Men's Garb
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The kosode is the first basic piece of Japanese garb that is worn by both men and women.  It is essentially a robe that is worn as the first layer next to the skin.  The word "kosode" means little sleeve, yet the sleeve itself is just shorter and not quite as long as the sleeves for other over garments that are worn.  The opening to the kosode sleeve are generally just big enough to fit your hand through, but most of mine have a full opening (just my personal preference) or just a little bigger (two hands can fit through).  Most kosode are made from white linen, but other colors can be used, as long as the colors are lighter than the over garment (at least that is the way I've seen it in pictures, white being the primary color used, though).  The reason the kosode is made from linen, or more historically hemp, is so that the fabric will breath and allow sweat to pass through and not be trapped and cause heat related health issues.  The initial kosode, that which is worn against the skin, is not meant to be worn by itself, although, it would be proper to wear multiple layers of kosode.  The best site that I have found that shows how to sew a kosode is:  I just use a different measurement for my panel width (14") than is described on the website.  The following procedure will describe how to use a 14" panel width. 

  1. The measurements that will be needed to figure out how much fabric that will be needed are:  wrist to wrist (measure the distance from wrist to wrist with arms stretched out to the sides), shoulder to floor (measure from top of shoulder to floor while standing), shoulder to knees (measure from top of shoulder to knees while standing), armpit (measure around upper arm near armpit), wrist (measure around wrist), and neck (measure around neck).
  2. Now to explain the measurements.  Wrist to Wrist will be how wide the kosode will be if laid out flat on the floor.  Ideally, the sleeve opening should fall somewhere just above, approx. 3"-4", the wrist for men and just at or past the wrist for females.  Shoulder to Floor will be how long the kosode will be when worn for women when not worn in hakama.  Shoulder to Knees will be how long the kosode will be for wearing with hakama.  Having just a little less length makes all the difference when wearing hakama.  There's less fabric to bunch up inside the hakama.  Also, I typically drop the hakama once I'm in camp, tie a short obi around my waist and relax.  If peasants could wear it in history, I can wear it in camp.  Comfort is the key.  Armpit is how big the hole will be at the armpit.  A little bigger, 1"-2", will be more comfortable. Wrist is how big the opening for the hand to go through at the end of the sleeve.  I typically make mine about 2"-3" bigger so that I can get things out of my sleeves easier.  Neck is how big the neck opening will be.  Typically it will be the exact measurement of the neck.
  3. Depending on the width of the fabric being used, 45" or 59", I fold it in half lengthwise and press the fold.  That way, I will have a ready made fold for the collar, already.  I also do this because there is two of everything except the collar.
  4. Using a 14" panel width will produce a body section, when sewn together, approx. 28" wide, and sleeves that have two panels with the end one being folded, narrower,  upon itself at the end.  This is historically correct and I use it on all my kosode.
  5. Lay out a cutting layout and cut out the pieces (I did not give a layout since depending on the width of the fabric being used, the layout will be very different).  I also mark the bottom inside of all pieces so that I know what is what. 
  6. Starting with the body pieces, place them good side to good side and sew a seam half way up one of the long sides.  Typically the seam should be a flat felled seam (, but when I'm in a hurry I just sew a regular seam and press it open.
  7. Next take each overlap piece and sew it to the un-sewn remaining long sides (check out to see an assembly diagram).  If the selvedge edge could not be used for the outer edge of the overlap, it will need to be hemmed.
  8. Next the sleeve pieces need to be sewn together.  Take two pieces and sew a seam along a long edge.  Do this for both sleeves.  Next figure out where the outer edge of the sleeve will be and fold over a long edge and press flat.  Again refer back to for how this part of the process is done.  The outer panel of the sleeves will end up being approx. a half panel after it is folded and pressed.
  9. Now take each sleeve and pin them to the body at the shoulders.  An easy way of finding where the sleeves should be attached is to fold over the front and back body pieces, inside to inside, and press a fold at the shoulder area.  If this is confusing, the shoulder area is where the back seam ends and the overlap seams begin and where the neck hole will be cut.  I also fold over the sleeves, inside to inside and press a fold to make a line across the top of the sleeve.  This seam will also make it easier to fold the kosode when storing it because it helps to keep the sleeves flat.  After the sleeves are pinned in place mark the armpit opening measurement along the pinned area.  Just remember the armpit measurement should be divided between the front and back of the sleeve.  Another good reason to press a fold since the fold divides the sleeve in half, front and back.
  10. Now pin and sew a seam up the sides of the kosode.  The easiest way to figure out the side seams is to match up the bottom of the sleeve armpit seam and just pin the sides from there to the bottom of the kosode.
  11. Now comes the first of two hard parts, sewing the bottom seam of the sleeves.  I consider this hard only because it is a little tedious and can go horribly wrong really quickly.  First, make sure the kosode is inside out (which it should be after sewing the side seams) and place on a large flat surface.  I can use an ironing board, but a large dining room table is best.  Next, using the top fold of the sleeves (which will be inside out and not very flat) measure from the shoulder side of the sleeve to the bottom of the sleeve and jot down the measurement.  Pin the bottom seam, of the sleeve at that measurement, and only at that spot.  Now, using the jotted down measurement, measure from the top fold to the bottom of the sleeve, but at the end of the sleeve or where the hand hole will be and pin the bottom seam at that point.  I usually place a tick mark at the measurements.  Now measure 1/2" up from the pin, or tick mark.  This is where the bottom seam will go.  Typically there will be a strange non-parallel amount of fabric left over at the bottom of each sleeve.  Now comes the fun part.
  12. Using a compass that is spread all the way out, draw an arc in the bottom outer corner of the sleeve.  On all kosode, the bottom outside corner is rounded.  The line will be where the seam goes.
  13. Sew the sleeve seam, remembering to sew up the inner edge of the sleeve that is closest to the body of the kosode.
  14. Sew a hem at the bottom of the kosode, and it is done.