Old silk inspires new designs for summer in Japan
ORIGINALLY informal kimono worn after a bath, yukata are now popular outfits for many a summer occasion, donned not only for fireworks displays and festivals, but also for theatregoing, parties, casual dinners, short trips and more.
This year’’s offerings include bold, colourful motifs inspired |by designs from silk textiles a century old, as more and more people are posting images of themselves wearing yukata on social media.
“Many of this year’’s yukata |have eye-catching designs that will stand out on social media, while at the same time basically using traditional colours and |patterns,” says Yuka Ito, a senior buyer for kimono products at |the Takashimaya department store.
Among the new features in this year’s yukata line-up, Ito |recommends motifs inspired |by meisen, a kind of silk cloth manufactured mainly in the northern Kanto region that was popular from the Taisho era (1912-26) up to the early years of the Showa era (1926-89). Many young women at that time preferred kimono made with meisen both for daily use and social occasions, due to its striking designs and colours.
Meisen-inspired designs “can create a noble, proper air even on yukata, as these patterns were originally created for kimono,” Ito says. ““They’’re really great for mature women,” she adds.”
For example, a yukata with |a koshi-gara plaid pattern with red and blue as the basic colours looks both retro and cute. This |is one of the items that Takashimaya created based |on antique meisen designs from |a century ago. These designs |were selected for yukata by |students at Otsuma Women’’s University in Tokyo.
For the plaid-patterned yukata, Ito suggests a soft sash, called heko-obi, in pale pink.
“Heko-obi are often thought to be for children, but they look gentle and sweet when adults wear them,” Ito says, adding heko-obi are particularly suited to beginners because they look good just tied into a bow in the back. The soft heko-obi are also less tight around the chest and waist than stiffer obi.
Another yukata recommended by Ito has large, blue dahlia flower patterns on a white background, also a design from the meisen fabric.
“Yukata with patterns on a white background are popular, as they have a fresh, youthful feel,” Ito says.
She combines the item with |a yellow hanhaba obi. As per |its name, which means “half-width sash,” this type of obi is only about 15 centimetres wide, making it easier to tie than ordinary ones.
In addition to items inspired by meisen patterns, Ito is also enthusiastic about yukata |with traditional yoroke-jima (slightly wavy vertical stripes), |a design she notes will partic-ularly suit women who don’’t |like floral patterns.
“This design emphasises the vertical line of the figure, making the wearer look slimmer and stylish,” Ito says.
Takashimaya’’s yukata col-|lection this year also includes |a polka-dot piece designed by Junya Maejima, inspired by meisen.
For women worried about colour pairing obi and yukata, Ito says pale green, blue and pink obi can work with yukata in any colour or pattern. ““If you coordinate your yukata and obi in similar colours, you’ll look chic,”” she says.
Finding just the right obijime sash band or obidome clasp |can be as much fun as choosing accessories for Western clothing. In a new trend, some wear a hat with yukata, while others arrange their yukata a little higher up the leg than usual to show off the ankles.
““You can enjoy your own arrangements as part of your personal style,”” Ito smiles.