History of the Yukata
It is said the word origin comes from the word [Yukatabira] worn to protect a persons body from burn injuries from the steam while using the steam baths in the Heian Period of Japan. The Yukatabira then were used to wipe water much the same as a bathrobe after bathing. It then became a common form of simple clothes for wearing to and from the bathouse among common people during the Edo Period. There are still sometimes those that say [Yukata are not for wearing outside], that opinion stems from the historical use of them as bathrobes.
However, what is referred to today as a Yukata, is completely different from the thing of the past.
From the middle of the Showa Era after the ‘Kimono Culture’ dipped temporarily, a new [Easy to Wear Kimono] began in the 1990’s. This new type of Yukata became very popular with the younger generation, and this is thought to be the start of the new ‘Yukata Culture’.
Conventional Yukatas for example are provided to guests in Japanese Inns to wear in the room or over their pajamas, these are clearly different from the elegant types of Yukatas.
If you are considering purchasing a Yukata, you can choose either tailor made or off the shelf. If you have plenty of time and budget then a tailor made then you can have one made that suits you perfectly by consulting a kimono shop, the finish of these garments is of course the best. However, these days ready to wear, cheaper, off the shelf garments are mostly sold. What you must be concerned with when purchasing an off the shelf garment is choosing your size. Most of the commonly available Yukata are freesize, designed for a person of 160cm in height with a little spare. The Yukata looks best with a shorter in both the length and sleeve. In fact finding sizes for taller or solidly built persons is not very problematic.
On the other hand slimmer or shorter people will often find the sizes too big.
There are some brands that offer an S size but, where there is only a freesize available, order made shops can possibly tailor a garment to a smaller fit to suit you.
Please consult them.
The latter half of the 16th century, ruled by Nobunaga Oda and Hideyoshi Toyotomi, are called Azuchi Momoyama era, and the time between 17th to 19th century is called Edo era. The feature of those eras was the major development of the culture due to the fewer number of wars which contributed to the stability of the common people’s quality of life. Majority of the Japanese kimono has become short sleeved as a result of samurai families and common people became more powerful than the aristocrats.
Also, foreign trades were very popluar in Azuchi Momoyama era, and the decoration technique of the short sleeve became very competitive. Furthermore, those successful merchants with a big fourtune through trading became found of gorgeous outfit, which resulted in developing the extraordinarily beautiful short sleeves. It appears that there were no major difference in the outfit of male and female in the common people.
In Edo era, comparing to the female short sleeves that have changed dramatically, that of male did not really incorporated many changes. As a result, such difference of the outfit by sex has become more remarkable. One reason behind the scene is said to be the defined and bipolarized concept of the role with the distinction of sex, which forced male following the social rules and regulations while female remained to be free.
Today’s Kimono and Obi are the result of such evolution females have developped with their free mind, soul, and spirit.
Clothes from Kamakura to Muromachi Period
In end of 12th century, the power center of the caste stated to move from nobles to Samurais.
Ages till the first half of the 14th century, when the Shogunate was located in Kamakura, is called Kamakura Period. Then the shogunate is moved to Kyoto. The period after Kamakura Period till 16th century is called Muromachi Period. Samurais have became powerful raisin up from ordinal people.
That is why they prefer to wear like normal people do rather than waring heave and binding ones.
In this way, closing tradition was established. They basically wear light clothes except for when they have to wear in formal armored style.
As the time goes, another type of clothing is developed by samurais. They reduced the layers of Sokutai and called it “Hihitare” and they also reduced layers of Juunihitoe and called it “Uchikake.”
Common people wore short sleeves as they had since the Heian period. According to some documents, they made the hem very short and fold the part that went below the waist and fastened it with strings. It later becomes Ohashiori (The part that has been folded is referred to as Ohashori), but it looked a bit different from what it is right now because thick obis were not used at the time. Also, common people began to improve their wealth and their clothing became more gorgeous as a result.
Clothing in the Heian period
Between nine to twelve centuries, the capital of Japan was Kyoto and we call this period the “Heian period.” Nobles had been wearing clothing that came from China until the end of the Nara period, but Japanese original culture developed during the Heian period and the design of clothing gradually changed. However, the idea that noble people should wear heavy and immobile clothing was succeeded. As a result, people eventually wore a Japanese original poncho on top of Chinese clothing.
All these led to the creation of Sokutai for men and Juunihitoe for women. On the other hand, regular people wore front-opened and tight-sleeved clothing which is a developed version of Japanese poncho.
The biggest difference between clothes for Nobles and for regular people is the size of cuffs. Clothes for nobles had wider cuffs, so these were called “Big Cuff” and clothes for regular people were called “Small Cuff” as opposed to this “Big Cuff.” Nobles also wore “Small Cuff” under “Big Cuff” as an underwear. For both Sokutai and Juunihitoe, people first wore “Small Cuff” and “Hakama” and put on “Big Cuff” over them.
Clothing before the Heian period
The capital of Japan was Nara during seven to eight centuries. We split this period into half and call the first half the “Asuka period” and the second half the “Nara period.”Japanese used to wear clothing that combine the top and the bottoms, but we have begun separating them just before the Asuka period started. Both men and women wore the short top and men wore something like trousers and women wore a long skirt. Soon the interaction with China became active and various things came from China into Japan. These “things” included Chinese clothing and also some ideas related to clothing.
For example, Chinese people wore wear mobile and useful clothes at the time and nobles wore heavy and immobile clothes. Japanese didn’t have the idea of varying clothes with their social position, but it is said that the import of Chinese clothes and customs gradually created the idea that people with higher status wears more immobile clothes. Chinese products were considered valuable, so all the nobles wore Chinese clothes. The style of dress of turning up their collar also appeared at the same time period.
On the other hand, regular people still wore the same type of clothes as before.
The oldest material about Japanese history is Gishi Wajinden written at the end of the third century. And Japanese men wrapped cloth around their bodies and women wore kantoi (clothes with no sleeves) those days according to it. In Japan, traditionally cloth has been made by one person and the width of every piece of cloth is narrower than the width of the weaver’s shoulders. It’s unlikely that the width of the cloth which was made those days was wider than this, so it’s presumed that cloth of a narrow width was used at that time, too. They couldn’t make kantoi in the shape with a hole for a head with cloth of this width by cutting a part of the cloth for it out. So, it’s considered that two pieces of cloth were weaved together with only parts of them together as a hole for a head left undone. Also, it’s presumed that the first kantoi wasn’t weaved in parts for their underarms and it was clipped around their waist with a rope.
After that, they weaved pieces of cloth in parts for their underarms and attached sleeves shaped as pipes to the cloth to up the efficiency of warming and protection, but then it got to be difficult to take off and put on the clothes in the style of kantoi. So, it’s considered that they stopped weaving the clothes on the front and combined pieces of clothes and additional cloth. It’s said that this shape has become the original style of kimono which was made later.
As other clothes,the cuff and hem of a Kimono can be easily damaged. As a result,Hakkake(recyclable cloths of cuff and hem) of a Awase(a lined Kimono) is put out so that it will be changed if it is damaged. However,it is actually troublesome to change a Hakkake. Also for a Hitoe(unlined Kimono) there is no Hakkake so the cloth can be damaged easily. At the time when Kimono is used as daily clothes,to make things easier than changing a Hakkake people sew a tape at the cuff or hem to protect the clothes. It is so called Gallon Tape. Nowadays things like wide cloth-made tapes with accessories on side are being sold as decorations for clothes or sundries. These tapes are sewed a little more outside than the Hakkake so the accessories on side can be seen.
Although there is no tape attached to suits or formal dresses,recently there are some people wearing daily clothes or Kimono with tapes. Among them,the tapes are not only used as protection to the clothes but also accessories. Also, among the recycled Kinomos,there are tapes used by former owner remain.
What can be rearranged and remade from kimono
You can make various things using kimono fabrics. But there is this problem very specific to kimono that “they can’t be washed” (except for cotton and polyester made kimono). Kimono with sakizome (previously dyed yarn) can be hand washed with a neutral detergent. However, kimono with atozome (after-weaving dyed yarn) surely lose colors when soaked in water as they are just like painted over fabrics. Also, fabrics with embossed patterns such as chirimen (silk crepes) shrink when soaked in water. It depends on fabrics, but there were cases that such fabrics shrank by almost half. So kimono fabrics are used to make bags or interior goods which basically don’t require washing. When kimono fabrics are used to make clothing, the fabrics are stretched and dried before making. And after the clothing is done, it will be sent for dry cleaning.
Futon (flat bedding) and zabuton (floor cushions) are standard remade items in Japan since old times.
Futon are suitable to be remade from kimono fabrics as futon do not require washing. It is also easy to make. Aloha shirts are also standard remade items. But they are considered clothing for special occasions as they cannot be washed. Recently, dresses have also often been remade from kimono fabrics.
Kimono Treatment Done by Professionals
When ordinary people try to remodel their kimono, there is a limit to what they can do. On the other hand, professionals of kimono can remodel kimono using various methods, even those kimono which cannot be worn as they are. Let me introduce some examples of treatments you can ask professionals to do. For kimono which lacks the length and the legs can be seen out of the kimono, separate fabrics are added where the obi will cover and it is lengthened. Conversely, when your kimono is too long and there is too much ohashori (tucked part), the hem is cut to make it shorter.
The length will be re-arranged after sode-tsuke (shoulder) is undone and sode-haba (the width of sleeves) are adjusted. The body width (mihaba) can be adjusted by undoing the sides and sewing them back on. those kimono with faded colors after the sun exposure can be dyed again. When there are large stains and they cannot be removed even after stain removing treatment, they can be dyed again. However, they can draw a picture over the stains to hide them. According to the condition, the stained parts can be replaced with another non-noticeable parts of fabrics in case the stains appear on visible parts.
It takes money and time, but these treatment methods should be considered if your kimono are with fond memories or with valuable fabrics.