A hakama is a type of Japanese garment that may be designed either as floor-length, culotte-like pants, or as a long, pleated skirt. Hakama are tied at the waist by a specially-designed waistband and are widely-flared at the hem. They are traditionally made of silk and are usually worn over a kimono, which is tucked in at the waist.
Hakama may have divided legs like trousers, or they may be undivided like a skirt. Both styles have seven pleats—two in the back and five arranged asymmetrically across the front. The sides of the hakama are split from waist to hip, dividing the waistband into two sections. Each section has tie belts on both sides for securing them at the front and back of the waist. The rear waistband also has a stiff panel that extends several inches toward the upper torso.
Belt-tying techniques differ for men and women. For men, the belt is tied into an elaborate double bow at the front. For women, the belt is tied in a simple knot. A special folding technique is also required to maintain the pleats while the hakama is stored.
For men, the formal hakama is usually made of heavy black or gray, striped silk. Those designed for women usually come in dark, solid colors, with the exception of the bright red hakama worn by women who tend the Shinto shrines in Japan. Women’s styles for special occasions may also feature embroidered flowers at the hem and waist. Hakama accessories include a white undergarment, a full-length kimono, and a pair of split-toed socks. In cooler weather, a short kimono-like tunic may also be worn as an outer garment.
Hakama are worn primarily by men for official ceremonies and formal occasions, including weddings, funerals, and tea ceremonies. Hakama are the traditional garment for priests who reside at Shinto shrines throughout Japan. They are also worn for the practice of archery and for martial arts such as kendo, karate, and aikido. Women wear them only for specific occasions and activities, such as graduation ceremonies and traditional Japanese sports.
The hakama dates back to the feudal era of Japan, when it was first worn as a protective garment during horseback riding. It later became de rigueur for both the nobility and samurai warriors at the courts of the shogun. A rustic version of the hakama was also worn by farmers and woodsmen.