by Ewa Nowogorski
There are 2 main types of traditional Japanese wear for women, the yukata and the kimono. The yukata is much thinner, lighter, and most are made of cotton. They are casual and can be easily put on on one’s own, and you can usually get a yukata set for less than $50. Kimonos, on the other hand, are a formal, heavier, and more expensive version of yukata. They are made of silk, and there are multiple layers and components to the yukata. Because of this, kimonos are very hard to put on and most people these days don’t actually know how to wear one without assistance. And their extreme cost means that most women don’t even individually own their own kimono. A proper kimono can easily be thousands of dollars, which is why people tend to rent them, and there are only a few occasions in a Japanese woman’s lifetime when they would need to wear one.
The traditional kimono that we know today came about in the Heian Period of Japan. They are worn during festive moments such as coming of age ceremonies or weddings, and are a widely accepted representative of formal and polite clothing.
I have personally never worn a kimono, but I have to admit the level of complexity and detail in a kimono set is extremely impressive. Over time, as the practice of wearing kimonos in layers came into fashion, Japanese people began paying attention to how kimonos of different colors looked together, and they developed a heightened sensitivity to color. Typically, color combinations represented either seasonal colors or the political class to which one belonged. It was during this time that what we now think of as traditional Japanese color combinations developed. Everything from the colors to the patterns gets taken into consideration, and kimono today can very much be seen as a status symbol in Japan. Only a person of high status would be able to afford one or even find an occasion to wear one.