What Are the Different Kinds of Kimono Jackets?

You might be surprised to learn there are at least six different styles of kimono jacket.  Most are designed to be worn over a kimono on a chilly or rainy day, both for added warmth and to protect the kimono from the elements.

HAORI:  This style of jacket is the most common.  With kimono-style sleeves, made to fit over the kimono sleeve it covers, a collar piece that extends from hem to hem, an open front with a haori himo tie (obi are not used), and typically made from fabric that would also be suitable for a kimono.   There are many categories of haori, defined by fabric, occasion, design, and length.  The most formal haori is the kuro montsuki haori, black with only the white family crests, and is worn for funerals or somber occasions. Another version of this black haori can be elaborately patterned - at the hem, on the back, or overall - and is more festive to be worn at formal but less somber gatherings. Another version is the natsu haori, made in a semi-sheer synthetic or open weave ro silk, to be worn in the summertime.  Many haori have a surprise on the inside - a lining that might be more colorful, unique or decorative than the outer fabric of the jacket! Most haori are reversible, with all stitching hidden, so if you prefer the lining side, display or wear it inside out!

MICHIYUKI:  This style, with its signature square neckline and snap or button closures, is also worn over the kimono for warmth and protection.  Michi means "street" and "yuki" refers to "going outside".  Most michiyuki have a "secret pocket" beneath the front panel, accessible by the right hand.  Though there are versions for men, most michiyuki (even the darker, plainer ones) are made for women. There is no standard length, and some can be as long as the kimono beneath it, which is more common for the style of michiyuki that is designed as rainwear.  A rare and collectible find is the velvet michiyuiki, made in Germany after WWII, and quite popular in Japan during the 1950's.

DOCHUGI:  This version of kimono jacket has a cross-over style similar to the kimono itself, with the same sleeve style as a kimono. Rather than an obi, however, fabric or corded ties are used to close the jacket: The right front panel ties to the inside left seam and the left panel ties - often with an ornately knotted "frog" closure - to the outside right seam. These ties can be adjusted and this gives the wearer additional room around the middle if needed.

HAPPI:  Haori are often mistakenly called happi coats because they have similar construction, but happi are distinctly different.  They are never made of silk (usually cotton) and are not meant as kimono outerwear.  Traditionally, happi are worn as work jackets or at festivals or company events to identify the wearer with a group of participants.  Typically a large single character appears at the center back, geometric patterning creates a border along the hem, and down each side of the front collar is a set of kanji characters that name the sponsor, township, company or event that the happi coat was created for. These days, happi can be any color, but vintage versions are usually dark blue with red and white designs.

HANTEN:  This style of jacket can have either the straight (non-crossing) front of a haori or the cross-over closure of the dochugi. In either case, the hanten can be identified by its thick padding, because it is meant to be worn at home for warmth.  These jackets are still seen in the countryside but are less popular in urban areas where central heating or at least modern insulation is more common.

NENEKO:  Any Japanese garment tells a tale, but the neneko (sometimes spelled nenneko) has quite a special one.  This is a long (to the knee), thickly padded (tacked or quilted), cross-over jacket with a black satin collar, and it is very large, even by Western measurements.  The size is deliberate, to accommodate a mother carrying a child on her back, beneath the jacket.  Though lighter, more thinly padded versions are also possible, the origin of the neneko is as a blanket:  nene is babytalk for nemu, the Japanese word for sleep, and the neneko kept the child warmly nestled when mother needed to go into town.

Any of these jackets can make a fun, unique, easy-to-wear Asian addition to a western wardrobe.  A black silk haori draped casually over the shoulders and worn off the back of the neck will call attention that very desirable nape (wear your hair up, of course). More festive, colorful versions are simply wearable art when matched with a single-color sheath or pants/camisole beneath. The more casual haori or dochugi makes a fine market jacket or casual car coat, and the neneko or hanten is the perfect warm piece to wear around the house.

Most of these are worn by women, though men still wear haori as part of a formal kimono ensemble (much as a suitcoat is worn with a suit in western cultures) or a happi to a festival or a hanten at home. 


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