Kimono, Yukata, and Their Place in Beauty
Kimono and yukata stand out as a symbol of Japanese tradition. These garments have been around for centuries, though their meanings and uses have changed over the years.
Kimono and yukata have played their roles in the image of Japanese beauty beyond their vibrant colors and fancy fabrics. Kimono and yukata both incorporate other elements of personal style, from updos to eye shadow.
Early Traditional Uses and Meanings
We can follow kimono fashions all the way back to Japan’s Heian period, starting in the year 794. By the Kamakura period, from 1185-1333, they had become everyday attire, despite their many layers.
The Edo period saw kimono evolve into a specialized art, where makers created custom kimonos that could cost more than a family’s house. Since the Edo period, kimonos and yukatas haven’t changed much—they’re still versatile for all seasons and genders. However, while some people wear casual yukatas, you won’t find many people wearing kimonos without occasion.
How Do You Wear Kimono and Yukata?
People wear kimono for more significant occasions, like a wedding or tea ceremony. But whether you wear a kimono or yukata, the way you wear it matters and putting them on wrong can ruin the impression you want to make.
Kimono can come in up to 10 layers—half the layers of early kimonos. These layers always go in the same order, though dressing up takes some skill, and you may need help. Before you try it, make sure you have these kimono components:
- Nagajuban: A white inner robe to keep the kimono clean
- Datejime: The sash used to tie the nagajuban
- Kimono: The layer you recognize as the kimono, with bright fabric and long sleeves
- Obi: The decorative silk sash tied around your waist
- Hakama: A skirt or pants tied over the kimono and often seen in martial arts
Depending on the circumstance, you might see additional layers, like the uchikake for bridal ceremonies. Kimono dress also has other parts aside from the actual kimono, including tabi (white socks) and zori (formal sandals).
A yukata is much simpler and comes with only one layer, plus the obi sash that you tie in a bow around your waist. When you put on a yukata, make sure you cross the left side of the yukata over the right. If you do it the other way around, you’ve just dressed yourself like the Japanese dress the dead.
Yukata and kimono are made of different materials, making the way you wear them different, too. Kimonos are often made of silk, which makes them harder to clean if you get them dirty. Yukatas, on the other hand, usually come in cotton or polyester, making them easy to wash and eliminating the need for the nagajuban underneath.
Makeup with Kimono and Yukata
Kimono and yukata go beyond the fabric, especially for women. While men may not have to wear makeup, there are traditional and more modern ways to clean up for any kimono- or yukata-worthy occasion.
Many people wear their hair up when they wear kimono or yukata. However, the fashions of today don’t match those from the Edo period and earlier. Most women wear their hair in a braided or curly updo unless they have short hair above their shoulders. Accessorizing with hair clips and pins adds an extra flair to your hair.
When it comes to makeup, modern kimono and yukata styles are simpler than earlier traditions, with a light face powder, soft eye shadow, mascara, and glossy lipstick. This makeup is subtle enough that it may not be much different from your usual makeup routine but should match the fabric and the occasion.
Sarah Wood - September 14, 2020
“All about Kimono and Yukata: The Differences, How to Wear & Buy.” From Japan Blog. https://blog.fromjapan.co.jp/en/japanese-culture/all-about-kimono-and-yukata-the-differences-how-to-wear-buy.html#wearyukata. Accessed 4 September 2020.
“How to Style Your Hair & Makeup for Wearing Yukata.” Moshi Moshi Nippon. https://www.moshimoshi-nippon.jp/114821. Accessed 4 September 2020.
“How to Wear a Yukata.” Visit Kinosaki. https://visitkinosaki.com/plan/visitor-info/guides/yukata/. Accessed 4 September 2020.
Joy, Alicia. “A Brief History of the Japanese Kimono.” Culture Trip. https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/a-brief-history-of-the-japanese-kimono/. Accessed 4 September 2020.
“Key Differences Between a Kimono and a Yukata.” The Japanese Shop. https://www.thejapaneseshop.co.uk/blog/key-differences-between-a-kimono-and-yukata/#:~:text=A%20kimono%20has%20a%20soft,collar%20isn't%20worn%20below. Accessed 4 September 2020.
Spacey, John. “10 Kimono Layers.” Japan Talk. https://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/kimono-layers. Accessed 4 September 2020.