Haori Photo Shoot – The Versatile Kimono Jacket

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

Welcome to my www.wafuku.co.uk WordPress blog

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Haoris in the sunshine – A photo shoot with fabulous, Japanese haori kimono jackets

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day here in Scotland, so I made the most of it and had a photo session to get pictures of a few of my Japanese haori kimono jackets. Astrella modelled them all for me, sweltering in the heat without a word of complaint. We took 331 photos and I have selected 58 for you to feast your eyes on here.  The pictures may help you gauge the general length of them, as haori are longer than many people realise from pictures of them just on a hanger. Astrella is five foot one inch tall (roughly 155cm) and a UK size 10 and about 125 cm from wrist to wrist.

The first haori shown below is covered in large, pink and white ume (plum bossom) and shows how good haori can look when worn with a belt, which is something the Japanese don’t do. They wear them unbelted on top of a kimono and obi. You may notice that haori (and kimono) sleeve seams lie down the arms a bit, not up at the edge of the shoulders. The traditional way of fastening a haori, if one chooses to fasten it at all,  is with a single tie, just inside the fronts, called a himo, which holds the fronts edge to edge, not overlapped. As you can see, though, from photos on this page, haori do also look extremely good with a a belt added. The first one below is being worn with a wide elastic belt.

This next one has magnificent textile art of bright flowers on black, shown modelled with a narrow leather belt as well as without a belt. The large white stitching at the edge of the sleeves is called shitsuke and is often put in, by the Japanese, just to keep garment seams neat during storage. It is simply pulled out before wearing but, as this haori was just being modelled, I left it in.

All but one of the haoris in these photographs is pure silk, inside and out, and all are entirely hand tailored, with the seam edges completely hidden in the lined ones, so those can actually be worn inside out too. Some have hand applied textile art. The quality of the fabric and workmanship is absolutely exquisite.

The following photograph shows a haori in a pretty pink, with a design of magenta leaves.

Now a touch of 1950s pattern. Shown, in one photo, inside out. The bottom half is usually lined in the same silk used on the outside, with a lighter weight silk on the top half and the sleeves. This haori’s upper lining has a lovely design of colourful parasols on it.

Pink leafy repeat pattern.

Graduated pampas leaf pattern on russet. The leaves become more dense towards the bottom.

Bingata style print of pretty flowers.

The one below has autumn maple leaves, shown with and without a belt and shown inside out, with the beautiful lining on show. Haori are usually so exquisitely made, with hidden seams and hand tailoring, that you can wear or display the lined ones inside out. The lower half is lined with the same silk as the outside and the upper half and sleeves are lined with a lighter silk in a different design. This one has lovely Japanese parasols on the upper lining.

In the next photo you can see how beautifully they are made, with the edges of the seams completely hidden inside and out; not a line of stitches in sight in the lined ones.

On the next haori you see a wonderful design of stylised kiku (chrysanthemums) swirling over the silk.

Now black, with striking, champagne gold, metallic urushi (lacquer covered silk thread) woven to create a landscape design.

An iro muji (self coloured), scarlet haori, with flowers in the damask weave of the silk. I do wish I’d ironed it before the photos, though. They usually aren’t creased when unfolded, as there is a special way of folding haoris and kimonos to ensure they very rarely require ironing when unfolded for use.

Swirls of dragon fire on black silk, with subtle touches of gold detailing that are lovely when up close. A 1930s haori, so slightly longer than most of my more recent ones, with slightly deeper sleeves too.

Magnificent birds and flowers.

Big, pink butterflies on black.

Vermillion flowers and leaves on black.

Now for two examples of kuro muji (plain black) haoris, with patterns in the weave that the photos haven’t picked up. Each has one white mon (crest) at the centre of the back at shoulder level.

This second plain black one, below, is an antique haori, which are often longer than more recent ones. This one is 102cm long.  I am keeping it for myself.

Below is another metallic urushi landscape design haori, this one with glinting, distant mountains and a formal mon (crest) at the centre of the shoulders, making it a hitotsu mon (one mon) haori

An unusual one next. It’s a large sized, child’s michiyuki jacket but big enough for an adult to wear. It would fit a child because children wear them with big tucks loosely stitched in the shoulders, narrowing the width. Children’s ones have a collar and tassels, whereas adult michiyuki usually don’t have either of those and would also be longer than this one. The michiyuki you see in the next two photos is made of shibori patterned silk, with little red dots all over and large ume (plum blossom). Shibori is an intricate tie dye process, usually painstakingly, entirely hand done, making it a frighteningly expensive fabric that is highly revered by the Japanese, so this garment would have been for a child from a family with a great deal of money.

In Japan, haori jackets are not worn with the fronts overlapping and not worn with a belt but michiyuki jackets are worn overlapped at the front and they are usually fastened with press studs, which in itself is unusual, as almost all traditional Japanese garments are fastened only by tying; using using various sashes, cords, obis etc.

Finally, black silk, with painterly, red branches and little ume (plum blossom), shown with and without a smile. This is a haori that the model has kept for herself, to wear with her red, Terry De Havilland shoes

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21 comments

  1. The pampas leaves and the dragon smoke haori are particularly stunning! What a lovely photo shoot.

    (On a side note, Astrella’s hair is what I dream mine looked like.)

    1. Thank you. I have had to fight the temptation to keep the dragon smoke one and the black one with bright flowers for myself. I have already kept dozens.
      Astrella changed her hair colour to deep plum recently and, although she loved that colour when it was long, she hated it on the bobbed cut, as she had become so accustomed to the synthetic nylon wig look that the bright red gives her. It’s a little more magenta red this time than usual, normally she colours it scarlet and will go back to that next time. I do love the bright colour.

  2. I do love to wear Haori as ‘mini kimono’ and love the pictures. It has inspired me to consider brighter Haori for my collection.

    1. I have never worn mine with a belt round them but they looked so good belted on Astrella that I now sometimes will. The very long, plain black, antique haori is one I kept for myself and I am going to pinch that sushi sash, which she made, to wear with it now and then.

  3. Great photo shoot – and I love the belts. Where are they from, or did you make them? I feel inspired to try more belts now over my haoris, which I’ve usually worn loose. Keep up the good work. 🙂

    1. Thank you.
      The belts are ones my daughter has bought herself over the years, apart from the sushi sash you can see in the photos of longest, plain black haori, which she made to wear with her kimonos. It’s sushi pattern on one side and plain red on the other. She wears the sushi side with a plain black kimono she has and the red side with several patterned kimonos.
      Her favourite way of wearing a haori with a belt is with the fronts sitting a bit apart at the front and the back of the haori slightly gathered, the way she’s wearing the pink & white plum blossom one in the first of the Haori Photo Shoot post’s photos.

    1. I’m so glad you liked them. I wanted to be able to show folk what haoris look like when worn, because, if one has never seen a haori on someone before, it is very difficult to imagine how they look and, in particular, how long they are just from photos of them on hangers or laid out flat.

  4. Do haoris differ in length? Most of mine are bum level (i’m 5’7), but one is a few inches longer, it has a mon on it. Are longer haoris posher?

    1. Haoris do differ in length, older ones tend to be longer. The amount they lie down the thigh depends, of course, on one’s height. On me, most are about a third of the way down my thigh (I’m 5’2″) but I do have some much older ones, which are from around 1910s -1930s, that are just below knee length on me. Since the 60s the length seems to vary only a little.
      The length isn’t to do with poshness. There have just been fashions through the decades and very long was fashionable at one time, the ones from around the 1950s are a bit longer than those from the 60s to the 80s etc but not as long as the earlier ones. Meisen silk was also popular for 50s kimonos and haoris.
      I don’t have a full grasp of the changing fashions in kimonos and haori. The changes in fashions can be very subtle. Having so many, I have learned a little about what was popular when and can approximately date some but by no means all. It is not as easy to judge or even find out about the changing fashions in haoris and kimonos as it is with western world clothing, where we can easily see the fashions change over each decade – it is very easy to recognise western world clothes from the 30s or the 80s or any from decade but not obvious with Japanese wafuku. I rarely venture a specific date in the descriptions of my haori.

      Having one mon makes it a hitotsu mon haori, so slightly formal. It could have no mon (informal), one mon (centre back), three mon (called mitsu mon – centre back and on the back of each sleeve) or five mon (called itsutsu mon – centre back and on the back of each sleeve and two on the front). The more mon it has, the more formal the occasion it may be worn at, so not so much a case of poshness, more a case of differing formality. Being unlined (hitoe) is also not a sign of poor quality in haoris or kimonos, those are made for summer wear (June to September), so it doesn’t make them less posh or anything.

      Most are good quality, even the plainest or most informal, but yuzen (hand applied artwork) ones are very, very expensive, as are all shibori (intricate hand done tie dye) ones, because these techniques require specialist skill and time. An all shibori kimono can take up to a year to make. Even plain garments or those with all-over repeat patterns (komon kimonos) that are made for just informal wear, are expensive, as they are usually silk and entirely hand tailored. This is why the Japanese take such good care of them, handing them on down the generations, and therefore many vintage and antique ones are in extremely good condition. One reason for them being hand tailored is that the traditional way to clean haoris and kimonos is to unpick all the stiches, take them completely apart, lay the pieces on a board and individually clean them, then sew them back together again, this form of cleaning is called araihari, it is time consuming and, if professionally done, very expensive. You can see why inexpensive, easy wear, easy clean, western world style clothing has become popular in Japan and caused the steady demise of the kimono.

  5. Hey. Like the whole website. Been reading about Haori. Just wondering if they could be worn causally at home/outside during winter time. Like something warm to wear on top and still look nice =D

    I read that they are made of silk, but im not to sure if silk material can keep you warm.

    If any info would help. Thank you =D

    1. Silk is warm, especially when also lined, giving an extra layer to trap warmth, though I wouldn’t call it cosy. The haoris are medium weight jackets (unlined ones are lightweight jackets) and are great for casual wear at home/outside but I wouldn’t call them winter jackets.
      They are usually, by the Japanese, worn open or sometimes very loosely fastened with one little tie (himo) inside the front edges, but they look good worn with the fronts a bit overlapped and a belt added, to cinch it in at the waist and hold it closed.
      They would be nice over a sweater, as an extra layer for warmth, but I don’t know if that’s warm enough for a cold winter.
      The Japanese wear them on top of a fully lined kimono plus an under kimono (naga-juban, sometimes also lined) and under garments (han juban – waist length, cotton, wrap top and susoyoke – long, cotton, wrap skirt), plus a deep, lined obi wound twice around the waist, so all those layers, with a haori on top, are extremely warm indeed but we in the West tend to wear less layers.

  6. First I would like to say you look so beautiful in all of the pictures. Next is that your natural hair? If not how did you keep it so vibrant? Mine always fades out in a 2 weeks or so?

    1. Hi. The person with scarlet hair is my daughter. Her hair does fade quickly and she has to re-dye it every couple of weeks or so. She uses a permanent dye and sometimes tops it up mid way with a temporary one, by Fudge, I believe, and sometimes one called Crazy Colour. She curses the fact that she has to re-do it so often and keeps trying to find a longer lasting solution but can’t seem to find one.

    1. I use a very trustworthy dry cleaner to have mine cleaned.
      I have washed some in the past but I have ruined as many as I have had success with, so rarely risk that.

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