It seems that the word “kimono” has won a citizenship in the Western people’s vocabulary as the word for Japanese traditional clothing. Sometimes robes are labelled and sold as “kimono style.” However, kimono is written as 着物 and 着 means "to wear" and 物 means "a thing", so its original meaning is simply “something to wear”. Kimono is beautiful and I love wearing it but it is not the easiest thing to wear and as the world of kimono has so many complicated rules, not many people wear “kimono” these days. Instead many people enjoy wearing “yukata” instead.
The other day, somebody asked me what the difference between “kimono” and “yukata” is, so today’s article is about that.
There are 3 major differences between the two.
Firstly, “yukata” is only worn in summer for a casual occasion. It is written as 浴衣. 浴 means "to bathe" and 衣 means "clothing" so traditionally it was worn summer evenings only. These days, you
can wear it during the day and go to a festival or a casual party in Yukata, but you do not attend anything formal, such as a wedding and a funeral in Yukata.
Secondly, you do not wear any particular undergarment with “yukata” while a long undergarment called “nagajuban（長襦袢）” is a must for “kimono.” You wear “geta （下駄）” sandals on bare foot with “yukata” but you are to wear a pair of “tabi （足袋）” socks with “kimono” as well. The way you tie the “obi （帯）” sash is also much simpler with “yukata” compared to that for “kimono”. It takes me about half an hour to dress myself in “kimono” but it doesn’t take 10 minutes with "Yukata."
Lastly, “yukata” is traditionally made of “cotton only” while “kimono” is usually made of silk, wool or cotton although these days there are many kimonos made of artificial fibre.
If you are to wear “kimono” and/or “yukata”, one common mistake Western women tend to make is to put the right-side garment over the left, just the same way as you wear a common shirt for women in the western world, but this is a no-no in Japan, as it is the way the dead wear their kimono. Men and women both wear their kimonos left over right.