Kimono and Yukata: What's the Difference?

The kimono is known as the national dress of Japan. But are kimono and yukata actually different, or are they basically the same? We will look at the differences between the from three perspectives.

History

First, let's unravel the history of yukata and kimono.

The History and Usage of Yukata

The History and Usage of Yukata

The yukata was originally called the "yukatabira" (湯帷子), and was worn during the Heian period (794 - 1185) for bathing. At the time, there was no custom of bathing naked like now, and it is said that the garment was used to soak up perspiration and prevent scalding by ensuring the skin was not directly exposed in a steam bath.

From around the Edo period (1603 – 1868), people started taking baths naked. At first, the yukata was worn to wipe off the perspiration caused by the hot bath, but now it is customary to wear yukata and go outside. The name was also abbreviated to "yukata" (浴衣) .

The History and Usage of Yukata

Yukata became established as a summertime kimono during the Meiji period (1868–1912). A yukata cannot be worn for formal occasions, but for summer events such as festivals, firework displays, and casual dinner parties.

The History and Usage of Kimono

The History and Usage of Kimono

“Kimono” originally meant “clothes” in Japanese, but in the modern era, it denotes a specific type of traditional Japanese garment. The prototype of today's kimono is said to be Kosode (小袖), which were undergarments in the Junihitoe (十二単 twelve layers clothes) worn by high-ranking noble women in the Heian period (974–1185). Until then, the mainstream kimono was a combinations of upper garment and trouser- or skirt-type clothing, as well as one-piece type clothing. Various innovations were incorporated and developed. However, as the Japanese increasingly adopted American and European influences in their lifestyle and clothing, western clothes are the mainstream today, and there are fewer opportunities to wear a kimono.

The History and Usage of Kimono

Although it is rare to wear kimono in daily life, they are still worn for celebrations such as weddings and parties, and formal occasions such as Hatsumode (初詣 first visits to the shrine), coming-of-age ceremonies, and graduation ceremonies. The convention today is that the kimono is formal wear and the yukata is casual.

Fabrics

Next, let's look at the difference between the materials used for yukata and kimono.

Yukata

Yukata

Yukata are designed to make the heat of the Japanese summer more bearable. Ideally, the material is soft to the touch and has high absorbency. In the past, hemp was most commonly used, but nowadays yukata are mainly made of cotton. There are also cotton and linen mixed fabrics, and recently, many polyester yukata are on the market as well.

(Characteristics of the materials)

  • Cotton: the standard material for yukata as it absorbs sweat and moisture well and can be washed.
  • Hemp: a coarser material that wrinkles more easily than other fabrics, but is soft to the touch and has highly absorbency and wicking capability.
  • Polyester: this does not feel as light on the skin, but it absorbs sweat, and dries quickly, making it easy to wear.

Kimono

Kimono

Among the textiles used for kimono, the highest grade is silk. Since there are various types of kimono, the other materials used to make them range from hemp, wool, polyester, etc. depending on the type.

(Characteristics of the materials)

  • Silk: lustrous and soft. Widely used for Tomesode (留袖 fastened sleeve, standard kimono) and Furisode (振袖 swinging sleeve, kimono with long dangling sleeves).
  • Wool: thick, wrinkle-resistant, and stain-resistant. It is often used for winter kimono.
  • Hemp: thin and pliable. Mainly used for summer kimono.
  • Polyester: a chemically synthesized fiber designed to have tensile strength. Since it is washable, it is used for various types of kimono.

How to Wear Yukata & Kimono and their Accessories

Lastly, we explore the difference between the method of wearing a yukata and a kimono. It's basically the same, but differs when it comes to the undergarment and finishing the look.

Yukata

How to Wear Yukata & Kimono and their Accessories

Yukata are worn directly next to bare skin. Since it was originally something to put on after bathing, it was common until as recently as the 1960s to wear nothing under the yukata. Even now, people only wear normal underwear with them.

Footwear for Yukata 

How to Wear Yukata & Kimono and their Accessories

Geta (wooden sandals) are worn. It is common to wear geta with bare feet.

Yukata obi (waistband)

Generally speaking, the Han-haba Obi (半幅帯 half-width waistband) is used. It is commonplace to arrange a half-width obi around the yukata and tie it, as other belts would be too thick and be too hot and uncomfortable to wear. In addition, it is customary not to use obi accessories such as Obiage (帯揚げ upper sash) and Obishime (帯締め middle sash).

Yukata hairstyles

How to Wear Yukata & Kimono and their Accessories

Yukata, which are worn when the temperature and humidity are high, are mainly accompanied by hairstyles that expose the neck. For hair ornaments, enjoy the overall coordination according to the color and pattern of the fabric.

How to Wear Kimono & Accessories

How to Wear Kimono & Accessories

It is common to wear a hadajuban (肌襦袢 short-sleeved undergarment) or a nagajuban (長襦袢 long-sleeved undergarment) underneath the kimono. A kimono is rarely worn next to bare skin. The hadajuban is like underwear, and the nagajuban is like a kimono that is worn next to the skin underneath the kimono to make it look like you are wearing multiple layers of kimono.

Footwear for Kimono

Men wear wooden shoes or geta.

How to Wear Kimono & Accessories

Zori (草履 ) sandals made from wood, straw, rubber, and other materials) are worn. It is common to wear tabi (足袋) split-toe socks that are designed to allow thonged footwear to be worn.

Kimono obi (waistband)

How to Wear Kimono & Accessories

For kimono, people choose the pattern and color according to the season and the location for the occasion. Then the obi is selected to go with the kimono. The patterns and colors of the obi have different meanings, and you can check the meaning and have fun adjusting it to your taste.

Kimono hairstyles

How to Wear Kimono & Accessories

How to Wear Kimono & Accessories

Kimono are said to be a beautiful sight from the rear, so the mainstream style is to put your hair together in an up-style hairdo. You can choose a hairstyle or hair ornament to coordinate, depending on the kimono you wear.

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