Cultural Appropriation and Kimono

Do people really try to find racism/cultural appropriation where it is not? Am I confined to only wear ‘victorian’ style dresses and morris dancing outfits?

Having a blog always attracts nuisance and spam but when its about kimono you get woes of ‘cultural appropriation’. One discussion pointed me to a blog with passages like:

‘Viewing, enjoying, producing anime/manga is NOT cultural appropriation. BUT wearing a kimono could be.’

and also:

From my experience, Westerners are usually encouraged to try on and wear a kimono at festivals or other special events that celebrate Japanese culture. In this case, it is not cultural appropriation. The difference is due to two main points. First, the kimono is seen in its traditional form and worn correctly. Second, it is worn within an environment that is intended solely to celebrate Japanese culture. Someone from another cultural, even if participating, cannot appropriate it into his/her own.

Clearly this person has never heard of kimono-hime. This was a softer approach to the kimono-cultural appropriation argument, believe me other bloggers have accused us ‘non-Japanese’ kimono wearers of having some kind of sexual fetish.

To me kimono is fashion, wonderful fashion that needs time and appreciation. Do I feel I need to understand the deep cultural meaning of the garment to wear it? Do my jeans have a deep cultural meaning also? (In fact they do have a history but I am a land lover)

I probably do have a sizeable knowledge of kimono and the wearing of kimono. I know the rules so I can break them. I do have a warm fuzzing feeling in the back of my head as I plan to wear my thistle Ro kimono for an early summer lunch. I feel so ‘June/July’ with my thistle motif. If I wear my pinky cotton fukuro obi I will be very summer, even if the Rose motif says ‘April’.

However I feel that’s this kind of knowledge (and collection breadth, you need a lot of kimono and accessories to match each month!) should not be forced down the throats of new kimono wearers as well as the idea of cultural appropriation.

Kimono is wonderful, wear it, use it, incorporate it into your wardrobe and ‘western’ fashion sense. Steam punk it, goth it up, whatever suits you 🙂

Cultural appropriation is generally is applied ‘when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture.*‘ As Japan is pretty much a super power and not a minority group with respects to the UK. I feel I am safe, however some lump me into the white western tirade of sci-fi domination proportions which I am not sure actually exists. It doesn’t in my life, or in my kimono group. However, some will say I am not educated enough hence the catch 22 and we are back to square one.

Wear kimono, love kimono.

*content from Wikipedia.

2 thoughts on “Cultural Appropriation and Kimono”

  1. geishaface, the stfu article cites Barthes, but I have a feeling they did not take their interpretation as far as it could (semiotics is a tough nut to crack). In a vaguely Orientalist way Barthes claims that the kimono form has not changed, that Japan/l’Empire is a place of pure form. I take issue with this, the same way I don’t fully agree with Dalby’s claims that kimono ‘fashion’ froze in the early part of the 20th C. Modern kimono researchers like Shelia Cliffe (who I think you met) seem to detect subtle hints at change.

    I think it’s trying to say… yes, you can wear kimono/yukata, but don’t try to be more ‘Japanese’ than you truly are. This issue can be difficult even for people who self-identify as Japanese, so the best defense I can offer is that it’s ok to like kimono the way one might like anime/manga. By studying kimono a very vast, different world is presented to me than when I studied say, woodblock prints. I daresay it has more to do with other people’s cultural hangups than yours.

    “fashion anticipates moments of transition and epitomizes transformations in taste.”

    1. Not being a scholar in the subject I take things at face value and the post told me that I can only wear kimono at Japanese events. I think people that post articles such as this don’t realise they are being counter intuitive to a nation that is actively exporting its culture. We all add our own little push to keep kimono alive, Japanese or not.

      I don’t feel I am trying to be Japanese, and I have posed this question to Japanese friends before. Japan and the UK have been swapping fashions since the Meji era. I think for me there is a separation between fashion and culture/religion, which is quintessentially British.

      I was emailed just recently telling me that in a photo of myself with a komon and thin obi with a front bow that I was dressed like a hooker and should be embarrassed. I think I might have to stop being nice to these people when they invade my space.

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