Popular question: “What’s the difference between kimono and yukata?”
Talking about kimono, we often hear the question “What is the actual difference between a kimono and a yukata?” It is a valid question, because for the untrained eye, it is often hard to distinguish one from the other. To clear this up once and for all, we would like to answer this question here in detail.
As we all now by now, both are a type of traditional Japanese clothing which is worn by women. In the past, both were worn for everyday activities. Recently, they mostly see the light of the day for festive activities. Sometimes you can see women dressed in yukata and kimono at the same time. But how can you actually distinguish them?
1. The fabric
Yukata are most of the time made of cotton or other lower quality materials. The main material for kimonos is usually silk and therefore has a much higher quality than yukata materials. This also explains the big price gap between yukata and kimono. This is not true for all cases, as you may find yukata made of silk, but it serves as a good guideline.
2. The lining
This is an easy one. Yukata never have a lining, as they are not supposed to be used in cold weather. Kimono may have fur lining or lining made of other materials. So if you see fur sticking out somewhere, you can be sure that it’s a kimono!
3. The collar
Another rather easy one and a clear sign: A yukata only has one collar, while a normal kimono has at least two collars. Minimum two collars are the collar of the kimono and the collar (or multiple) of the undergarment, that is worn under the kimono. This undergarment is called juban. Multiple juban can be worn at the same time, depending on the kimono and the season/temperature. Additional collars called “eri” (襟, えり, collar) may be worn between the kimono and the undergarment. These additional collars have very elaborate patterns and can cost up to $500 dollars, depending on what materials are used and how detailed the pattern is.
Juban are never worn under a yukata, therefore you should only see one collar.
4. The sleeves
Kimono can have short to very long sleeves, which may reach the ground. Best known example for these kinds of sleeves are furisode kimono. Yukata never have sleeves longer than 50cm/20in.
Take a look at the following picture with to see a good example of two J-girls (gyaru-style) wearing something that can only be a kimono, because of the sleeves (and for many many other reasons).
5. The footwear
If you are seeing any socks, then most of the time you are not looking at someone wearing a yukata. Kimono are worn together with white socks, although other colors might be used for style/design reasons. Yukata are worn without socks, although young people sometimes might add socks with funny motives or colors, to break the traditional style and add their own flavor. Another good reason to not wear socks is point 6 in this list.
Geta worn with socks typically point to a kimono.
Without socks definitely means yukata. Kimono are never worn without socks, but you may wear socks with a yukata if your feet are always cold. Also note that the geta in this picture are very modern, but definitely no unusual sight these days.
6. The season
Yukata are exclusive for warm weather or for wearing them at home. Hotels and ryokan often hand out yukata for usage inside of the rooms. There also exist yukata which for guests at onsen and public baths. Nobody ever wears a yukata in cold weather.
Kimono on the other hand, are made for every season. There are additional jackets with fur and special undergarments for winter, to keep the wearer warm and cozy.
7. The occasion
Kimono can be used from very formal to casual, while a yukata is never formal. The differences in formality of kimono stem from the material, the style, the patterns, the design and the color application techniques. Each have their own degree of formality and often only one single use.
8. The decoration and patterns
In the past, kimono and yukata could easily be distinguished by the motifs, the decorations and patterns. While kimono had very elaborate and detailed motifs, yukata had large-scale floral and colorful motifs. Kimono had more dark colors sharp contrasts and simple patterns, while yukata sported bright colors.
Do you feel like you tell apart kimono from yukata now?
With the 8 points of distinction that we gave you, you can most of the time easily tell if you are looking at a kimono or a yukata.
If you still can’t, I am sure you are going to enjoy this short video from the girls of Kawaii Lesson. They are absolutely awesome at explaining everything Japanese and Japanese vocabulary. A must see!