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Lady Roxannes Guide to Sewing Hakama

By Lady Roxanne de St.Luc
People who are used to sewing Western medieval
clothing sometimes have a hard time shifting their
brains to the idea of making clothing without curves,
box pleats, gathers, and drawstrings, or that doesnt
need an internal system of hoists and pulleys to
make their bodies fit into them. The idea of an
entire fabulous wardrobe made almost entirely of
rectangles is a difficult one to accept. Its not
always easy, but once you learn the rules and
techniques youll find yourself, like me, having
made well over fifty pair of hakama. (A few of them
were even for me!)

teach you about something Japanese (*anything*

Japanese!) if youre willing to hold still long enough.
I recommend reading through the instructions fully
before attempting anything. If something does not
make sense at first it may a little later on.
Give yourself plenty of time when doing this the first
few times. A rushed job can be noticeable and
discouraging. The more often you sew these the
easier it will become.

The other nice thing about hakama that no one

seems to mention is that, unless youre one of
The patterns I developed (with lots of help from
those incredibly rare women whose thighs dont rub
other people) is as period as I know how to make it.
together, sometimes its nice to wear pants at
Im sure it will change in the future as I learn more,
but they look right, fit correctly, and are very
comfortable to wear.
Now, a moment of shame: I apologize for the
Hakama are simple to make. Time consuming, but
simple. Theres nothing to fear, so take a deep
The Japanese are not known for being the most
curvaceous people in the world and we have all
sorts of shapes and sizes in the SCA. I have
included additional instructions that are
accommodating to give the correct fit but not
necessarily period. Follow the instructions for
whichever your priority is, or the priority of the
person that you are sewing them for.

excessive use of the word crotch. I cant find a

more genteel word.
The Japanese had looms that were only 13-14
inches wide in period. They made very efficient use
of their fabric and most of the sewing will be based
on the width of the fabric. Start by figuring out what
size your width of fabric (or standard panel) should

I usually use a 12 panel for a Small to Medium

sized modern Western woman, 13 for Medium to
Large women, 14 for Large to Extra large, 15 for
X-Large to 2 X-Large, and 16 for 3-4 X-Large
In this packet Ive tried to explain as
much as possible and to create a good women. Men I will use 14 for Medium, 15 for
Large to X-Large. This is sort of a rough idea. It
guide. If you need additional
explanations or help with understanding may take a little while to find what is right for you,
but this Japanese garment is very forgiving and
the process feel free to ask me after the class or
there is some room to play. These measurements
come to visit me at Clan Yama Kaminari where
also apply to other Japanese garments that you
people are warm, welcoming and very happy to

may try to sew such as tops (called Kosode) or
Now that you have a rough idea as to what size
panel you will be cutting out lets cover a few terms
in reference to measurements that you will also
Inseam (B)- Measurement that goes from the crotch
of your pants down to your
ankle where you want the
pants to end. Most American
Mens pants use this
Length of the leg(A)- Measure
from where you would like your
waistband to sit to your ankle
or where the pants should end.
Rise (C)- Measuring this
requires flossing a bit. This is the
measurement that goes from your
waistband in front to the waistband in
the back via between the legs. To
do this place the tape measure
between your legs and pull up
GENTLY (injuries caused by this
motion are not my responsibility).
Place the beginning of the tape
measure in the middle of your back
where you would like your waistband
to lay. Then place the other end of the tape
measure in front of you on your front waistband. If
you have a friend that is very close they may be
willing to take this measurement for you.
Waist- Place the tape measure where you want the
waistband to be. Some people wear their pants
above or below their natural waist. Do not squeeze
the tape measure to make yourself feel better about
your size, be honest with yourself and it will make
for clothes that fit you properly in the end.
Now that you have taken your measurements its
time to start laying out and cutting your fabric.

Cutting Out the Pieces

Due to the fact that Japanese looms were
significantly smaller than our modern industrial
looms we will have to cut our pieces to the width
that the looms were (or the size that you chose
earlier as being your standard panel size) in order
to have the seams be correct on the finished
hakama. Please pay close attention to the direction
of the grain and pattern of your fabric.
You will need:

8 panels that are the standard panel width

and the length of your legs plus a few
inches to allow for a hem and for a small
amount (about 1) to be tucked into the

2 panels that are HALF the standard panel

width and length of the leg. These will
become your crotch panels

5 panels that are 5-8 inches wide and are

the length of your waist plus another 4-10
inches. For example, if you have a
30waist you would cut out five strips that
are 34-40long each. This will eventually be
your waist band. It should seem very long.
You can always remove the excess in the
end if you need to.

that you are doing so far is cutting out a lot of
rectangles. Thats not so hard, is it?

Start by sewing the 8 panels together in pairs

pairs. (Note for most men I make the opening

10-14 long, modern women tend to prefer a shorter
gap so you may want to measure how far from the
waist you would like the opening to be. If you make
it too short they will not look right. )

As shown in the picture, 1 and 2 are a pair, 3 and 4

are another pair, etc.
Next you will need to fold over
the corner in a diagonal line on
one of the pair panels. Fold
two right corners and two left
corners. One corner per pair
of panels is all that is needed.
Grab the top at about 4 and
pull it down at a slight angle on
the inside of the fabric. Since
we are using cut fabric with a
raw edge rather than
Japanese fabric with a selvage edge you may want
to fold over the edges to prevent unraveling. Sew
these angles down. It will make things easier later

Take one left angle pair and one right angle pair
and place them with the outsides in and the angles
on the same sides. (#1 attaches to #8, #4 attaches
to #5)

The Crotch
Now, sew the crotch panels together so that it
creates a long strip with a seam running down the
width in the middle. This will create a strip that is a
half panel wide by two leg lengths long.

The next step is a little tricky but once you

understand how it works it will suddenly become
obvious. What we will be trying to do is create the
crotch of the pants by sewing the middle front and
middle back seams and adding the crotch panels.
First take the measurement of your rise and add an
additional 2 inches. Then measure the width of
your crotch panel minus the seam allowance. For
example, if Seimei normally has a 14 standard
panel then his crotch panels which are half as wide
will be 7. If he wants to use seam allowance on
each side this reduces his crotch panel width to 6
( + = 1total seam allowance, 7-1= 6 wide
Now take your rise plus two inches and subtract the
width of the crotch. If Seimei has a 28 rise, he
then adds two to make 30. 30 minus 6 is 24.
Take this measurement and divide by two. (24
divided by 2 is 12)

Sew down the length of these starting at the bottom

of the angles and going down to the bottom of the

the inside of your other leg and ends at the ankle. I
usually cut these a little long so I need to remove
excess fabric at the hem, but I would rather do that
then have to patch in a piece or have extremely
short pants.
Take a moment and look at what you have sewn so
far. Make sure that the pattern of your fabric is
going the right direction on all panels. Make sure
that all seams meet up in the crotch and that there
are no holes. If you have
done everything correctly
This is how long you will sew down in the center
you should have a
front and the center back. Fold your hakama so that frightening looking garment
the angles are on the outsides. Meet up the two
that resembles clown
front pieces at the middle. (In the drawing you are
pants. Dont worry, theyll
meeting up panel #2 with panel #3) Measure down get smaller! Which brings
the length described above (12 for Seimei) and
us to our next step
sew together. Do the same for the center back
pieces (#6 and #7). Note that you may want to
The Front Pleats
really reinforce this seam as it may take some
This is another step that many people are
stress. All eight panels will be attached to one
intimidated by but really isnt so bad. This may take
another in some fashion after this step.
a little bit of patience, adjusting, and pins. Hakama
traditionally had only 4 or 6 pleats in the front.

Its time to insert the crotch panels. Line up the

center seam of the crotch panels with the seams
that you sewed in the center front and back. The
long strips of the crotch will then run down the
unsewn parts of the pant leg panels. So, in
essence, the crotch strip runs from one ankle, up
the inside of your leg, up to your crotch, back down

When I first started sewing these I was used to
sewing huge Western European skirts with many
pleats so I way overdid it and wondered why they
didnt look right. The pleats will go toward the
center seam, so your right pleats will be folded the
opposite of your left pleats. The entire width of the
front of the pants at the waist should be about one
standard panel wide. Some people are a little more
modest and want less of a gap on the sides. Just
measure how wide it should be in order to still have
a gap on the sides of roughly 3- 6 per side. The
Japanese in period tended to have a standard width
for all pants, but Id rather have them look as
though they fit correctly on the person and have the
person be comfortable in their garb. The gap is
what makes hakama look like hakama. If there is
no gap and your pants completely overlap they will
look like Thai fisherman pants rather than Japanese
Heres an example. Kiki is a very curvy SCAdian
woman. She has a 40 waist which puts her in the
large to extra large category making her standard
panel about 14. So she would have 28 total for
her front and back pieces leaving her a gap of 6 on
each side. (40- 28=12, divide by two and its 6)
This is fine. However, her hips are 50 and she is
self conscious about them. She may want to make
her front and back waists a little larger to give her a
smaller gap and a little more hip room.
Make your first pleat by grabbing a little way down
from the center seam at the top and fold towards
the center. There should be about a -1 space
between the center seam and the fold of the pleat.

Repeat this for the second pleat and third pleat

depending on if you want four or six pleats. When
doing three pleats per side with standard
measurements I usually find that the seam between
the pairs lines up with the fold of the second pleat.
If this is not the case for you do not be worried.

The width of the pleats all together from the center

seam to the beginning of the angle should equal
half of your front measurement. Seimeis total front
measurement is 14, so from the center seam to the
angle with 2-3 pleats should be 7. There may be
some adjustments and pinning needed. Try to
make your pleats as close to the same width as
each other as possible. Take your time, if you get
frustrated walk away for a few minutes. It will be
worthwhile in the end.
Now go to the other side and fold the same as you
did before but the mirror opposite.
The total measurement of the front left and front
right after pleating should equal your total front
measurement. For Seimei this is 14.

Create the mirror image on the other side.

For the sake of ease stitch these pleats in place

close to the top with one long seam about from
the top. Be careful when doing this as the fabric
underneath sometimes will get folded up into this
seam. Make sure that everything is lying as flat as
possible on your machine. I have done plenty of
seam ripping in the past due to this. Taking your
time now will save you time later.

For Seimei this makes the back waist 14 total.

The Back Pleats
You will want your total back waist width to be the
same as the front. For Seimei this is again 14.
The back has two large folds that overlap slightly
(1-3). For the standard pattern you can usually
grab the seam between pairs and fold it over
towards the center, passing the center seam by
1-3 and wind up with the correct measurement.
Take piece #6 and overlap slightly onto piece #7.
From the center seam to the angle should be half of
your back waist width. For Seimei this is 7.

For the sake of ease stitch these in place close to

the top with one long seam just as you did before
for the front pleats.

The Waistband
Congratulations! You are mostly done with your
hakama! Theres not much more to go and the
worst is over. Take a moment to pat yourself on the
back and take a deep breath.
To make the waist band I usually attach three strips
end to end for the front and two strips end to end for
the back. The back waistband will only need to
wrap around you once and tie in the front. The
front, however, wraps around to the back, crosses
over and then ties again in the front. (See Seimei
the Samurai Helps You to Get Dressed later in this
This works the best with an iron, trust me.
After sewing your two sets of strips iron your seam
allowance flat.

Fold the entire waistband lengthwise by lining up

the edges so that all of the rough edges are on the

Find the center of the

waistband and mark it
with either a pin, chalk,
washable marker or by
ironing a sharp crease.
Sandwich the waistband
around your pleats at the

Take the ends and fold them over -1 and iron so

that the rough edge will be on the inside along with
the rough ends of the joining seams from earlier.

Align the center of your waistband with your center

seam. The waistband should overlap the top of the
pants by about an inch. Your seams that keep your
pleats in place should be covered by the waistband.
Sew along the bottom of the waistband to close it.
Now take the long side of the strip and fold it over
about and iron it along the entire length of the
strip. Do the same on the other side.

Dont be surprised if after you have made a nice
pair of hakama that fit you well and make you look
fabulous that others may be asking you to make a
pair for them or to help them through the learning

Try your pants on (See Seimei the Samurai Helps

You to Get Dressed) to figure out how much hem
is needed. It usually helps to have a buddy, but you
can eyeball it yourself. Sew your hem. (See me
after class or ask your local seamstress if you do
not know how to sew a basic hem)
After hemming put your pants on and see if you
need to remove excess waistband fabric. Leave
enough to tie your pants on and give a little bit of
wiggle room should you gain a few pounds. If
necessary cut the ends and finish them by folding
them over and sewing them in place.
Now you have reached the point where you can say
that you are done! Congratulations! You have now
successfully sewn a pair of hakama! Take a
moment to breathe a sigh of relief, do a happy
dance or go to bed if youve been up all night
working on them.
Using the porta-castles while wearing these pants
depends on your gender and what is comfortable
for you. This will be discussed in class if we have
time. Feel free to take notes if you like.

Remember, it takes a little while to get the hang of

this. If you are new to sewing it may take longer
than for a person who is more experienced. Cut
yourself some slack. Take frequent breaks if you
find that you are getting frustrated. It is an easy
garment to make once you know how, but getting to
the point of knowing how to do them may take
some time.

Seimei the Samurai Helps you to Get Dressed
(Feel free to add your own notes to help you with the process.

5. Crisscross the
ties in the back.

1. Grab the
waistband of
the back of the
pants and bring
the end
6. Pull the ties to
the front.

2. Tie in the front.

3. Pull up the front

waistband over
the bow from
the back ties.

4. Pull the ends

toward the back.

7. Tie a bow.

8. If you have very

long ties that
you dont want
to cut you can
wrap the ends
around the waist
a bit.

Basic Tips for Dressing in Japanese Garb
Usually a Japanese belt or sash known as an obi
(OH-BEE) is worn on top of the waistband and ties.
During period these were not terribly wide (2-5)
and tied in the front for both genders. It wasnt until
the Edo period (1603-1867) that womens obi
became too wide to tie in the front and they were
moved to the back. Men wearing an obi tied in the
back indicate that they are a homosexual or a
homosexual prostitute. Men wearing solid red
hakama were often homosexual as well. Solid red
monpei are okay.

Although everybody loves how beautiful Geisha

are, the typical geisha that we think of really isnt
period. Again they are from the Edo period. They
started to become really popular in the 1700s.
Dressing like a Geisha, although fun, is just as
appropriate in the SCA as dressing in Baroque,
Edwardian, Victorian or Antebellum outfits. .

The hairstyle of the Geisha is not

during the SCAdian time period
as well. Most Japanese women
wore their hair down or in a low
ponytail. There is a theory that
the Japanese Geisha got their
When getting dressed with a Japanese shirt called hair from the Gibson Girls of the
a Kosode or a Kimono please be careful to wrap the 19th century.
Many of the Samurai films that are around
able to slip your right hand into your kosode or
romanticize the Edo era as well so please try to be
kimono to resemble the popular Napoleon portrait.
careful when choosing an outfit to create.
Another way of remembering it is that you should
be able to place your right hand over your heart
(like when saying the Pledge of Allegiance) with
one layer of fabric over it. They crossed the top or
kimono the opposite way when a person died.

One last note- Lady Roxanne would

like to thank all of her friends who have
helped her to get to this point of
understanding and to make it possible
for her to teach this class.