conversations
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Ichiroya has graciously allowed me to use images from their site to illustrate my ramblings. This is not a financial arrangement I have made - I simply believe them to be wonderful people with whom I enjoy doing business, and wish to support their endeavors. Ichiroya is a web based treasure trove of Japanese textiles, antiques, and information. If you haven't visited them in the past, just click on the icon to the left! Or, click on any of the images below to be taken directly to their page for more images and information.
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Do you find the myriad of terms associated with Japanese garments a bit confusing? I'm hoping the following chapter of Conversations will be of some help.

Take your time looking at the shapes and descriptions presented below - some have rather subtle differences. However, think how confusing it must have been for the Japanese when first introduced to Western clothing: What is the different between a  blouse and a shirt; a mourning coat, tuxedo, and sports coat? Do you actually know the differences?

The term “kimono” has two basic meanings as defined by Kakugawa Shoten's Kokugojiten [National Language (Japanese-Japanese) Dictionary]
1. Ifuku - clothing. 2. Wafuku -  Japanese clothing. What this means in that when a Japanese person says “kimono”, they may be referring to clothing in general, since kimono literally means things that are worn. Or they may be referring to Japanese style clothing, as opposed to youfuku, or Western clothing.

In everyday speech, kosode are also referred to commonly as kimono, as opposed to furisode, or uchikake, etc.
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So what is the most basic of the basic of Japanese garment shapes? 

Nearly all Japanese garments are based on a length of fabric woven to approximately 14” (35.5 cm) in width (called tanhaba). Basing most garments on fabric woven to this width generally means that you have a seam down the middle-back and sides, and if you have sleeves, a seam at the shoulders.
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semamori sample cards
If the chanchanko is to be worn by larger children or adults, in which case extra fullness is required, a half-width panel is added to both sides and/or two panels are used for the body to increase the width.
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If the garment is sewn with two panels for the body, giving it a seam down the back it may also become a jinbaori (lit. camp-coat). Jinbaori have rather unique fronts. The collar is not the typical kimono collar shape. The front center edges are folded back and buttoned in place. This is one of the very few traditional Japanese garments to have buttons. To this a Western appearing collar is attached. Often the back is not sewn all the way down to the hem, to allow the sword to poke out, looking a bit like a tail.  Jinbaori may also have sleeves. The sleeve is simply one more width of fabric attached at the shoulder.
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Momotaro wearing a jinbori.
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Warrior wearing jimbaori over suit of armor.
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with John Marshall
Welcome new friends and old! I've often been asked to write about a variety of Japanese textile and culture related subjects. This page allows me the opportunity to address your requests and to ramble off on side subjects wherever my whim and imagination lead.
Traditional tanhaba width fabric
children’s vest
chanchanko
Let's start with a sleeveless garment, the chanchanko, or vest.  This is most commonly worn by children (hence the cute name) and may be sewn from one 14” (35.5 cm) wide panel. The side seams are sewn, and has a collar that hangs straight down from the neck - no overlap. Because this garment has no center back seam, a semamori is often attached as a charm. If it is a bit large for the child, then the shoulders are tucked and stitched in place.
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adult vest