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The origin of the Yukata dates back to the Heian period (794-1185) when the aristocratic class used the yukatabira, a light linen garment, in the onsen, the thermal baths for ritual ablutions. Yukata literally means "bathing garment". It is worn after ablutions in public baths as a quick way to cover the body and absorb remaining moisture.
When bathing became more popular in Japan, the yukatabira was replaced by the yukata, a cotton garment, much more suitable than linen. It is at the beginning of the Edo period that it enters the daily wardrobe of the people.
For several years now, yukata has been used for many other occasions such as festivals, for going to the baths or as nightwear. The ryokan provide them to their customers with towels.
Like the kimono, the yukata is designed with a T pattern that is assembled with strips of fabric, it is composed of five rectangular pieces assembled together. Composition of the yukata :
The left side of the yukata is rolled over the right side (usually reversed with the right over the left when dressing a body for a funeral) and secured by a belt tied in a knot with the excess or by the koshi-himo. In private, such as after a bath, the yukata can be simply belted.
Women tie an obi above the belt, traditionally placing the knot at the back because historically knots tied at the front represent prostitution. Men, on the other hand, must tie the belt at the hips and can wear the knot in the front or put it in the back.
It is worn with geta, a kind of wooden clogs. Young girls complete the outfit with a kinchaku, a small bag often made of wicker and fabric.
More affordable than the kimono, the yukata is also easier to put on and can be washed at home. Like the kimono, it has been modernized with the creation of accessories like the tsukuri obi (作り帯?), a pre-knotted obi to be put on and closed with a clip.
Men's yukata usually have darker or more subdued colors, while for young women they are usually bright and colorful, often with floral patterns. Yukata for mature women are supposed to be less showy.