Monday, September 20, 2010

Cosplay: Can You Use Real Kimono for Bleach Characters?

So lately I've gotten sucked into the anime Bleach. Yes, I'm amazingly late to the party, but you'll have to forgive me. I have a soft spot for stubborn heroes with giant swords (my favorite series ever is good old Berserk).

Now that I've seen a few episodes, I better understand some of the questions I've gotten from people at conventions and festivals about using kimono with Bleach characters. If you're curious, here's a quick breakdown of the differences between what your average Shinigami is wearing compared to traditional clothing.

 Main character Ichigo Kurosaki in the standard Shinigami uniform.

Kimono (top half visually): The collar and drape are similar to a real black men's kimono, but the entire front of the sleeve is open. On non-martial arts kimono the hole is only long enough for the hand to stick through, and is sewn shut the rest of the way down. The white you see along the sleeves and collar in the outfit is likely intended to be the underrobe (juban).

Hakama (bottom half, pants): These look to be largely the same, but traditional hakama ties are the same color and material as the rest of the hakama. The Shinigami have contrasting ties.

Tabi (socks) and straw zori (sandals): These look to be the same as traditional versions.

Captain's Coats (the white ones): The coats appear to be based on men's haori (kimono jackets) as they hang down the front rather than fold over, but the designs along the hems are not traditional, and the sleeves are wholly open again when normal ones are sewn shut below the wrist, like the above-mentioned kimono.

So, could you use traditional clothes to create a basic Shinigami costume? I think so. Here's what you'd need:

1. Black men's kimono and white juban (men's or women's, as women's are easier to find online in all white)- Use a seam ripper on the sleeve hole opening of the kimono and resew the hem along it to make it completely open.

EDIT (9/26/10): Having seen a few more episodes, it looks like the back of the sleeves are open too! Long story short, that means a woman's kimono is more accurate to the costume because men's sleeves and the body's side seams are sewn shut. In women's they're open (the side seam several inches), where you could physically stick your hand into the side of a woman's kimono under her arm and also into her sleeve from the back (the wider women's obi types normally cover up the side seam opening in normal kimono wearing).

Juban, the underkimono, shouldn't need any resewing as the sleeves on juban are normally open in the front, but you'll need a long, inch-wide strip of soft, non-slick fabric to tie it shut before you put the kimono on over it. Anything thinner will cut into your skin over the course of a day.

2. Men's obi-  This is worn over the kimono but under the hakama pants and is what keeps your kimono shut. The knot you tie in the back also helps create the bump seen under the pants in the back. As this isn't really seen except as a tiny line above the hakama ties (if you want to be traditional about it rather than hide it entirely), this could easily be faked with a cheaper substitute made of stiff fabric.

3. Men's black hakama- Cut off the normal ties and use them as guides to sew your own out of the white fabric of your choice.

4. Captain's coat- This gets trickier as men's haori don't often come in white. You'd probably be better off making your own than trying to find a vintage haori and altering it.

5. Tabi and zori- Check Ebay and online dealers for these as they're ready to go as is. Straw zori can be a bit tougher to find, however, as well as larger sizes.

If you assemble all or some of this down the road and would like to know how to traditionally put it on, there are some good videos on Youtube for dressing in kimono and hakama with a lean toward the martial arts angle (which I think the Shinigami definitely fall under!). My favorite is an easy-to-follow series by an Iaido practioner, which starts with this video on clothing basics and continues on with Part 2 (hakama), and more if you're interested in how to wear a katana. etc.

The sharp-eyed of you will immediately note he has white ties on his hakama, but he explains early on that he switched them out to a different color to make them easier to see. ;)

Kimono images courtesy Ichiroya and used with permission.


Yauheniya Kavalenka said...

Hello! Thank you very much for all the information about kimono!
I would like to ask your kind permission to translate into Russian your post about Bleach costumes and about lucky/unluky stroke counts in Ichigo's name. It would be for one small Bleach-Fans's community ( May I?

Christina said...

Hello, and you're welcome! Thank you for asking, and if you include a link back it's no problem: please go ahead! :D

Yauheniya Kavalenka said...

Thank you very much! Hurray!
Of course links will be included! :)))