Hakama

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Hakama are an item of traditional Japanese clothing resembling a wide, pleated skirt.

Men traditionally wear two general types of hakama - umanori (divided) and andon (undivided). Umanori, "horse riding hakama" are divided like trousers, with a much lower crotch seam that we are familiar with in Western garments. Andon hakama are skirtlike.

Modern umanori hakama incorporate a stiffened back board into the rear waistband, known as a koshi-ita. This feature does not appear to have been common prior to the Edo period (1603-1867 CE), though there is some iconographic evidence that the koshi-ita begins to appear in the late 16th century.

During the Heian period (795-1192 CE) women of the court classes wore nagabakama, a type of hakama with hems so long the wearer walked on them, usually red in color. During the Edo period, men of the samurai class began to wear nagabakama with matching kataginu.

Hakama for women fell out of fashion some time after the Kamakura period (1193-1333 CE) as they began to wear kosode as an outergarment. During the Meiji Restoration (1867-1912 CE), hakama returned to women's wear for students or working girls, often combined with Western blouses and hairstyles. In contemporary Japan, hakama and furisode are worn by young graduates.

The symbolism and number of pleats or styles of tying hakama are almost as varied as the martial arts disciplines which use them as teaching tools. There is no evidence that these symbols predate the Edo period.

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