The chihaya (outer vestment garment) has existed in Japan since ancient times and is a piece of clothing used when performing religious rituals and duties that is principally worn by women.
Originally worn on the outside of costumes, the chihaya is simply made of solely of plain white cloth one bolt length wide with a cut made purposely in the middle for the wearer to put their head through. The chihaya was worn over the sleeves of clothes worn when performing religious rituals and duties which were rolled up into the chihaya. It is said the chihaya was worn to make movement easier. Later on, at the Daijo-sai festival (a festival to celebrate the succession of an emperor) and Niiname-sai festival (ceremonial offering by the Emperor of newly-harvested rice to the deities), offerings of food and drink to the gods the chihaya was worn by uneme (court waitress of ancient Japan) and court ladies.
Furthermore, it was made by using two bolt widths of fabric with the front of the garment hanging below the chest and the back of the garment extending longer than the front. The armpit of the garment was not stitched closed and the garment was worn tied at the front with a cord thus having evolved into a short piece of clothing with no sleeves. In more recent times, instead of plain white cloth, aozuri (cloth dyed deep blue) made using indigo to paint flowers, plants and streams is primarily used. Currently, the chihaya is worn over the usual vestment (white top costume and hinohakama (scarlet hakama (divided trouser-like skirt)) worn by shrine maidens when performing formal religious rituals and duties and, is the formal piece of clothing worn with the suika (everyday garment worn by boys in ancient times).