Hakama – Meanings and How to Make One
Hakama are a traditional Japanese-type of clothing with divided legs similar to pants. Hakama are secured by four straps or himo; two longer himo attached on either side of the front of the garment, and two shorter himo attached on either side of the rear. The rear of the garment has a rigid board-like section, sometimes made rigid with wood pieces tucked into the garment. Below that is a hakama-dome (a spoon-shaped component) which is tucked into the obi or himo at the rear, and helps to keep the hakama in place.
Yuki stands for courage, valor, and bravery. Jin for humanity, charity, and benevolence. Gi for justice, righteousness, and integrity. Rei for etiquette, courtesy, and civility. Makoto for sincerity, honesty, and reality. Chugi for loyalty, fidelity and devotion. The last virtue is Meiyo, which is honor, glory, dignity, and prestige.
The seven pleats are as follows: two in the back of the garment and five in the front, three to the right side and two on the left. Hakama are often seen worn by practitioners of martial crafts or, more notably past tense, on samurai. Now that the introduction is over, time to get to the part I’m sure you’ve been waiting for…. how to make your own!
The list of materials will be:
- three yards stiff fabric of your choice color (make sure the short end of the fabric bolt spans the length of your legs, from hips to ankles)
- Sewing machine
- Matching thread
- Iron and ironing board
- Seam-ripper (optional)
Cut four (4) eight-inch (8-in) strips of fabric from along the long edge of the fabric. These will be the himo. Sew two of the pieces together by the short edges so you have three himo instead of four and one being twice as long. Next, fold the himo in half hot-dog style so the ‘wrong’ side of the fabric is facing out and sew the long edges together on each of the himo (to itself, not each other). Hem the short (now circular) edges so they don’t fray later on. Next, reverse the fabric so the seam is now on the inside and no thread is showing except for the little bit of hemming you’ve done on the rounded edges.
Take the remaining fabric and cut it in half, these will be the ‘legs’ of the hakama. BE CAREFUL that the direction you cut in will leave the fabric long enough to reach from your hips to your ankles, if it is too long, do not worry about that for now. Now fold these two pieces in half lengthwise to create the legs, once again, make sure it is folded the correct way. Place the two folded pieces on top of each other so that both the folded sides are facing towards you, line them up.
Now cut a curved line out of the folded edge of the fabric in the shape of half a ‘u,’ it should reach about ⅓ of the way down the legs. This will be the crotch of the hakama. Make sure you cut evenly through both of the legs, so they match as closely as possible. Unfold the legs and line them up on top of each other. Sew the ‘u’-shaped holes in the fabric to the other, to connect the legs in the center. I suggest double hemming, or even triple if you’re paranoid like I am, to prevent the crotch from ripping open.
Unfold the legs so the sewing you’ve just done is in the center and refold the fabric so that the edges of the legs are lined up once more (to itself, not to the other leg). Now, sew the legs together but DO NOT sew all the way to the top, leave about ¼ of the way unhemmed so you can add in the pleats. Reverse the fabric so all the sewing you’ve just done in on the inside and the thread is once more not showing.
On the back (smaller side), fold the fabric on either side of the crotch seam into one huge pleat and pin it in place. The folds from the two sides’ pleats should just meet at the center seam on the outside of the hakama. Fold in the edges of the back. Measure your waist where the hakama will tie (under your gut to show how well-fed you are). Divide that number by two and subtract 5 inches. Call that number W. Fold the sides of the back in until the width equals W (if the back is already narrower than W, fold in just enough that the selvedge won’t show).
Sew a line across the top of the hakama, so the pleats stay together. Remove the pins you used. Iron the new pleats into submission. Now you will want to sew a hem on the inside of the triangle that is created when the front and back pieces come together. Sew about an ¼-inch down the pleat-line you have just ironed down. This will ensure the pleats you have made will stick even when the ironing has worn off (note: feel free to re-iron/press these pleats as often as you like). I suggest a double hem on the pleats as they can rip easily.
For traditional hakama, there will be three pleats on the right and only two on the left, however if you would prefer, you may make two or three pleats on both sides so it is even. On the front, fold the edges in first, about as much as you did for the back and pin in place. Measure the width of the front pieces after the edges are folded in and call it F. Divide F by 18 and call that number P. Use pins to mark points along the top of the front pants in increments of P, measuring out from the center seam. There should be 9 pins on either side of the center seam.
With the fabric lying right side up and counting out from the center, fold the fabric on the right so pin 2 meets the center seam. Next fold pin 5 in to line up with pin 3. Then fold pin 8 in to line up with pin 6. Pin the pleats in place. For the fabric on the the left, fold so pin 3 lines up with the center seam and pin 7 lines up with pin 4. Pin the pleats in place. Sew a line across the top of the hakama, just like with the back, so the pleats stay together. Remove the pins you used. Iron the new pleats into submission.
The himo you made back in Step One are coming back into play now. Sew the two shorter himo onto the front two edges of the hakama, so they can loop around your hips to tie in the front. The longer himo will be sewn across the back of the hakama, make sure to line up the seam you made to connect the two pieces with the centerline of the back of the hakama so it all comes out even. Add extra stitches where the tie meets the hakama leg because it will get a lot of stress.
Now, step into your new hakama and tie it up! For this first time, simply tie the himo from the back first then wrap the two front himo around the back and tie in the front over the first knot. Fancier, more traditional ways, can be looked up online, specifically youtube. It may take some time to figure out how to put them on without assistance, but soon you will be able to put them on without any help. Fit to length, and hem the bottom cuffs, cutting off as much fabric as you need to so you don’t trip. You’ve finished! Go enjoy your comfortable new hakama pants and show off to all your friends. Go forth and strut your stuff, Samurai! (Or Shinigami, as it might be.)
If you are a person who needs pictures check out this: http://www.alonatwotrees.com/library/howto/hakama.pdf. (Ignore the number of strips for himo it tells you to cut, it should be four not three.)
*Note: Some explanations were taken from this site: http://fibers.destinyslobster.com/Japanese/Clothes/japmakemenshakama.htm because I was incapable of thinking of any clearer way to explain it, however, not all of it is the same, so read carefully.
Here is a link to one way to tie a hakama, there are many ways though, so try a couple to see which one is more comfortable for you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7gC73896FY