This is what a kimono looks like. I have given this subject a great deal of thought today, and after discussing the issue with kimono loving friends (both Japanese & non-Japanese) I would like to add my voice to those of many other kimono lovers from Japan & around the world, to make clear my personal stance on kimono and the appropriation of that word by a non-Japanese person for her own financial gain.
As some of you may know I am a final year Masters student at SOAS in London. I’m currently working on my MA dissertation on kimono, in particular, kimono “in the West”. Kimono may be one of the most misused words in the fashion world. However, what it most definitely is not, nor has it ever been, is shape-wear, the kind of garment that Kim Kardashian is trying to sell under the Kimono name. Just because the word happens to have the same three letters of her name in it, does not give her license to appropriate for her own financial gain, this word has been in use since the Meiji Period (1868-1912) specifically to describe traditional Japanese garments.
Author Bernard Rudofsky described the kimono as “a window into Japanese culture for the Western world”. Ki mono literally means “a thing to wear”; the word kimono is derived from its precursor kosode. Kimono is now perceived as Japan’s traditional costume, but prior to the arrival of Western clothing in the late 19th century it used to be everyday dress for both men and women. It is a culturally specific word, used to describe Japan’s National Dress, which has been inspiring Western designers and artists since it first arrived in Europe in 1639. Some of these early examples are still preserved in Dutch museums. This essay continues in the comments section.