A yukata is an unlined cotton garment sometimes referred to as a casual or summer kimono. Yukata are worn in Japan during the summer in casual settings. Traditional Japanese garments are worn less frequently today than they were historically, and depending on where in Japan one is, there may not be very many people in yukata out in public. Like the formal kimono, this garment is simply cut, with straight seams and roomy sleeves.
The word “yukata” literally means “bathing clothes.” These garments were originally worn after bathing, and were eventually adopted for casual wear in other settings. Today, many traditional Japanese inns, known as ryokan, provide these traditional garments and appropriate accessories for their guests along with other traditional touches which are meant to remind guests of Japan's rich cultural history.
For wear at home and in casual settings like an inn room, people usually secure the yukata with a simple cotton sash. For going out, a yukata belt is used to keep the garment closed, with both men and women folding the left side over the right. People can also add an obi for more formal summer settings, in which case accessories such as a fan and purse may be carried as well. Traditional Japanese sandals may be worn under the garment, but usually tabi socks are not worn.
The cotton used for making yukata can vary in thickness. In cooler areas of Japan, robes may be provided to wear over the garment to stay warm, and short jackets are also available to wear over the robe. In warmer areas, the light weight of the unlined garment can be pleasant during the summer months when the weather can get very hot. some people also wear garments made from synthetic fibers, although these are less traditional than cotton.
These garments are often brightly colored and richly patterned. As a general rule, women are allowed to wear bright colors and bold patterns, but as they grow older, they are expected to wear more conservative garments. Young children can wear the brightest colors, while matrons may stick to simple dark blue yukata with geometric designs.
In Japan, yukata and accessories are available from many stores which sell clothing, especially during the summer months when these garments are more likely to be worn. Outside of Japan, import stores sometimes carry yukata, and people can also order them directly from companies which carry Japanese clothing and accessories.