Complexity and Simplicity of the Summer Yukata

Yukata, the casual summer kimono made of unlined cotton, provides fun and traditional attire for Japanese festivals and conventions on hot days. However, many Westerners don’t realize how much tradition, procedure and effort go into a full yukata ensemble. Thankfully, I had a chance to attend a yukata lesson with Ms. Nami Rodman of KaedeNYC, a company specializing in kimono services.

With Nami-sensei’s guidance I learned all the basics to wearing a Yukata. I was surprised to know that there are a lot of pieces and tricks to making a yukata look beautiful. A yukata ensemble is made up of many pieces: the yukata, two koshihimo (cords), a hanhaba obi (sash), hadajuban and susoyoke (underlayers), hand towels, datejime (a wide tie), obi ita (obi shaper), and korin belt (an elastic band attached with clips on both ends.)

It is important to wear undergarments correctly to have a nice and tidy yukata look—neither crease nor excess, flapping fabric. Slipping on the undergarments and fastening them left over right, Nami-Sensei pointed out that no piece of a yukata garb should ever be worn right flap over left, as this is reserved for dressing the deceased. Next you have to slip on the yukata and do a few measurements to make sure everything falls where it should—the length of the bottom and sleeves, and the position of the end of the flap, for example. You wrap the left panel over the right, and while holding the yukata closed, you take the koshihimo cord and wrap it around your hips, securing the yukata closed. The excess fabric should hang over the cord, which is called ohashori, but a few specific twists and tugs are needed to flatten the extra fabric. Then, slipping your hands through the slits in the yukata, you tighten the top of the yukata around your neck and chest from the inside. These are just the first few steps.

There are many tricks, traditions and variations to tying the obi, and I felt it was difficult to master in this short session. So, I decided to watch Nami-sensei’s demonstration of tying a basic “Butterfly Knot” this time. It was amazing to see that two-dimensional sash being constructed into a three-dimensional, cute knot by hand. It’s an art form. I would love to learn more for a 100% clean cut and authentic yukata look this summer.

— Reported by Melissa Perrier

Nami-sensei teaches everything about wearing a yukata–how to shape the fabric, flatten over any curves on your body to give a brilliant columnar form, and so much more.
The himo must be tied in a special way to avoid any knots, but fasten securely. It’s magic!
The ingenious trick to tying an obi is to do so to the front, and then slide the bow to the backside once it is completed.
The final butterfly knot obi look shouldn’t face directly out, but instead be tilted stiffly up.

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