A haori kimono jacket is an exquisite, easy to wear, traditional Japanese jacket that looks wonderful worn either casually with jeans or dressed up with evening wear and, of course, worn the traditional way over a kimono. It's a long Japanese jacket, with deep, kimono style, swinging sleeves; always in lovely fabrics, often with lavish designs on the back. Haori kimono jackets, unlike kimonos, do not need a sash or obi; they are either worn open or loosely fastened at centre front with a himo tie but, although the Japanese don't wear them with a sash, they also look fabulous cinched in at the waist with a belt. Haori kimono jackets mix perfectly with western world style clothing, so are a great way of adding that touch of Japan to your wardrobe.
On an unusually beautiful, sunny day here in Scotland, I made the most of the sunshine and had a photo session to get pictures of a few of my Japanese haori kimono jackets. My daughter, Astrella, modelled them all for me, sweltering in the heat without a word of complaint. We took 331 photos and I have selected about 50 for you to feast your eyes on here. You can see many, many more haori on my wafuku.co.uk website too. The pictures may help you gauge the general length of them, as haori are longer than many people realise from pictures of them just on a hanger. Astrella is five foot one inch tall (roughly 155cm) and a UK size 10 and about 125 cm from wrist to wrist.
The first haori shown below is covered in large, pink and white ume (plum bossom) and shows how good haori can look when worn with a belt, which is something the Japanese donít do. They wear them unbelted on top of a kimono and obi. You may notice that haori (and kimono) sleeve seams lie down the arms a bit, not up at the edge of the shoulders. The traditional way of fastening a haori, if one chooses to fasten it at all, is with a single tie, just inside the fronts, called a himo, which holds the fronts edge to edge, not overlapped. As you can see, though, from photos on this page, haori do also look extremely good with a a belt added. I have men's haori too but this photo shoot was only done with women's ones.
The first one below is being worn with a wide elastic belt.
This next one has magnificent textile art of bright flowers on black, shown modelled with a narrow leather belt as well as without a belt. The large white stitching at the edge of the sleeves is called shitsuke and is often put in, by the Japanese, just to keep garment seams neat during storage. It is simply pulled out before wearing but, as this haori was just being modelled, I left it in.
All but one of the haoris in these photographs is pure silk, inside and out, and all are entirely hand tailored, with the seam edges completely hidden in the lined ones, so those can actually be worn inside out too. Some have hand applied textile art. The quality of the fabric and workmanship is absolutely exquisite.
The following photograph shows a haori in a pretty pink, with a design of magenta leaves.
Now a touch of 1950s pattern. Shown, in one photo, inside out. The bottom half is usually lined in the same silk used on the outside, with a lighter weight silk on the top half and the sleeves. This haori's upper lining has a lovely design of colourful parasols on it.
Pink leafy repeat pattern.
Graduated pampas leaf pattern on russet. The leaves become more dense towards the bottom.
Bingata style print of pretty flowers.
The one below has autumn maple leaves, shown with and without a belt and shown inside out, with the beautiful lining on show. Haori are usually so exquisitely made, with hidden seams and hand tailoring, that you can wear or display the lined ones inside out. The lower half is lined with the same silk as the outside and the upper half and sleeves are lined with a lighter silk in a different design. This one has lovely Japanese parasols on the upper lining.
In the next photo you can see how beautifully they are made, with the edges of the seams completely hidden inside and out; not a line of stitches in sight in the lined ones.
On the next haori you see a wonderful design of stylised kiku (chrysanthemums) swirling over the silk.
Now black, with striking, champagne gold, metallic urushi (lacquer covered silk thread) woven to create a landscape design.
An iro muji (self coloured), scarlet haori, with flowers in the damask weave of the silk. I do wish I'd ironed it before the photos, though. They usually aren't creased when unfolded, as there is a special way of folding haoris and kimonos to ensure they very rarely require ironing when unfolded for use.
Swirls of dragon fire on black silk, with subtle touches of gold detailing that are lovely when up close. A 1930s haori, so slightly longer than most of my more recent ones, with slightly deeper sleeves too.
Magnificent birds and flowers.
Big, pink butterflies on black.
Vermillion flowers and leaves on black.
Now for two examples of kuro muji (plain black) haoris, with patterns in the weave that the photos haven't picked up. Each has one white mon (crest) at the centre of the back at shoulder level.
This second plain black one, below, is an antique haori, which are often longer than more recent ones. This one is 102cm long. I am keeping it for myself.
Below is another metallic urushi landscape design haori, this one with glinting, distant mountains and a formal mon (crest) at the centre of the shoulders, making it a hitotsu mon (one mon) haori
An unusual one next. It's a large sized, child's michiyuki jacket but big enough for an adult to wear. It would fit a child because children wear them with big tucks loosely stitched in the shoulders, narrowing the width. Children's ones have a collar and tassels, whereas adult michiyuki usually don't have either of those and would also be longer than this one. The michiyuki you see in the next two photos is made of shibori patterned silk, with little red dots all over and large ume (plum blossom). Shibori is an intricate tie dye process, usually painstakingly, entirely hand done, making it a frighteningly expensive fabric that is highly revered by the Japanese, so this garment would have been for a child from a family with a great deal of money.
In Japan, haori jackets are not worn with the fronts overlapping and not worn with a belt but michiyuki jackets are worn overlapped at the front and they are usually fastened with press studs, which in itself is unusual, as almost all traditional Japanese garments are fastened only by tying; using using various sashes, cords, obis etc.
Finally, black silk, with painterly, red branches and little ume (plum blossom), shown with and without a smile. This is a haori that the model has kept for herself, to wear with her red, Terry De Havilland shoes
Haoris seem to be a well kept Japanese secret. We, over here in the West, all know about their lovely kimonos but few have ever even heard of haoris and it was long after I started my kimono collecting that I discovered these jackets that the Japanese sometimes wear on top of their kimonos.
I was originally focused only on kimonos, but eventually I bought a haori, just to see what it was like. From then on I was hooked. I love that I can now publicly wear something so clearly Japanese, very striking and so different from what I see other people wearing. I think of them as one of Japan's secret treasures.
Some of the above haori are already listed for sale on my website, along with hundreds of other magnificent haori at wafuku.co.uk, and the rest (plus many more) will be added to that site bit by bit. Check out the items on this site if you want to see them or my extensive selection of vintage Japanese kimonos and other wafuku.
I now have a Wafuku Blog (opens in a new window/tab).
Wafuku.co.uk was featured in Scotland on Sunday's Spectrum magazine and was also mentioned in a feature about kimonos in the March 2011 issue of 25 Beautiful Homes magazine. The beauty of traditional Japanese clothing, both for wear and as display items, is catching on among the discerning.
The 'geisha' in the garden, shown below, is also my long suffering daughter, who patiently allows me to photograph her in an endless array of kimonos to display on my site, allowing people to see what many of them look like when on. In the photo below, she is wearing one of her own kimonos; that's the kimono that made me feel I had to own one of my own and got my addiction to kimonos started.