14th Lesson: Summer Kimono (natsumono)

Last lesson I was talking that you always have to be prepared for the next season. A good reason to talk about summer kimono, I thought. Here we go!

When you think about summer in Japan, what comes to your mind? Festivals, fireworks, and – of course – yukata! Yukata is a well-known “summer kimono”, but in fact this is wrong. Today yukata is a kimono worn mostly in summer, but that doesn’t mean it’s a summer kimono. In former times yukata was just a casual, every-day wear. Nothing else.

So what is a “real” summer kimono – a so-called natsumono (夏物)?

Look at the two pictures below and compare. What do you notice?


 Nagajuban (undergarment)

You can see a white collar under the kimono on the right picture, but there is none on the left. This means you don’t wear nagajuban under yukata, but you do under natsumono. Wearing a nagajuban is the main difference between yukata and natsumono.

Yukata was casual wear for working on the field. Further, common people didn’t have money to buy silk for kimono or nagajuban. And if, it was too precious to wear it every day.

In the nagajuban lesson I was talking about nagajuban worn in summer. When you wear a summer kimono, you want to create a fresh and cool look. That’s one reason why the fabric of kimono and nagajuban is translucent.

② Fabric and tailoring

Let’s have a look at the fabrics. Yukata are mostly made of cotton, cotton-like polyester, or linen. However, natsumono are made of silk, silk-like polyester, or linen. If you find a cotton kimono, you can be sure it’s a yukata. When it’s linen, you have to look at the sewing. Yukata are made differently. Anyway, it’s hard to find the differences if you’re not a professional. But one outstanding characteristic is the collar (eri 衿). Yukata eri is folded into half. The kimono eri instead isn’t, so you have to fold it while putting the kimono on.

When we speak of natsumono’s fabrics I repeatedly say: it’s translucent and very thin. That is why in other regions natsumono is also called usumono (薄物 thin thing). The fabrics are distinguished between ro (絽), sha (紗), and ra (羅). Basically, these three just differ in the way how it’s woven.

Ro is very easy to distinguish. You can define it thanks to its translucent stripes. This very classy way to weave silk is most popular and even wearable for formal scenarios.


Ra looks has rough mesh. Sha is the finer version of ra. Both of them are made for casual kimono.

This is an example for sha.

Obiage and obishime

It’s all about the fresh look! So would never tie a normal obiage or obishime for a natsumono. Natsumono komono is translucent and light as the summer kimono is.




When you look at the obi, you can see that the obi is tied different. Of course this is because the obi is different, too. … “Wait! This means there is also a summer version for nagoya obi and fukuro obi.” Exactly! There are obi made of translucent fabrics just for summer. Like the kimono they can be woven in ro, sha or ra. Anyway, there is no summer version for hanhaba obi. (More about obi in lesson 4 and 11.)

summer nagoya obi made of linen
ro nagoya obi

This was a long lesson and I really hope you enjoyed. By the way, a question I’m often asked is: “Do you wear summer kimono? Should I buy one?” The answer is: “Yes, I wear them, but I do not recommend to buy summer kimono.” First of all, you can also wear yukata in summer. Second, you barely have a chance to wear a formal natsumono, like hōmongi etc. And third, it’s soooooo hot!! 🙂


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