Yukata vs Kimono - What is the difference ?

Yukata vs Kimono – What is the difference ?

If we say Japanese clothing, what is the first image that comes into your mind?Many of you will answer a Kimono, and yet most people can’t tell the difference between a Japanese Kimono and a Yukata, which leads to lots of mistakes on a regular basis. 

Kimono (きもの/着物) and Yukata (浴衣) are two distinct types of traditional Japanese clothing. Similar in appearance, there are many differences between a Yukata and a Kimono, even if they are not obvious at the first. Knowing how to differentiate them is very important aspect to avoid any misstep that could ruin a special occasion.

But don’t worry, at the end of this article, these two famous apparel won’t have anymore secrets for you and you will know everything about what is the difference between a Kimono and a Yukata.


Main Differences between Yukata and Kimono

Difference between Yukata and Kimono

By having both a T-shape, long sleeves and a decorative belt, differentiating these two traditional Japanese apparel is not always an easy task. So making this common mistake is perfectly normal the first time and no one will blame you for that, don’t worry!

Even for Japanese people, the Kimono is very often confused with the Yukata, yet they are two different garments. Although their similarity is very close. they are used and worn on totally different occasions.

If you to know more about what is a Kimono, you surely will appreciate our latest article on that subject. But first, let’s focus on the basics.


The Material

The main difference between a Kimono and a Yukata is in the fabric used to designed them. Traditionally, the Kimono is made from a premium silk fabric and the most sophisticated can be made from brocade, a rich silk fabric decorated with embroidered designs in gold and silver thread. This luxurious material explains the high price of the Kimono, a traditional garment whose aesthetics reflect the natural elegance of the Japanese.

On its side, the Yukata was first worn by Japanese nobility after bathing, so it was made from cotton, a very light fabric, breathable and able to absorb the humidity of the body while keeping it cool.

Nowadays, you can find Yukata made of cotton or polyester, a synthetic and inexpensive material that facilitates the evaporation of body moisture. The Yukata is very appreciated by foreigners who like to wear it as indoor clothing.

Of course, knowing this difference in fabric will help you if you want to buy a Japanese Kimono or Yukata yourself. On the other hand, if this garment is worn by someone in front of you, it is not always obvious to recognize the fabric at first, unless you look at the composition label inside, but then it would be very strange, right?

Fortunately, there are other differences between Kimono and Yukata that will give you a clue.


The Undergarment


Another way to effectively distinguish these two garments is the wearing or name of undergarment called Nagajuban.

Indeed, the silk or brocade used to make Kimono is a very delicate material that do not support intense washing treatments. Which means that you should avoid to wear it without any underwear to prevent the moisture to damage the very expensive garment that your Kimono is made of.

Thus, the Japanese wear a Nagajuban underneath their kimono. This Japanese underwear is a kind of inner lining made of silk or cotton, usually white, with powerful capacities to absorb sweating and the body odor.

The Yukata, on the other hand, is a simpler and easier garment that can be cleaned more easily, so there is no need to put on a Nagajuban. Moreover, the Yukata is very light, made with a breathable material which makes it very pleasant to wear in summer, so it would not make sense to add a some kind of underwear underneath it.

But of course, it will be very difficult for you to know if someone is wearing underwear underneath their outfit, and we would not advise you to ask a Japanese woman to do this. So here are some other characteristics that are easier to distinguish.


The collar

kimono collar

To analyze if someone is wearing a Kimono or a Yukata, a very simple strategy is to take a look at the collar. If the garment has two collars, then it is definitely a Kimono. The lower collar, usually white, is the one of the Nagajuban that is worn under the kimono. On the contrary, if you see only one collar, it is without a doubt a Yukata.


The Sleeves

kimono sleeves

Another major difference between Kimono and Yukata is in the sleeves.

The Kimono sleeves can vary according to the age of the person, their social status or the formality of an event. For example, the furisode (振袖) is the Kimono with the longest sleeves, which may even touch the ground.

This type of Kimono is reserved for young single women. Traditionally, this feature allowed young men to identify women available for marriage. Nowadays, this practice is much less common. Without forgetting that there are many other types of Kimono with medium length sleeves. 

On the other hand, you will never see the sleeves of a Yukata being more than 50 cm long and touching the ground.


The Socks

tabi socks

It’s time to take a closer look at the bottom of the outfit and analyzing the Kimono Socks.

Indeed, a Kimono is a much more formal garment than a Yukata, it is then mandatory to wear white socks with a pair of geta or zori at your feet. For those who do not know it, these Tabi socks have the particularity of separating the big toe from the rest of the toes, in order to slip the strap of the Japanese geta sandals.

Little tip if you have to wear a Kimono one day: put on your pair of tabi socks at the same time as the Nagajuban, because once you have put on your Kimono, you won’t be able to bind yourself enough to put them. 

On the other hand, it is not mandatory to wear white socks with a Yukata. You can even keep your bare feet in your pair of geta sandals.


When and where do Japanese People wear Kimonos and Yukatas?

Now that you know the difference between a Yukata and a Kimono, it is very important to know when to wear them in order to avoid any mistake. These two similar looking garments are not worn for the same purposes and each one of them must be used only in different occasions. 

When to wear a Kimono?

The Kimono is a traditional Japanese garment worn for formal events such as weddings, graduations, tea ceremonies and the first prayer of the New Year.

When to wear a Yukata?

The Yukata, for its part, is a more festive and casual garment. Japanese people wear it mainly in summer to attend fireworks, summer festivals or matsuri folk festivals. You can also see Japanese people wearing it in everyday life because of its very fashionable look.

However, it is strongly not suitable to wear a Yukata at an official ceremony or any other formal occasion as it could be considered an affront to the other people in the room. That is why is very important to differentiate the cultural usage of a Kimono and a Yukata.

Kimono Rules

Now that you know perfectly the difference between a Yukata and a Kimono, here are some little Kimono wearing rules to complete this article.

How to close a Kimono?

Whether you are wearing a Kimono or a Yukata, there is a very important rule to follow in both cases: the left side must go over the right side when you close the garment by crossing it at the level of your chest!

In Japanese culture, the right side folded over the left side is reserved for the deceased and therefore symbolizes death. Always double check if your Kimono or Yukata is closed before going out!

Can foreigners wear Kimonos?

Of course you can! Bien que les Kimonos soient majoritairement porté par les communautés asiatiques, anyone can wear it. White People, Black People, there is no color, no religion and no community affiliation requested for wearing a Kimono.

In Japan, you can meet many foreigners dressed with a Kimono or a Yukata. Besides, you will find many stores to rent a Kimono or a Yukata for a day if you don’t want to purchase one directly.

So if you’re question is “Can I wear a Kimono?”, the answer is clearly yes, but be carefully to respect the different wearing rules to avoid any inconvenience regards to the Japanese culture.

Can you wear Kimonos in the Winter?

winter kimono

Another last quick tip for guessing if someone on the street is wearing a Kimono or a Yukata is to take note of the current season.

As we have mentioned several times so far, the Yukata is mostly made of a single layer of light and breathable fabric, so it is mostly commonly worn as a summer garment. So there is very little chance to see someone wearing a Yukata outside in winter.

On the other hand, the Kimono is clearly more thicker and can be completed with other layers of clothing underneath to adapt to the winter temperatures. Following the same logic, during the summer months, it is more less likely to come across someone wearing Kimono.

Who can wear a Kimono in 2021?

Nowadays, the kimono is worn as well as by men that by women at weddings, ceremonies and graduations. Some older women, and even some men, still wear the kimono regularly. Yukata, on the other hand, are mostly worn more by women than men.

Are Yukata and Kimonos the same thing ?

So, as you can see now, although these two outfits look very similar and are not always easy to distinguish one from the other, the Yukata and the Kimono are totally different, in the way of wearing them, as well as where, when and why?

Here is a short summary:

The Kimono is the traditional dress that is worn for family events and official ceremonies such as weddings, funerals and tea ceremonies. This luxurious, very expensive garment is worn over cotton or silk underwear to protect it.

The Yukata is a lighter outfit that is worn in summer especially during festivals. Its name meaning “bathing suit”, it was once used by Japanese aristocrats. It is a tradition that continues today in the hot springs and traditional hotels where it is used as bathing attire.

This comfortable and breathable garment is often made of cotton, but is also available in polyester. It is an interior outfit, particularly popular in Europe.

Congratulations, you are now unbeatable on the subject “Yukata vs Kimono” and will be able to differentiate these two garments without any issue from now. You are now ready to go to Japan and wear their traditional clothing at ease! 

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