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Traditional Japanese Fashion 101: Yukata vs Kimono

The Japanese are known for many things – their food, their cars, their penchant and knack for technology, the exceptional quality of their beef, their fierce loyalty, the high value they place on culture and tradition, and, of course, the distinctive way they dress up.

They are among the most stylish people in the world, thanks to their unique aesthetic. On one end of the spectrum are people who prefer the minimalist. They love clean lines, solid colors, and artfully shapeless silhouettes. Their garments are of the highest quality, with a strong emphasis on the fabric and the thread count. On the other end are people who love to dress in an almost costume-like manner, similar to Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku girls. They dress in layers upon layers of clothing, in different patterns and prints, with mismatched colors, yet somehow it works.

Yes, Japanese fashion is truly one of a kind. It is also very much rooted in tradition, and you cannot delve into Japanese fashion without knowing the difference between the yukata and the kimono.

The difference between a yukata and a kimono

Contrary to popular belief, the yukata and the kimono, are only very similar but not the same. Both of traditional origins, their main difference is in the fabric they are made of, as well as when they are worn.

The yukata is made of comfortable cotton fabric, Because of this, they are worn during the summer season and as bathrobes, such as in hot baths and springs. It is also unlined. The name yukata literally translates to “bathing clothes.” It is more casual than a kimono and is frequently worn at festivals, outdoor events, and as lounge wear. It is remarkably simpler in design than a kimono. Footwear is optional with this garment, and it is worn mostly by women. It has been said that today’s modern terry cloth bathrobes were patterned after the yukata, both in function and in design.

The kimono, on the other hand, literally means “something to wear,” and is made with luxurious silk fabric. Unlike the yukata, a kimono has at least two collars – one that sits close to the neck and one that is lower. Socks and shoes are traditionally worn with a kimono.

The kimono is worn by both men and women. It is often reserved for special occasions, such as weddings, funerals, birthdays, tea ceremonies, and the like, favored over long gowns and tuxedos. Once worn as their everyday garment, kimonos often feature intricate pattern in exquisite fabric, and are passed down as heirlooms from one generation to another. Because of the fabric used to make them, as well as the effort that goes into creating their distinctive patterns and designs, kimonos are more expensive than yukatas.

The kimono has undergone a lot of modifications through the years and, like most things in the world, has been westernized in that they are now used by women of all nationalities as a fashionable cover up. They come in lengths similar to jackets and blazers, cut open in the middle, and worn over plain shirts and jeans, shorts, or skirts.

Interestingly enough, there are some Japanese nationals who still insist on wearing kimonos every day, the way they were meant to be worn. It is their way of paying homage to a rich and colorful history – and also one of the reasons why their traditions and customs thrive, even during modern times.