The Blog of The Bride of Sesshomaru


Welcome to my sewing, historical reenactment, and CosPlay blog! Here on this blog you will find all of my random thoughts about sewing, the SCA, manga, anime, CosPlay, costume making, embroidery, sewing historically accurate Japanese costumes, and my fandom of Lord Sesshomaru whom I CrossPlay as.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sesshomaru's Hakama: Karusan-bakama


Sesshomaru's Hakama: Karusan-bakama

Hakama are a type of wide, skirt like pants worn by men. There are many types of Hakama, wore during various periods throughout history by different classes at different time.

Lord Sesshomaru is both a warrior and nobleman, a wealthy and powerful Feudal overlord (daimyo) and much feared aristocrat and as such wears a style of ceremonial Hakama which is only worn by the elite few of his social standing. The type of Hakama worn by Sesshomaru is known as the Karusan-bakama or Sashinuki Hakama.


Some hakama during the Sengoku period had the hems made narrower than the body in imitation of the ballooning trousers worn by the Portuguese. This style carried on into the Edo period and became called Karusan-bakama. In addition to the taper, they had a secured band of cloth - looking rather like a pants cuff - sewn around each leg's hem, so the ballooning fabric would not open out like regular hakama.

Sashinuki are a type of hakama that are meant to be worn blousing over the leg and exposing the foot. To accomplish this, they are somewhat longer than normal hakama, and a cord is run through the hem and drawn tight, creating a "ballooning" effect . To allow for the body required, more formal Sashinuki were six-panel hakama rather than four panels. Technically, this cord around the ankle makes sashinuki a type of Kukuri- (tied) hakama. The earliest forms of sashinuki were cut like normal hakama (albeit a bit longer) and have a cord running through the hem of each leg. These cords were pulled tight and tied off at the ankle. This was the form commonly worn during the Heian period. Sashinuki were worn by court nobles with various types of leisure or semi-formal wear.

When is comes to hakama, you have two options:

Option #1: Buy Them Ready Made

They are not difficult to find. If you have a martial arts school in your neighborhood, than most likely you can get a hakama from them or they can tell you where their students get them. Additionally you can often find them for sale on Amazon or eBay.

It should be noted, however, that while finding ready made traditional white hakamas is pretty easy, finding the formal Karusan-bakama or Sashinuki style Hakama, which Sesshomaru wears, will not be easy. As of yet, I have been unable to locate any place on the Internet that offers them for sale.

Unlike regular hakamas, these two ballooning style hakamas are not exactly easy to walk in. They are very "theatrical", difficult to wear, impractical, and basically only worn today, by re-enactors and CosPlayers, who make their own. And that brings us to:

Option #2: Sew Your Own

A hakama is relatively simple to make, once you know how to make them. They can be made from start to finish in less than four hours.

There is a remarkable difference in the amount of fabric used, from if you are making traditional hakamas or ballooning style hakamas. The traditional style with the wide flaring skirt-like legs, takes from 3 to 5 yards of 45-inch fabric depending on how tall you are and how wide you want the pleats to be.

One the other hand, the ballooning styles like Sesshomaru wears, can take up to 7 yards or more of 45 inch fabric, nearly double the amount of fabric used for the traditional style.

You can use any traditional hakama pattern to make a ballooning style.

The differences are as follows:

You will need 6 panels instead of 2, this makes the legs twice as wide.
You will need to bind the hems to the ankles in some manner, either by sewing a "pant cuff" or adding a casing and drawstring or by using a 3-inch wide ribbon to bind the hems to your ankles.

I have found a simple pattern on the Internet that works well. (link follows) It is for the traditional style hakama, but is simple to edit and customize for use in making Lord Sesshomaru's formal style hakamas.

Important Note Before You Wear Hakamas!

If you are completely new to the art of wearing hakamas, than you may not be aware of how they are worn. There are no fastenings on hakamas: no zippers, no buttons, no snaps. They are worn much the same way as a Scottish Kilt, by folding and pleating them to your waist, than tying a sash around you waist to hold them in place.

For modesty's sake, a hakama must be worn over a long kimono, of at least knee length or longer. Why? Quite simple reason, actually: because, unless you have drastically altered them, a hakama is open on the sides at the hips, and also there is no crotch in a hakama.

Since the hakama is tied directly to your body, it is quite difficult to remove them and put them back on again, causing a bit of a problem if you have to "go", thus the reason for the openings. If you are not comfortable leaving them open, these three openings are easily "filled in" by adding the addition of triangle shaped gussets sewn in. You'll just have to get used to spending a long time in the bathroom when it comes to taking them off and putting them back on again, something you may want to take into consideration, before you plan on wearing this costume to a convention.

Folkwear Pattern #151: Hakama
#151 Japanese Hakama & Kataginu
Hakama for men and women, all sizes based on waist measurement. This pattern gives you complete instructions for cutting and pleating the traditional Hakama in any size and includes pattern pieces for Small, Medium-Large, and Sumo-Size Koshiita (Backboard) and Koshiita Triangles. For contemporary sportswear, pattern also includes instructions for optional side panels to fill in the side-seam gaps that expose the underlying kimono in traditional wear.

As I mentioned, hakamas are not exactly easy to wear, especially not if you are someone used to wearing khakis and jeans. It can ruin your day if you are all dressed up but not comfortable and thus can not have any fun. Since wearing a hakama is something that does require a bit of practice, most CosPlayers are content to just wear a pair of wide legged white pants. Harem pants are another common option. Your best bet, if you want to look like you are wearing a hakama without actually wearing one, is to wear a Tribal wear Belly Dance Tribal Pants. (I have included a link to the best pattern of this type below.)

There are many reasons why a CosPlayer would wear pants instead of a hakama:

1.) Pants are going to be cheaper to make, requiring only 2 yards of fabric as opposed to the 5 to 7 yards needed to make a hakama.

2.) If you are buying instead of making, you could buy white pants from your friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart for $10 - $20, as opposed to the having to search high and low for a specialty shop that sells hakamas which typically sell for $60 to $400.

3.) When wearing pants there is no worrying about a hakama's inconspicuous openings or inadvertently flashing the crowd, a definite problem for CosPlayers who partake in battle scenes re-enactments.

4.) Unless you wear hakamas, palazzo pants, or floor length skirts on a daily basis, pants may be just plain easier for you to walk around in.

Well, whatever your reason may be, for most CosPlayers who take on the role of Lord Sesshomaru, wearing pants instead of a hakama may be a better option.

So, should you choose to wear pants or a hakama? That is a choice that is entirely up to you.

What am I going to do, you ask? Well, considering that I haven't worn pants in over 20 years, and that my daily wear consists largely of ethnic costumes and medieval gowns, you know that for me, pants are NOT an option! I'm going with the hakama. As a general rule, everything I wear, was worn in a time before pants were invented, and since I am a living re-enactor (meaning I wear re-enactment clothing 24 hours a day 7 days a week), for me, wearing anything that is not historically accurate is not an option. I won't even consider it.

The difference between re-enactment and CosPlay is re-enactors wear the cloths as their normal daily wear, while CosPlayers wear the cloths only one or two days a year to parties and conventions.

So when considering which route you should take in making this costume, you need to ask yourself, why are you making it? When will you be wearing it? How long will you be wearing it? What will you be doing while you are wearing it? And how important is it to you personally, to be historically accurate? There is no right or wrong answer here, and the only answer you should go with, is the one that is best for you.

Alternatives To wearing a Hakama:

If you are looking for an alternative to wearing a hakama, which looks as though you are wearing a hakama, than I recommend the tribal pants of Folkwear Pattern #144.

Folkwear Pattern #144
#144 Tribal Style Belly Dancer
sizes Small to 2X Large; garments are gathered or tied to fit. $19.95 This pattern is the perfect starting point for creating your own stunning style whether you are a dancer, historic reenactor, or lover of exotic fashion.

Folkwear Pattern #119
#119 Sarouelles
Misses 6-18; Men's 32-44 $14.95 Three comfortable and timeless pants designs from Turkey, Africa, and India, with elastic or drawstring waist and ankle variations. Full and
flowing easy-sew styles are perfect for casual wear, yoga, belly dancing, or costuming.

What's your take on this? I'd love to hear what you have to say about this post. Leave a comment and share your views!


If you liked reading this blog and want to read more stuff written by me, I have lots of websites, where you can read other things I write, here are a few of the ones I like the best:

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