|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:
http://www.wodfordhall.com/kosode.htm. 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (http://www.sewneau.com/how.to/flat.felled.seam.html), but when I'm in a hurry
I just sew a regular seam and press it open.
- 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.
- 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
http://www.wodfordhall.com/kosode.htm 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Sew the sleeve seam, remembering to sew up the inner
edge of the sleeve that is closest to the body of the
- Sew a hem at the bottom of the kosode, and it is