Monday, 14 January 2008

Resewing a woman's kimono for a man

Today's sewing demonstration at the exhibition involved remaking an unlined (hitoe) woman's kimono to fit a man. The main difference between men's and women's kimono, apart from the fabrics, is in the sleeves. Women's sleeves, whatever the length, are sewn with the back of the sleeve (the part towards the body) left open, and the sleeve is only attached about two fifths of the way down from the shoulder. The body side seam is left open immediately under the sleeve/body seam for about 5ins. You can see these features in the photo. Men's kimono sleeves are attached to the body for about four fifths of their length, and the back of the sleeve is sewn closed. The corner of the sleeve, just under the wrist opening, is squarer than women's kimono - I'm hoping to get away without altering the very small curve here!

Why do this kind of alteration? It is quite hard to find second hand kimono that will fit Western men, as the kimono are usually too short, even though men's kimono are about 25cm shorter than their height. Women's kimono are an ideal source for remaking, because they are much longer - approximately the same length as the woman's height - so a 175cm man could wear a remade woman's 150cm kimono.

My sale kimono have a good selection of patterns similar to Western men's shirting and suiting fabric patterns - stripes, checks, small patterns etc. Although these were informal women's kimono in Japan and some of the fabrics, for example a bold red and black check, would look more like women's patterns in a Japanese context, they make great men's kimono for casual wear over here.

You are probably thinking that the kimono shown above is quite a wild pattern to be made into a man's kimono - so it needs to be for a man who likes bright, bold patterns - the "balloon" design perhaps for someone connected with the performing arts or festivals? You'd be right!

I'll post a photo of the alteration when I finish it (tomorrow?) and hopefully a photo next week showing the lucky recipient wearing it. Today I unpicked the sleeves and the seam allowances, pressed out the existing seam creases and reattached the sleeves to the body, with a minimal seam allowance at the shoulder to gain more "wingspan" width for the sleeves.

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