The “yukata,” or summer kimono, is enjoying a sales boom among women thanks to drastically reduced prices and bold designs inspired by Western clothing.
The hottest-selling fabrics appear to be dark blue and black, and yellow and pink.
A woman in her 20s, who wished to remain unnamed, started wearing yukata several years ago.
“I have been borrowing yukata from my grandmother and mother, but I want to go out this year with a fashionable one on,” she said. “I also want a lacy obi and a corsage.”
Others like her are increasingly donning yukata as a fashion statement amid its growing acceptance in casual outdoor activities. Yukata are routinely worn at festivals and fireworks displays as well as amusement parks and restaurants.
“Various kinds of yukata are on sale, becoming very common in daily life,” said Yae Tanaka, who manages kimono sales at a Takashimaya Co. department store in Tokyo. “Many people are even enjoying yukata with small accessories that have not been used before.”
The yukata’s popularity has also been boosted by reasonable prices. Fast Retailing Co., the clothing company that operates the cut-rate Uniqlo chain, recently slashed yukata prices by an entire digit off the department store price, making it more affordable for younger people.
“Our yukata are low-priced, but we are confident in their quality,” said a Uniqlo sales official. Yukata sales are five times what they were three years ago, the official said.
A Uniqlo yukata set, including reversible obi, a “koshihimo” (cord tied around the waist) and a “kinchaku” (money pouch) sells for about 4,000 yen.
Uniqlo managed to cut prices by outsourcing the dying to Indonesia and the sewing to China. Now many people are buying two or three yukata at a time.
Sales this year are expected to increase 15 percent over last year, the official said.
Aeon Co., a major supermarket chain, is selling a “mix-and-match yukata set” for 10,000 yen that allows customers to match a yukata of their choice with an obi and wooden clogs.
There is a rich selection of yukata and obi and about 30,000 different ways to combine the three components. Sales of lacy handkerchiefs, clog thong ornaments and other small accessories are also picking up.
The yukata boom has also given rise to short dressing lectures popular with women in their 20s and 30s.
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