Yukata is an integral part of Japanese clothing, as history has it that wearing such has been an important aspect of their culture and tradition. A traditional Japanese garment, yukata is the casual summer version of kimono, and is typically weaved of synthetic fiber or cotton. It is unlined, made of straight seams, and has wide sleeves, like other traditional Japanese garments. The reason behind its being typically made up of cotton has to do with bathing, as cotton cools the body faster than any other fabric.
Originally, yukatas are only used by men and women for bathing, as the term literally suggests so, and as this is designed to cover the body quickly and orderly after bathing in a communal bath. Back in the day, communal baths were where Japanese did actually go to bathe, as personal bathrooms were not that popular then, if not only for the wealthy or those who belong in the upper class.
Moreover, these were mostly made of indigo-colored dyed cotton, a complete opposite of what made of kimono, which was bright and bold-patterned for the youths, and darker and basic patterns for the adults.
It was only in the 1990s when yukata experienced a revival after the many wars that had stricken Japan, and such revival introduced to many changes that made of what yukatas are today.
Yukata in the modern world
Today, yukata is not only for communal baths, but many Japanese locals are seen sporting this to various events. It is now common to see people strolling about the streets wearing such, wrapped by artistic obis, and matched with their best wooden clogs, or geta. Guests are also encouraged to wear a yukata in most Japanese hot spring resorts and inns ryokans, or Japanese-style inns.
Yukata, the fashionable
It has gone astray from its being often associated with Japanese bathing, as it has been a common scenario in modern Japan to see youths wearing yukata fashionable, especially during summer festivals. Designers have also altered its traditional design that most Japanese find it hard to distinguish whether it’s a kimono or a yukata, or whether it is a traditional garment or not.
But the best thing that ever happened to yukata is that it’s no longer for Japanese people anymore. A lot of non-Japanese are now learning to wear this each time they are in Japan, a scenario commonly observed in exchange students and tourist participating in Japanese festivals. In international events such as fashion shows, this garment has experienced many modifications.
Many designers have seen yukata as an origami turned into clothing, as it can be folded in many ways to create styles, especially if one’s to fold the panels of fabric to create flattering lines.
The yukata along with other traditional Japanese clothing—kimono, haori, hakama, tabi, zori, obi, and others—have been garnering attention across Japan and the globe, not only because it’s deemed fashionable, but also because it is reminiscent of Japan’s colorful history.