09 July 2013

Jushiro Ukitake - The Cut of Shino Academy Uniforms

Okay, I've been out of cosplay-related content for awhile.  There are excuses and there are excuses...let's not waste time on those.  Let's get to the real (or is it?) content!

I actually started planning out my new Ukitake cosplay around six months ago.  At that time it didn't seem like something I'd actually do, mostly because I've been steering away from crossplay.  The exercise was useful practice for drawing out costume designs, and that's all it really was.

Buuuuuuut...here we are.  I spent two days at Anime Boston cosplaying Ukitake, and that reminded how much I enjoy the character.  That was the first cosplay I ever completed.  It's served its purpose.  Now it's time for something a little different.

The first item I'd like to discuss is Bleach Shinigami uniforms, both for the Academy as well as commissioned officers, and why I find them so...interesting.  Let's get this started.

At first glance this thing seems pretty normal.  The differences between the Academy and Shinigami uniform are, of course, the colour and markings.  Also, it is important to note that the hakama ties are the same colour as the hakama, not white as they are on the full Shinigami uniform.

Also interesting is how Shinigami tie their hakama.  Maybe it's a concession to modern styles, but traditional hakama are tied in a complex, elegant knot:

I dunno.  I guess Shinigami are too cool for that :/

Unlike typical kimono mon (crests), these are much larger and unlike most Japanese family crests I've seen before.  I found similar, but I suppose Kubo wanted something different (if he even gave a shit...).  The other kicker is that all the blue needs to be the same colour.  That means that I need to be able to produce fabric paint in the same colour I choose for the hakama and nagajuban.

An image discrepancy is the width of the stripes on the Academy uniform sleeves.  The first image shows a wider one in front and a thin one in back.  Second image is not so clear and the above image makes them look about equal in width.  For balance I chose to use the design from the first image.

Additionally, real-world men's and women's kimono have several key differences.  Women's kimono are long and tucked up at the waist.  Men's aren't.  Hakamashita, which is what Shinigami wear, are shorter, about knee-length, so that they won't bunch up in the crotch of the hakama.  It's a practical fighting uniform.

HOWEVER, men's kimono (including, I assume, combat garments like hakamashita) are completely sewn up under the arm where women's kimono have slits.  And yet, take a look at this image of Dumbass Ichigo:

He clearly has a slit under the arm of his kimono.  It's a very odd feature, given traditional kimono construction.  Now I realize that Ichigo's hakamashita is a little unique in style, HOWEVER I have noticed the exact same thing on other characters like Renji and Byakuya.  This just happens to be the clearest image I could find in 540+ chapters of manga.

So what does this mean?  Quite honestly, I like making women's kimono a lot better, so I don't really mind the underarm slit.  I think that men's kimono don't hang as nice with completely sewn up sleeves.  I'm just interested in why it's there.

Okay, so, modifications.  Yes, they ARE necessary.  For one thing, Ukitake is described as being over six feet tall.  I'm only a little over five foot three and pretty narrow.  Most kimono are made out of fabric bolts between 14 and 15 inches wide, which is just too wide if I don't want to look like I'm wearing a garment made for a much larger person.  I'm starting with 13 inch strips of fabric cut from wider Western fabric bolts.  With wide seam allowances this should fit much, much nicer.  I'm also shortening the hakama a little bit because I'm sick of dragging the hem on the ground.  Let's justify this by stating that I can't imagine anyone wanting to go through intensive training if they have to worry about tripping over ill-fitting garments.

Here the outer layer of kosode is all cut out, pinned together, and painted with the blue designs.  Now that my sewing machine is serviced and back from the shop we can get started on this thing!

Backtracking just a little bit, remember I mentioned having to match the fabric paint colour to the colour of the hakama and nagajuban?  Unfortunately I couldn't get the fabric I wanted for those two garments in the right shade of blue.  I bought white fabric and threw it in a navy blue dye bath.

Now it's white...
Now it's not!

Anyhow, I couldn't get the colour quite as dark as I wanted, but the greyish shade of navy blue that came out after two dyebaths is quite appropriate I think.  The grey tint should help to make my skin look a little less pale.  Should be fine.

Placing the patterns on the garment was not difficult, and I achieved this as usual using newspaper cutous, a ruler, and some charcoal pencil.

The trouble I had with the paint was that nothing I had on hand wanted to go as grey as the hakama fabric.  The colour in the middle of the dish ended up being too blue.

The next colour I mixed was a really dark blue with a tint of white paint mixed it.  The colour match was close enough for government work, so it's what I went with.

My wig is already taken care of.  Ukitake's hair during this time was cut short.

I've always been interested that his hair is more white than grey, but I chose to go more for a grey tone because it's how Kubo verbally describes Ukitake's appearance.

More next time!


  1. I've always also found the shinigami uniforms weird considering normal kimono construction/rules/whatnot and such.. *coughunderarmopeningsonmalecharacterscough* but oh well, it's a fictional story. *shrug*

    But this seems to come along great! Always happy to see more love for Ukitake, he's my favorite character in Bleach. :)

    1. From what I understand, underarm slits were originally for ventilation when the kimono was worn by farmers working in the field. Of course, historical garments worn during the time Ukitake and Shunsui probably went through training were much different from the ones depicted in Bleach. That, I suppose gives Kubo at least a partial pass on following traditional garment construction. I would still be interested to know how and why Kubo designed the uniforms the way he did.

      Ukitake is my favourite Bleach character as well. I only hope that Kubo develops his personality and past a little more before the series ends, because we still know so little about him! I just don't feel optimistic, though, because of the shitty ending Captain Unohana got. There's no real respect for any of the characters except Ichigo and a couple others, and I don't have a very high opinion of Ichigo.