A Yukata (浴衣, lit. "bathrobe") is a lightweight, unlined summer kimono primarily made of cotton. It was originally worn as a bathrobe but has evolved to become a versatile garment suitable for various casual occasions, such as summer festivals and visits to nearby bathhouses. In modern times, Yukata are commonly seen throughout Japan during the summer season.
The origin of the Yukata dates back to the Heian period (794-1185) when the aristocratic class used the yukatabira, a lightweight linen garment, in onsen, the thermal baths for ritual ablutions. Yukata literally means "bathrobe." It is worn after the ablutions in public baths as a quick way to cover the body and absorb any remaining moisture.
As bathing became more widespread in Japan, the yukatabira was replaced by the yukata, a cotton garment that was much more suitable than linen. It was during the early Edo period that the yukata became a part of the everyday wardrobe of the common people.
For many years now, the yukata has been used for various other occasions such as festivals, going to the baths, or as nightwear. Ryokans (traditional inns) provide them to their guests along with towels.
Like the kimono, the Yukata is constructed with a T-shaped pattern that is assembled using fabric panels. It consists of five rectangular pieces joined together. Composition of the Yukata:
- Okumi: Vertical fabric piece located on the front, on both sides of the opening, running from the neckline to the front hem of the yukata.
- Furi: Vertical slit in the sleeves, situated at the armpit level, for women's yukata.
- Obi (帯): Belt used to fasten traditional Japanese garments such as kimonos or training attire for martial arts (keikogi or dōgi).
However, unlike the kimono, the yukata can be worn directly against the skin over undergarments such as the hada juban ("skin undergarment").
The yukata is worn by wrapping the left side over the right side (usually reversed for funerals) and securing it with a belt tied in a knot using the excess fabric or a koshi-himo. In more relaxed settings, such as after a bath, the yukata can be simply belted.
For women, an obi is tied above the belt, traditionally with the knot placed at the back to avoid associations with prostitution historically linked to front knots. Men, on the other hand, tie the belt at the hip level and have the option to wear the knot at the front or back.
The yukata is worn with geta, wooden clogs, while young girls complete their attire with a kinchaku, a small bag often made of woven material.
Compared to the kimono, the yukata is more affordable, easier to put on, and can be washed at home. It has also embraced modernization with the introduction of accessories like the tsukuri obi, a pre-tied obi that can be easily worn and fastened with a clip.
Men's yukata usually feature darker or more subdued colors, while those for young women are often vibrant and adorned with floral patterns. Yukata for mature women are typically less flashy in design.
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