparison with man’s.
- A servant with tucked sleeves
The ordinary kimono is inconvenient for active work. Those whose work requires a free movement of the limbs, commonly discard the long sleeves and the skirt. Coolies and artisans wear tight-sleeved coats and tight-fitting drawers of cotton. Women, too, who labour outdoors have on similar clothes sometimes; but more frequently they wear tight-sleeved kimono, the skirts of which are tucked up to the knees to facilitate their walking. Women, however, who live indoors but have to move about at their household work, do not care to put on tight-sleeved kimono, and they tie up their sleeves with a cloth cord when they are actively employed. They are often to be seen dusting and sweeping the rooms with their sleeves tied up and a towel on their heads. The kimono appears indeed to be capable of little improvement.
- The obi for ordinary wear. For girls. For women
The Japanese woman’s pride, however, is the obi. It is often the most costly of all her apparel. It is about thirteen feet long and thirteen and a half inches wide. The obi for ordinary wear is made by sewing together back to back two pieces of cloth, of which the face is commonly of stiff stuff like satin and the lining of crêpe, or other soft silk or cotton. But the obi worn on formal occasions consists of a single piece of double width, which is folded in two lengthwise and seamed; it is made of taffety, satin, damask, or gold or other brocade. The Chinese satin has at one end the name of its loom in red thread; and imitation satins and sateens have similar names at the same end; and this end is always exposed to view when the obi is worn. When sewn, the woman’s obi is padded like men’s.
- The hakama
The hakama is a sort of loose trousers. Either leg is made by joining along the nape five pieces of cloth about a yard long, four of which are of the full width of the cloth and the fifth of half that width. The skirt is sewn by turning in the edge three times to stiffen it. The two legs are joined in such a manner that the half-width pieces form the inner side and the lowest point of the fork is about twenty-two inches from the skirt. In front a longitudinal plait is made an inch or so to the left so that its edge is in the middle; two more plaits are made to the left and two to the right, and a third on the latter leg under the middle fold. A similar but deeper plait is made behind on either leg, that on the right having its edge in the middle. These plaits are not stitched, but merely hot-pressed so that they can be opened at will; and as they are much deeper at the skirt than at the top, they give free play to the legs when walking and make the hakama appear to fit more closely than it would without them. The upper half of the hakama is open at either side, the fork at which is of about the same depth as that in the middle. The top of the front half which is about a foot wide, is sewn on to the middle of a band which is folded and turned in to the width of half an inch and is about eleven feet long, thus leaving a free end five feet long on either side of the front half. The back, the top of which is narrower than that in front, is surmounted with a piece of thin board on which the cloth is pasted with starch mucilage. This board has also a narrow band, two feet long, on each side. The hakama is lined or unlined, but never wadded.
- The haori
The haori worn on a visit or on formal occasions is usually black and adorned with the family crest. The crest is found on three or five parts of the haori, one in the middle of the back over the seam, and one each on the back of the sleeve, and if there are five crests altogether, one each on the breast of the body piece between the band and the sleeve. The crest is of various forms and is about an inch from end to end. It is invariably white; the white cloth is specially dyed for the purpose so that the crest is the only portion left undyed; but sometimes ready-dyed cloths with white disks for the crests are bought, when the crests have to be drawn on them, or if they have no such disks, the crests are sewn on. Haori for common wear have no crests and are plain, twilled, or striped and of sombre hues, though not necessarily black. Those for home wear are often much longer than ordinary haori and are thickly wadded with cotton. They are also without crests.
- The obi, square and plain
The obi, or sash, is about four inches wide and varies in length from twelve feet and a half to fourteen. It is usually of the same material on both sides and can be worn either side out. It is stitched along one edge and stiffened with a padding. This is the regular sash, commonly called the square obi; but when we are at home, go out for a walk, or visit an intimate friend, we prefer another kind of sash, which is a piece of white crêpe, about ten feet long and varying in width from a foot and a quarter to two feet, and stitched at the ends to prevent their fraying. It is much more comfortable than the other.
- The kimono, rear and front view
We now pass on to the making of the male unlined kimono, as naturally it is of the simplest form. In the first place, the length of a kimono varies with the size of the wearer; it is not only his height, but his condition as well, that has to be taken into consideration, for broad shoulders, a thick chest, and rounded hips require more cloth, longitudinally and laterally, than a body of the same height but with less flesh. The usual length is about four feet six inches for the average Japanese whose height is five feet three or four inches. The two body pieces are first placed side by side and sewn together half the length, the edge sewn in being about half an inch; and then at the end of the seam the pieces are cut two inches and a half and folded down at that width all along to the free ends, so that when they are spread out, there is a channel five inches wide along half their length. They are then folded in two so that the free halves are exactly over the sewn halves. The outer edges are then sewn from the end up to a point a foot and five inches below the fold. The sewn halves form the hind part and the free halves the front of the kimono. Next, the pieces for the gores are sewn on from the end along the free edges of the body pieces. The skirt is stitched, and the kimono, which is now an inch or so less than five feet, is tucked in to the required length at the hips where the tucking would be concealed under the obi, or sash.
- A young lady dressed for a visit
When she goes out on an informal visit, the Japanese woman usually puts on a crested haori; but if it is only for a walk, the haori may be plain. The kimono may on such occasions be of any pattern, only that when she makes a call, the band must be of the same cloth as the kimono.