Curved Sleeves? Or, why this picture is so funny….

THE "GAY 90s" in OLD JAPAN -- Pretty Is as Pretty Does

This picture (courtesy of Okinawa Soba) is a shot of three young gentlemen on vacation in Japan in 1890 something. The casual kimono they wear are the same as today’s, disregarding the pattern printed on the fabric and the padded hems; a functional but no longer necessary trend that went away in the 1920s (minus certain cultural displays by performers such as the infamous Geisha). So why is this picture so hilarious?

They’re wearing women’s clothing.

No seriously, the sleeves give it away. The obi are another clue; wide obi are worn high, and by women and children, so only the middle guy is wearing the right belt in the right location. But hey, maybe the guys just felt uncomfortable at the idea their chest hair might be visible. They really should have been paying more attention to the sleeves though. Whoever dressed them up and took their picture must have laughed themselves sick^^

Since yukata are what I sew, I thought you might want to know the difference between men and women’s yukata. There are actually several different patterns with which yukata sleeves are sewn. And the rules about the sleeves are pretty much universal to the kimono world. Don’t be that guy caught wearing a skirt instead of a kilt. (Unless you meant to do that…)

First, women’s yukata are open at the arm pit, sleeves and body both. This is to allow the wearer to adjust the fabric around and under the obi so that everything lays smooth, and that lady parts don’t start popping out. The fronts of the women’s sleeves are usually curved at the bottom hem, and may be slightly longer than the men’s.

Female yukata sleeve
See the under arm gap? It’s for adjusting around womanly curves, not stashing pipes!

Women’s yukata come in two standard lengths; ankle and ‘ohashori.’ The second is considered more formal or proper. It is as long as the woman is tall; the extra fabric is folded up under the obi for a smoother, more formal fit. The shorter length is more popular with my younger Japanese friends but that might not be an accurate thing to say about length preference in general^^

Ohashori is tricky, but you will never have your robe come open!

Men’s yukata sleeves are sewn to the body almost all the way down to the waist, and have sharp corners on their sleeves. Since men’s obi are only about half as wide as woman’s and are worn lower on the body, there’s no need to adjust the fabric around the obi. No waist fold is done, unless the yukata is being worn by a child. Then regardless of gender the yukata is shortened when needed so they don’t trip or drag the hems through dirt.

Male yukata sleeve
Men’s sleeves are square. Very square. And are often used as pockets…

Unisex yukata are about halfway between the two. They are usually seen at hot springs and are usually blue or the hot spring’s colors. There is also ‘western’ style yukata, which do not have the cool sleeves we think of kimono as having. These look like cotton European bathrobes, and aren’t worn much any more as far as I know. Some baby clothes are made this way, but that’s just to keep them from hurting themselves with the long sleeves^^

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