Friday, December 2, 2011

How to Make Heian Era Formal Court Hakama (nagabakama)

Whew, what a long and formal sounding title to what is going to be such a silly post!

In this round of How to Make Pretty Stuff When You're Rather Broke, we venture into the world of Medieval Japan.  I've started on a set of Heien era court garb, and, logically, am starting from the inside out.  One of the first bits to make were the nagabakama, or formal hakama for ladies. These formal hakama were sort of like wide trousers, or a split skirt, that had long trailing legs that the women actually would tred on while walking.  They were worn over a kosode, which is the forerunner to the modern kimono. In the Heian era, though, it was strictly undies.

I'll post a tutorial to make kosode a little later. Right now, we're making nagabakama! First, let's talk about the supplies you'll need.

5 1/4 yards of red fabric.  Always red fabric, hakama and nagabakama were almost always red.  I used cotton because it's cheap, but you can also use linen or silk.
Lots of pins
A tape measure
fabric scissors
A stern feline supervisor

Lay your fabric out flat, at double thickness folded lengthwise, like it is when it comes on the bolt.  From the cut edge, measure out 67 inches.  Then, from the selvedge edge, measure up 18 inches, down the entire length of the 67 inches that you marked. This will give you a large rectangle.

Go ahead and cut out this rectangle.  Since your fabric is doubled, you'll end up with two panels of fabric, 67" L x 18" W.  I know it will be tempting to just cut a straight line up to the folded edge, but be sure NOT to do this.  Just cut out the rectangle from the fabric, like so:

Why is this important?  Because that narrow strip left at the folded edge is going to become our waistband and tie, and we need it all in one piece!

Repeat this step again, marking another 67"L x 18"W panel. Remember to mind the narrow bit at the top and not snip it off!

Next, you'll mark out another rectangle of fabric. This time it will be 55 inches long instead of 67.  This shorter panel will be the Inside Leg panel of your trouser leg.

If you have more than 5.25 yards of fabric (I had 8 yards, so I didn't need it all for this project), you can go ahead and cut through the entire width of the fabric now, up to the folded edge, to cut off the excess, and to create your tie.

You'll now have seven panels of fabric - 4 panels that are 67 inches long, 2 panels that are 55 inches long, and one panel that is 189" long.

 Now it's time to start assembling!  Attach a 67 inch panel to either side of one of the 55 inch panels to form a sort of H. 

Repeat for the remaining panels.

Now, make sure to have your Certified Feline Supervisors inspect your work for quality.

 The Roll Test

The Scrunch Test

This project is Fabric Cat approved.

Once your work has been approved, you can move on!  Once your panels are attached to each other, go ahead and hem the bottom edge. Believe me, it's much easier to do it at this point than to do it later down the line!

Now, with right sides together, match your two panels up at the "U" created by the centre panel. Stitch this together to form your crotch. I serged the seam to give it a bit of extra strength, but you can just stitch over it twice to reinforce it if you don't have a serger. 

Once your crotch is sewn, open up your trousers and bring the outside edges of your pant legs together, keeping right sides together. You'll probably have to pull one of the legs inside out to keep things from getting wonky. 
Pin your pant legs together.  When stitching the seams closed, keep the first 15 inches from the top open. (I noted the 15 inch mark on the photo below with bright blue.) When you lay out your hakama like this, you can really see how huge they are!

Once your side seams are stitched closed, go ahead and turn under the raw edges on the opening we left.

Now it's time to pleat the waist to fit.  Take half of your waist measurement and subtract 2-3 inches from it. (If you want a larger opening at the sides, subtract more.)

Once you have your measurement, pleat the front of your trouser waist to this measurement, using six large knife pleats that point toward the centre seam.

Repeat for the back of the waist. Run a line of stitching through your pleats to keep them in place.

Now it's time to attach your tie.  From one end of the tie, measure in at least 30 inches.  This will hang free at the right and be used to tie your bow to keep your nagabakama on. I, personally, like to have 45 inches to create my bow. Make sure the length you use is comfortable for you!

Mark your measurement with a pin.  With right sides together, pin the back of your trouser waist to the tie, making sure that the tie will hang loose to the right. (I almost did this backwards when I made mine, it's simple to get mixed up.)

When your back waist is pinned to the tie, measure 2-3 inches (or whatever amount of gap you want to have) from the left side of your trouser back, and mark this.

Then, continue to attach your trouser front waist to the tie from this mark.

To confuse you further, here is a picture full of pleats.

This will leave you with the shorter end on the right back, and the longer end on the right front when you put your hakama on.  The tie should be able to wrap around your waist at least twice, and then create a bow with the shorter tie on the right.

Now, I just attached the trouser waist to the bottom edge of the doubled tie and serged the raw edge, which I then turned under.  However, if you like a cleaner edge, you can pin the trouser waist to just one edge of the waistband/tie, then turn under the other edge and hand stitch it in place.  I, however, am far too lazy for that.

Once your trousers are attached to the waistband, you can go ahead and finish off the raw edges of the tie. Once you have done this, you are finished!  Go flounce around in your spiffy new garb!
And I absolutely promise that I'll have better pictures of my nagabakama once my kosode is finished. ^^;

Accessorize with cat hair.

PS!  You can make a regular pair of lady's hakama by just changing a few measurments. Instead of 67 inches long for the leg panels, make them 40 inches.  For the inside leg, change the measurement from 55 to 30 inches.  Otherwise, just make them the same way!  This is how I made the hakama for my Kikyo cosplay, many, many moons ago.


  1. You are such an awesome resource!

    Do I know where to go for random, excellent costuming tutorials/info?


    Mistress of Disguise blog!

  2. Really useful! I am adding this project to my collection of ideas for my battle wedding/handfasting celebration outfit. Thank you for all of the photos. And the felines are, of course, INTEGRAL.

  3. Do you know how to make a andon (undivided) hakama ? D: Everywhere I looked I only found tutorials of hakama pants.... :/

    1., I don't know how to make them, but let me do some research and see what I can find. :)

  4. Fantabulous, Thank You for this! And I love the Feline Inspectors too ;)

    I just can't wrap my head around the panels stuff, but I intend to experiment in 1:4 doll scale, so I hope I'll figure it out soon enough!

    btw, the time-symboly thingies at the end of the ties of the outfit you showed in the overall Heian fashion post.. what do those mean?