What is the difference between a yukata and a kimono?

By Christophe Rude Dec 5, 2022

he we going to describe the difference between a yukata and a kimono internationally accepted traditional Japanese costume is Kimono. The original meaning was literally “kimono”, a word that describes clothing in general…

In the old days, the clothes they wear on a daily basis were called kimonos. The kimono in its current form has not been used since the beginning of the Heian period. Until then, the mainstream was a combination of trousers and skirts with a top and one-piece type of clothing.

From the Heian period, so-called current kimonos, which are made by cutting and sewing fabrics in a straight line, have come to be made regardless of the wearer’s body shape.

This method is called “straight cutting” and has the advantage that the fabric can be used without waste and can be easily folded.

In addition, many types of kimonos have been made and developed by incorporating various applications and ingenuity, such as layering when it is cold and using cool materials when it is hot.

History of Yukata

Yukata is said to have its origins in the Heian period, which is the shape of today’s kimono.

It all started when people at that time wore a kimono made of hemp, “Yukatabira,” to prevent burns from steam when they used to take a steam bath.

With the passage of time, Yuchoko is well-ventilated and absorbs sweat well, so it will change to be worn after bathing, playing the role of a towel or bathrobe today.

The name is gradually abbreviated as “Yukata” from Yukako.

In the Edo period, yukata was worn as outing wear the fashion for bathing, and the yukata, which is easy to wear, has become established as summer everyday wear.

Yukata has a strong image of being worn at summer events such as festivals and fireworks displays.

Nowadays, the number of types of yukata is increasing, and reasonably priced ones and obi that can be easily tied are also appearing, so it is easier to adopt than before.

Even if you don’t know much about yukata, you can understand that it is kimono. It’s similar to a kimono, but what’s the difference? Introducing the difference between yukata and kimono.

Is yukata actually a kind of kimono?

yukata actually a kind of kimono
yukata actually a kind of kimono

If you wear a yukata in Japanese, you can think of it as a kimono.

But the way of dressing and the situations are different.

If you divide clothing into categories, if you divide it into rough categories, yukata is a kind of kimono.

If you categorize it further, you can see some differences. Let’s take a look at the small differences, assuming that yukata is a type of kimono.

  • Yukata is a thin kimono to wear in the summer
  • Yukata is considered to be a type of kimono, but there are some differences from kimono.
  • The most obvious difference is that “Yukata is a thin kimono to wear in the summer”.
  • Kimono and yukata have almost the same shape.

However, if you compare the two side by side, you can clearly see the difference in the fabric. The kimono is a little thick and solid fabric, and it does not show through.

On the other hand, the yukata is soft and light even when worn with a silky feel, and has a sense of sheerness.

Some fabrics are not transparent, but they are transparent when exposed to light. So even if there are differences in the fabric, they are thinner than the kimono.

  • Yukata are worn in the summer, so it’s best to see through.
  • It’s also breathable, so you can wear it cool even in the hot summer.

If it’s hard to imagine when it comes to kimono, it may be easier to understand if you replace it with clothes.

The thickness of the fabric material is different between winter and summer, isn’t it? The basics of yukata and kimono are the same.

Kimono and yukata have the same shape

When you compare two kimonos and yukata side by side, you can see that the shapes are almost the same. This is also one of the reasons why yukata is a kind of kimono. Although there are some differences in how to dress, the way to wear the kimono is basically the same:

  • through the sleeves,
  • the collar and
  • the obi

There are some differences in fabrics between the kimono and yukata, but the shapes are almost the same.

The old yukata was used as nightwear, and the modern one is a summer playsuit

old yukata
old yukata

In the past, I didn’t have the habit of wearing clothes as I do now, so I usually wear kimonos.

In the Heian period, only aristocrats used yukata, but in the Edo period, when public baths became commonplace, the custom of wearing yukata became rooted among the common people.

  • Yukata is a kind of kimono that is casual because it was used as nightwear in the past.
  • The kimono is considered to be formal, so even if the shape is the same, the kimono is higher.
  • Yukata is a casual feeling, so it is a merit that you can wear it casually.
  • Today, it is often worn as a summer playsuit.

Since it is not formal like a kimono, there is no dress code for obi and footwear, and you can arrange it freely to some extent.

It’s because it’s casual that you can match sneakers and sandals with the yukata, or remake the yukata to make it look like a dress.

What is the difference between a yukata and a kimono?

Yukata and kimono have some distinct differences besides the difference between casual and formal.

Let’s take a closer look at the difference between Yukata and Kimono.

Wearing time and scene

Yukata and kimono are different in terms of when they are worn and when they are worn.

Yukata is limited to summer.

(Some people still use yukata as nightwear, but in this case, they don’t wear it outside, so it’s excluded.) In most cases, yukata is worn at events such as summer festivals and fireworks displays.

If you go to a festival or fireworks display with your friends, just wearing a yukata will change your mood and give you a summary atmosphere.

Kimonos are sometimes worn in the summer, but under the kimonos, you wear undershirts and long undershirts, and you wear socks, so even a thin kimono for summer feels quite hot.

In addition, when wearing a kimono, the kimono may be worn as a formal dress even at festive occasions such as weddings and parties, as well as during the first visit, coming-of-age ceremonies, and non-celebration.

Kimono is often chosen as formal wear at ceremonial occasions and can be worn as formal wear when attending celebrations.

You can’t wear a yukata for official occasions, but if you wear a kimono, you can use it for official occasions as well.

Differences in materials and fabrics

Yukata and kimonos have different fabrics. Cotton is used for yukata, but there are also mixed fabrics with hemp. Recently, many polyester products are on sale.

Polyester yukata has many advantages such as excellent water absorption and quick drying, so it is comfortable to wear, the fabric is durable and does not easily lose its shape even when washed, and the price is low. The color is good, so there are many designs and color variations.

Silk, cotton, wool, etc. are used for kimonos. The fabric is firmer than the yukata and has a lining, so there is no sense of sheerness. It also conveys a high-quality atmosphere.

The color and pattern are also different from the yukata, and the overall design is calm and elegant. Some cheap kimonos use chemical fibers, but in the case of kimonos, the obi is changed according to the fabric, so the point is to choose the appropriate obi depending on the fabric.

Whether to wear underwear

whether to wear underwear
whether to wear underwear

Underwear is also very different from yukata in kimono. Even when wearing a yukata, it is recommended to use kimono underwear because it will not be transparent and the appearance will look beautiful. There is also underwear for yukata, so if you want to prevent it from seeing through, wear an undergarment.

In other cases, a camisole or sports bra can be used on the top, and a steteco can be used on the bottom. Yukata should be thin and cool, so you may try to make do with regular bras or shorts because it’s hot to wear underwear.

However, if this is the case, the underwear will show through, and the lines of the body will appear, so it will not look beautiful. Kimono is basically worn after wearing an undershirt, ahem guard, and a long undershirt.

You can wear a yukata to prevent it from seeing through, but you can’t wear a long undershirt because it’s hot. It is also a point where you can see the collar of the long undershirt. Yukata also wears kimono underwear, but long undergarments are not worn, and skin undergarments and kimono bras are designed so that they cannot be seen when wearing yukata.

The dressing method is different

There are also differences in how to wear a yukata and kimono. When matching the collar, make sure that the yukata and kimono are “front right”. The way to match is the same, but it takes time to put on the kimono because the things you wear underneath are also different.

Underwear is not so difficult, but both kimono and yukata are dressed to match the length. This is common and the method is almost the same. Yukata doesn’t wear long undergarments, so after putting them on, the back collar is slightly lowered, but the kimono is matched with the long undergarment.

It is almost the same to put on and tie the waist cord, but the way to tie the obi is different. The obi used for yukata is narrow and short, but the obi used for kimono is wide and long. The way to tie an obi is also completely different between a yukata and a kimono.

The obi of the kimono changes depending on the fabric, and the way of tying it is also different. Recently, even in yukata, we sometimes use obi-tightening as an accessory, but it is indispensable for the kimono. The time and effort required for dressing vary considerably between yukata and kimono.


In general, there are only a limited number of opportunities to wear a yukata and kimono, so even if there are differences, it is not clear. People who wear yukata but not kimonos may find it useful at some point if they know the difference.

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