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What is the Difference Between a Yukata and a Kimono?

By John Markley
Updated May 21, 2024
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Kimonos and yukatas are two types of traditional Japanese clothing. A yukata and a kimono are both robes, but are made of different materials and worn for different occasions. A kimono is usually made of silk and has an interior lining, while a yukata is unlined and is usually made of cotton. The kimono is a more formal garment than the yukata and has a greater variety of designs for specific occasions.

A yukata and a kimono are both full-length, straight-lined robes with wide, long sleeves. They usually extend to the wearer's ankles, though some kimonos are even longer and are designed to trail on the floor. They are tied shut with an obi, a type of wide sash tied in the back. Both a yukata and a kimono are often worn with traditional Japanese footwear, such as the elevated wooden sandals called geta often worn with a yukata or the more formal zōri worn with a kimono.

One difference between a yukata and a kimono is where they are worn. The kimono in modern Japan is worn primarily at formal occasions, such as weddings. Some traditionalists do not reserve it for special occasions and still wear a kimono in daily life, though this is uncommon. Professional sumo wrestlers, who always wear traditional Japanese clothing whenever they are visible to the public, often wear kimonos.

Kimonos more frequently worn by women in modern Japan, but can be worn by either sex. Women's kimonos exist in a wide variety of different designs that vary according to the nature and formality of the occasion for which they are worn and the wearer's marital status. The design of the obi worn with the kimono and the way it is tied is also significant. Men's kimonos and obis are simpler and more uniform in design, though different designs can still convey different degrees of formality. Men's kimonos tend to be darker or more subdued in color than women's, and younger women generally wear brighter colors than older women.

A yukata is more casual than a kimono. It is frequently worn at festivals and outdoor events, especially during the summer. It is also worn as lounge wear or after bathing and is commonly associated with the traditional Japanese inn, called a ryokan. A yukata is a simpler garment than a kimono, and its design does not convey as many shades of meaning. As with kimonos, more brightly colored yukatas are usually worn by younger people.

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Discussion Comments
By summing — On Nov 13, 2011

I went to Japan a few years ago and I honestly spent way too much money. The minute I got over there and saw those beautiful kimonos I had to start shopping.

I love silk for starters. But the beautiful designs that they build into kimonos look like nothing I've ever seen. By the end of my trip I had bought 9 or 10 different kimonos. It was a lot to buy but it was worth it. I wear them around the house and out on special occasions.

By Ivan83 — On Nov 12, 2011

It seems like lots of people have kimonos in their closet but very few have Yukata. This is a shame because frankly I find Yukatas to be a lot more warm and comfortable than their silk counterparts.

I have never found silk to be all that comfortable. It is just so slippery and lightweight. Also, they make Yukatas with really high quality cotton that holds body heat well. I wear my Yukata just like I would any other bath robe.

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