= Women’s Outfits =

by Joshua L. Badgley

In this section, I will present only historical information on the various outfits and ensembles worn by women. As with the article on Men's Outfits, the details here will concern full outfits. For specifics of the individual garments and accessories, see the articles about them in the appropriate preceding chapters.

As mentioned in a previous chapter, typically, people wearing an outfit called such-and-such are described as in "such-and-such sugata"this is difficult to translate cleanly into English, but the word "sugata" means "form" or "appearance."

The earliest examples of women's outfits on the Japanese archipelago show up in the funerary statues of the ancient kofun tumuli. Later, with greater contact with China, we see the adoption of Chinese fashion, particularly in the court. Even as the fashion evolved to the larger sleeves and flowing robes of the uchiki sugata style in the later Heian period, the uppermost garment of the court style was still known as a karaginu, or "Chinese robe." Eventually, the large sleeved garments were replaced with the smaller sleeves of the kosode sugata. While the kosode was originally a lower-class garment used primarily as an initial layer by the aristocracy, with the rise of the warrior class, it grew in popularity. In many cases, it simply replaced the various types of uchiki used in various outfits, so that women were wearing layers of kosode in place of the uchiki layers.

In the earliest period of Chinese influence, it was common to have both upper and lower garments for both men and women of the upper classes, at least when going out and about. These were typically forms of a wrapped skirt, such as the mo, or trousers, such as hakama. In the later Heian period, these were both exaggerated in the karaginu-mo, with the mo becoming more of a train, and the hakama being lengthened in the long haribakama (sometimes called nagabakama). While a shorter, ankle-length, set of hakama were worn when going out (such as in the tsuboshozoku sugata), the formal mo was simply removed. A simple wrapped skirt, known as mobakama, was worn by some common women, and it became popular among the upper classes in the Kamakura period, corresponding with the rise of the warrior classes. Other wrapped garments, such as the yumaki and the shibiradatsumono, also remained popular through the later period. At the same time, the upper classes, with their many layers, started to forego lower garments. In the Kamakura period, we see them missing from the basic uchiki sugata, and thus they are also missing as that evolves into the uchikake sugata. Many of these garments disappear or are seen rarely from the Muromachi period onward.

Regarding accessories for women's outfits, while there is some headgear for working women or special occasions, hats were not as prevalent in most outfits, though kasa are worn to protect from the sun and rain. Most women wore their hair straight, often in a long ponytail with a simple, paper hair tie. Fans are commoneither some type of ōgi, earlier on, or the paper sensu in the later periods. For women of the warrior class, they may even wear a dagger, like an aikuchi. And of course, it is always good to keep some paper around for sudden inspiration, which is why you will see some women carrying around tatō.

Uchiki sugata

This is the most basic outfit of the court ladies of the Heian period. It is an outfit made up of a series of uchiki. While this can refer to just about any garment making up the structure of the layers, this most typically refers to the wide-sleeved, v-necked Heian robes commonly worn by women. In this outfit, the most basic of the Heian aristocratic outfits, a series of uchiki are simply layered one on top of another, with colors and patterns matching appropriate seasonal themes. At the most basic layer was usually a linen garment near the skinin later periods this would be a juban or some sort of basic kosode, though earlier it would have just been a hitoe. Over this is worn the haribakama. The next layer out would be the akome, followed by layers of uchiki. The number of layers could vary depending on the season and the wealth of the individual, but we typically see at least five or six. As with similar outfits, people may have also used "cheat" garments with multiple layers sewn into a single one, but the outermost would always be its own garment. In the summer they are typically single layer garments, while winter outfits typically use lined robes for greater warmth.

From the mid-Heian period to the end of the Kamakura period, this outfit went through a few different changes. Most noticeably, as discussed in the introduction, above, the haribakama were eschewed altogether. Perhaps less noticeable was the body of the clothingmid-Heian period, most of the outfits appear to have had a softer, more billowy appearance. In the late Heian and Kamakura periods, a more angular look was appreciated, which required fabric with more body, like the uchigi. Over time, this morphed in to the uchikake sugata, with the kosode replacing the older style of uchiki.

Parts of the uchiki sugata:

Garments Kosode, haribakama, hitoe, multiple uchiki
Accessories Shitōzu, tatō, hiogi

Karaginu-mo sugata

This is the formal court wear for women from the middle Heian Period onward, the equivalent of men's sokutai sugata. It is named for the primary garments, the karaginu and the mo. Otherwise, the underlayer are typical kasane, or layers, and would have been expected to follow the color combinations, or kasane no irome, that were fashionable at the time. This is the outfit that is typically being referred to as the jūni-hitoe (literally "12 layers"), though the actual number of layers could vary, and occasionally false layers (e.g. itstutsuginu) would be used.

The base layer is a kosode or juban. Over this is worn the haribakama (aka nagabakama). The layers above that are as follows: hitoe, several uchiki and/or an itstutsuginu, an uchigi/uchiginu, an uwagi, and then the karaginu and mo.

To complete the look, court ladies would often carry elaborately decorated hiōgi.

Parts of the karaginu-mo sugata:

Garments Kosode, haribakama, hitoe, uchiki, (itsutsuginu), uchigi,uwagi, mo, and karaginu
Accessories Shitōzu, tatō, hiogi

Kouchiki sugata

This is a dressed down version of the karaginu-mo, doffing the formal karaginu and mo and replacing the uwagi with the kouchiki. This would have been everyday wear for the court ladies in the Heian Period, and it was also adopted by the high ranking ladies of the warrior class in later periods. In the later periods, women decided to forego the haribakama except for formal court events.

Parts of the kouchiki sugata:

Garments Kosode, haribakama, hitoe, uchiki, (itsutsuginu), uchigi, and kouchiki
Accessories Shitōzu, tatō, hiogi

Tsuboshozoku sugata

Typically, when a woman of means decided to travel in the Heian period, she would travel by ox cart, or similar conveyance. This meant that most noblewomen would remain above the ground, allowing them to wear long robes that trailed behind them. However, when a woman of means was expected to walk in the Heian and Kamakura periods, such as when on pilgrimage to a shrine, she had a few options available to her. First off, she would typically be wearing the everyday uchiki sugata, but with the layers gathered up past her ankles and kept closed with a thin cord or obi. The layers would then be draped over this cord to keep everything in place. If on pilgrimage, one might wear a kake-mamori as well as a kake-obi to demonstrate their devotion. To protect themselves from the elements, women would wear a straw hat, or kasa, such as an ichimegasa. Some women would have a screen of transparent fabric for purposes of both modesty and to keep insects away, called mushi no tareginu. In other instances, a woman might just pull up her uchiki over her head, like a hood. This is similar to what you see common women do with kosode, such as in the gaishutsu sugata.

In the Heian period, women might have worn a shortened version of the haribakama with this outfit, but by the Kamakura period you are often seeing the hakama discarded, just as in the kouchiki sugata. Later on, you see women wearing uchikake sugata in a similar fashion.

Parts of the tsuboshozoku sugata:

Garments Kosode, haribakama, hitoe, multiple uchiki, and an ichimegasa
Accessories Kake-mamori, kake-obi, and zōri

Kosode sugata

By the end of the Muromachi period, there had been a radical shift in the clothing styles worn by members of the buke and kuge classes. With the exception of formal court functions, most women eschewed the large, open sleeves of the uchiki sugata in favor of the simpler kosode, with its short, rounded sleeves. Although this had previously been seen as either undergarments or clothing for more common women, it had grown in popularity along with the rise in status of the warrior class as a whole. By the Muromachi period, this practical fashion was being worn by all classes, with the type and number of kosode often acting as an indicator of wealth and status.

In many cases, these outfits replaced the layers of hitoe and uchiki one for one with the kosode. Women had also largely stopped wearing hakama in the Kamakura period outside of the court, and this carried over to the kosode sugata. Without the hakama, the layers of kosode are kept closed with a thin obi. In some instances, such as the uchikake sugata, another kosode style garment may be worn open on top of it all, but the base is fairly standard.

Parts of the kosode sugata:

Garments Multiple kosode
Accessories Tabi, and zōri

Uchikake sugata

This is the outfit of women of the warrior class during the later period, the equivalent of men's formal hitatare kamishimo sugata, and it largely replaced the kouchiki sugata. It is named for the primary garment, the uchikake, which is a kosode style garment that is worn more like an uchiki. In fact, it is quite similar to the kouchiki, above, except that it uses the kosode style garments rather than the older style. In other words, it was originally an imitation of the court styles but with a buke style twist. It is likely that this style would have also followed concepts of seasonal color combinations, though it also was able to break out with more variety in terms of brocades and heavy embroidery. Underneath the uchikake, which is typically worn open, would be layers of kosode. There are no hakama traditionally worn with this outfit.

The base layer is a kosode or juban. Other kosode, or , as desired for warmth/fashion are layered on top of this. It is held together with a thin obi, often tied in front. Overall is an uchikake.

To complete the look, a decorated ōgi may be warranted. For footwear, while women might simply wear or go barefoot indoors, zōri type sandals may be used when one needs to walk around outside.

Parts of the uchikake sugata:

Garments Kosode, and uchikake
Accessories Tabi, zōri, ōgi

Shibiradatsumono sugata

Worn by commoners during the Heian period, this is an early form of kosode sugata. The shibiradatsumono is a type of mo, or wrapped skirt or apron that goes around the waist, over a standard set of kosode. Commoners would likely wear simple zōri, likely made from plain rice straw.

Parts of the shibiradatsumono sugata:

Garments Multiple kosode, and shibiradatsumono
Accessories Zōri

Gaishutsu sugata

This is an informal outfit for women of the buke and kuge (warrior and noble families) in the Muromachi. The name given here is an informal designation (credit to the Kyoto Costume Museum), and merely means "outfit for going out" (in modern Japanese "gaishutsu-gi" refers to street clothes). This is really a form of the basic kosode sugata. One should not assume that this was a prescribed outfit in the same way as more formal outfits were.

The base layer is a kosode or juban. This would be layered with multiple other kosode, depending on the wearer's preference. On colder days, more layers are recommended. These are all held together with a thin obi. Another kosode is also worn over the head, held in place by a kazura obi.

Walking around outside, zōri, or similar footwear, will be necessary.

Parts of the gaishutsu sugata:

Garments Multiple kosode
Accessories Tabi, and zōri

Kake-yumaki sugata

The yumaki came about by the 12th century. The name refers to its use, as this was reportedly used by high ranking women when they went to take a bath. At that time it would have been a plain white cloth worn over a style garment, like an or uchiki, in place of hakama, as depicted in the Heike Monogatari.

Here we have the kake-yumaki worn over the kosode, as was typical for the lower classes. It could be worn out and about, such as in the marketplace alongside women in shibiradatsumono sugata, kiribakama sugata, mobakama sugata, or just plain kosode sugata. As it was taken up as a kind of daily wear, colorful and decorated cloth was used. Women would sometimes use a two-panel width cloth, and this was called futano.

Parts of the kake-yumaki sugata:

Garments Multiple kosode, and a kake-yumaki
Accessories Zōri


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