When to wear a yukata?
You probably have seen men and women in yukata (ゆかた, casual summer kimono), but do you know when they wear it? Actually, there is no specific occasion to wear them, but most Japanese wear them to summer festivals.
Ocassionally, you may come across Japanese ladies wearing them at traditional sweets shops or to the shrines, but these are usually more formal (more commonly thought of as kimono). Literally, the characters for yukata (浴衣) mean bathing robe, so you may also see them at traditional Japanese inns (ryokan, 旅館) where they are worn as casual robes after bathing in hot springs.
Yukata Patterns: What to wear?
There is no hard and fast rule, so you can wear what you like! Often, teenagers and younger children tend to choose brighter and more colourful pieces, while the more elegant and subtle styles are worn by adults. These yukata are made of cotton and rarely other types of cloth.
According to bijinbu, there are 4 styles to look out for this 2016 season.
1. Classic/traditional [古典, koten]
Classic yukata tend to evoke a traditional Japanese feel. The colours may be on the subdued side, but it gives off a softer and idyllic mood.
2. Retro [レトロ, retoro]
Retro patterns are natsukashii (懐かしい, nostalgic), and usually conjure the idea of Taisho or Showa Japan. Think pop art and bold colour schemes.
3. Refreshing [はんなり, hannari]
Pastels make up the hannari (はんなり, refreshing) style, giving off a cheery and delightful feeling. Often thought of as a Western design, this style is really beautiful and fits the idea of refreshing.
4. Chic [粋, iki]
Bold, geometric patterns and bright colours make up the base of the chic yukata. This design is very modern and different from other yukata designs.
Obi patterns and folding styles
Often, the yukata set will come with a pre-tied obi (帯, belt), or an untied one. You can also buy the obi and the yukata separately. The obi is meant to be create a striking contrast with the yukata, but in recent years the trend has shifted to more complementary colours.
The pre-tied obi is much easier to use as you only have to attach the bow with the hook. With the untied obi, a bit of practice is necessary to make a pretty bow. You can learn how to tie a standard obi here.
With a patterned obi, you can also arrange it in other fun ways! While some styles are more commonly used for the kimono, the folding of the obi also depends on the design. Obi with a single, eye-catching design, are often tied in the otaiko style (above: obi suitable for otaiko).
You can also choose to wear an obi jime (帯締め), a belt which goes on top of the obi layer! These are merely accessories but add a nice accent if you chose to wear a single, non-patterned obi.
So, how to wear the yukata?
Fortunately, there are so many tutorials online that help with this, namely Uniqlo’s video.
Under the yukata layer, a cotton undergarment is also commonly worn, especially for yukata with a white base. Based on your preference, you can also wear your own camisole and shorts!
Personally, I’ll recommend a skirt as it’s easier to deal with when you need to visit the washroom. 🙂
A waist belt is used to fasten the yukata and prevent it from moving, while a mesh board is used to support the obi, giving it a crisp look. It is also often used for kimono too.when wearing kimono as well.
Hair styles and hair accessories
The yukata is often paired with an updo, which exposes the nape. This is traditionally considered sexy. (It is also much cooler than wearing it down.) Of course, you can also let your hair down, or even have a short hairdo! What matters is that you have fun styling your hair.
Some Japanese like to wear kanzashi (かんざし), a hair accessory that looks like a long pin.
You can also carry an uchiwa (うちわ, an oval shaped fan) or a sensu (扇子, a folded fan). Sometimes, uchiwa will be handed out during summer festivals as advertisement or as a limited edition festival item. Do not underestimate its use because it can get very hot in crowds! You can also buy both the uchiwa and the folded fan at Daiso (look out for the matsuri patterned ones!).
To carry your valuables around, you can get a kago kinchaku (カゴ巾着, woven basket), usually made of bamboo, with a drawstring cloth pouch attached. You will also see people carrying just the drawstring pouch (kinchaku).
With all these pretty yukata designs, and beautiful accessories, we need more festivals in Singapore to wear them! At the very least, you can wear the yukata to the Super Japan Matsuri.